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A First in Asia: Taiwan Banned Eating Dog or Cat Meat

From whales, dolphins, maggots, intestines, heads of calves or sheep and blood sausage in certain European countries, to Central America’s iguanas, and to Asia’s tarantulas, scorpions, chicken feet, dogs, cats, and rats, humans are known to eat some strange things. But nothing seems more inhuman or incomprehensible than eating dogs or cats, whose standings as people’s beloved pets make the East Asian tradition a public disdain.

The consumption of dog meat in East Asian countries has incited an outcry from animal advocates around the world in recent years, with China’s notorious Lychee and Dog Meat Festival under the spotlight. The festival is held annually in June in Yulin, southern China, and has 10,000 dogs killed over a ten-day period. Millions of people have signed petitions to end the event.

Taiwan has outlawed the consumption of dog and cat meat and become the first country in Asia to do so. According to the island's official Central News Agency (CNA), Taiwan’s legislature passed a landmark amendment to its animal protection laws on Tuesday, April 12. Anyone who buys or eats the meat can be fined up to $8,200. Back in 1998 Taiwan made it illegal to slaughter dogs and cats and sell their meat, but an underground commercial market remained active.

Taiwan has doubled the maximum prison term for animal cruelty to two years and raised the fine up to $65,500 for any act that deliberately harms animals and results in mangled limbs, organ failure or death. The amendment also bans "walking" dogs or cats on a leash pulled by cars and motorcycles.

"Taiwan's progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade," said Wendy Higgins with Humane Society International.

"Previously, the Animal Protection Act only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, but this amendment specifically prohibiting the actual consumption of dog meat today is welcome," said Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation.

The centuries-old East Asian tradition is still legal in China, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Humane Society International estimates that 30 million dogs are killed annually in Asia. However, the deep-rooted tradition does not have to be a roadblock to progress or innovation. Most Chinese people actually don’t eat dog meat. According to a 2015 Animals Asia study, less than a quarter of Chinese in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai had consumed dog meat in the previous two years. South Korea shows a similar trend away from eating dog meat, especially among young people. With Taiwan’s ban on dog/cat meat, China and South Korea may just follow suit.

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