Philippines Notes, Part Two: Using Dogs

Some people in the Philippines eat dogs. (A recent documentary about the country, made by a native, was entitled “Dog Eaters.” Some expatriate Pinoys didn’t appreciate the label, but the verity of canine consumption wasn’t ever in question.) Occasionally, pet-owners here suffer the heartbreak of having their furry friend kidnapped — dognapped? — and transformed from a companion into a meal. Some people raise dogs expressly to slaughter them for meat, like cows or rabbits. Others hunt strays.

American dog owners, particularly those who love their hound like family and write sentimental books about traveling through Europe with them, initially recoil in horror at the prospect of dining on Fido. But it’s easy to stand in judgment when you’re belly is full. As a Chinese friend explained to me, when you live in a nation where millions of people have starved to death — and still do — you learn to eat everything you can, including animal parts that would make a gringo wretch. Nothing goes to waste — not the chicken’s feet, not the pig’s snout, not the cow’s ear. Similarly, bugs and grubs, rodents and reptiles, and, yes, canines cannot be ignored as sources of protein and sustenance.

Being a dog is a dangerous proposition in the Philippines. And not only because a portion of the population views you as a supper option. Pets that aren’t fortunate enough to be attached to families with money don’t get fed regularly or well, and the concept of grooming a dog is as foreign to poor Filipinos as wasting edible meat on an animal that can just as well forage for itself, like a free-range chicken. When life is hard for the human beings, surely life will be harder for the pets that rely on them. When one is forced to choose between feeding babies and feeding dogs, ignoring the yelping mutt can’t be faulted.

What’s troubling — indeed, what’s immoral — is when Filipinos who can’t afford to care for their dogs properly intentionally breed the animals as pets. Even in America, where the standard of living for animals is much higher than in poor countries, dog advocates campaign for sterilization of mongrels and urge adoption of sheltered pups instead of purchasing expensive purebreds from a breeder. How perverse to discover that puppy mills operate in a place like the Philippines, where excess food should go to hungry children, not pregnant bitches confined to dirty cages. Indeed, if dogs were to be raised as a food source, like poultry, one could possibly countenance the horrific conditions they must endure. But to keep them cooped and filthy, tethered to two-foot chains, merely so that they may produce puppies intended for use as (badly cared for) pets is beyond cruel. The sight is almost enough to make you think these dogs would be better off having their tortured existence ended humanely, providing some expedient nutrition for a hungry child.

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