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Controversy over dog meat

Written by Doris Obinna
~The SUN, Nigeria. Friday, June 3, 2016.

• It enhances libido, cures malaria -Consumers

• No, dog meat causes health hazards - WHO, vet doctors

Many detest dog meat and everything that has to do with it. They avoid it like a plague. Even the mere mention of dog meat puts them off. Some might even throw up at the mention of it.

However, there are some folks, who eat dog meat and relish it, doing so with every sense of gladness. For them, it is meat like no other.

One of such persons is Nsikan John. The 35-year-old man says dog meat is better than every other meat around.

"If you offer me a variety of meats, including dog meat, I will first go for the dog meat. It not only tastes better, it has medicinal values. I can't remember the last time I treated malaria fever. It fights it off summarily. In fact, dog meat is a common cuisine among my people and we enjoy it so much."

All over the world, dogs are accepted as trusted friends and security guards. But among some people, they suffer terrible fate. They are sold as items of trade, butchered and their meat consumed by humans.

Whereas some people in some climes accept the consumption of dog meat as part of their day-to-day cuisine, some consider the practice a taboo. In some cultures, exigencies of war and hunger sometimes make the consumption of dog meat a necessary practice.

Humane Society International is one of many non-governmental organisations

around the world fighting to end the dog meat trade.

Research shows that every year, an estimated 25 million dogs are killed and consumed. This statistics brings to the fore the telling truth that dogs in many climes suffer a great deal. It is for this reason that it has been stated that commercial dog meat production is inherently cruel. This practice condemns dogs to suffer at every turn. Even the rising belief that the consumption of dog meat might lead in the transmission of diseases does not deter its consumers.

In Nigeria, dog meat is most commonly consumed in many states, including Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Ekiti, Plateau, Gombe, Cross River and Taraba among others. In Yoruba-speaking states, devotees of Ogun, the god of iron and war, relish dog meat. During the Ogun Festival, the dog is the preferred sacrificial animal used. And the worshippers eat the meat's leftovers.

In China and Vietnam, dog meat is most popular, especially during winter, as it is believed to have some 'warming effects.' In South Korea, dog meat is said to give some 'cooling effects,' and is therefore more commonly enjoyed in the months of summer, especially during the three hottest days of the season.

Further research findings show that throughout Asia, dog meat is eaten more because of its perceived health benefits. For instance, while the dog bone is believed to

have anti-inflammatory properties, its penis and testes are believed to increase virility and cure impotence. A number of classical medical texts believe that dog meat fortifies the spirit and aids in recovery from illness, classifying it as both medicine and food.

In some climes, it has been said that doctors recommend dog meat for patients who have undergone surgery because of its perceived curative effects.

John, an avid dog meat consumer, who hails from Akwa Ibom State, recently told the reporter: "Dog meat is a common cuisine among my people. I eat it for its potency in curing malaria and for its other medicinal values. It is a delicacy I enjoy any time any day, if well prepared with the necessary ingredients, especially pepper.

"You can prepare dog meat as pepper soup or the way the Igbos prepare 'Nkwobi,' and garnish it with scent leaves, which my people call 'ntongi.' We believe it enhances libido.

"Back at home, dog meat business is not strange; it is not prohibited either. The meat is very delicious; it tastes much better when taken alongside with palm wine. In fact, that brings out the true taste better. Believe it; dog meat is much tastier than pork, especially when it is eaten as pepper soup."

Madam Umoh, a restaurant owner in Lagos concurred. Hear her: "Where I come from, dog meat consumption is common; in fact, it is one of the best meats.

"While some people shy away from it, others eat it with relish. It is the only thing I prepare here in my restaurant."

She said that aside from indigenes of Cross River State, people from other tribes, including soldiers, often patronise her.

"Dog meat is not cooked like you cook every other meat. Because of its natural oil, it is cooked with local gin, aka 'ogogoro.' We cook it with little or no water because of its oil. The oil from the meat, when extracted, is used for other purposes. We use it to prepare our stew or jollof rice. Since I started this business, I have never bought or prepare rice with vegetable oil.

"Because of its wild nature, dogs are not slaughtered the normal way goats and cows are killed. It is first chained and tied in a sack before slaughtering. Here, we slaughter between 10 and 12 dogs daily, depending on the degree of patronage.

"But not all dog meat is delicious. So we are careful about the type of dogs we prepare for our customers. That is why we prefer the local breed. We get our supplies mostly from Ibadan and Ore in Ondo State."

But in the midst of this, a veterinary doctor, Chidi Ogboso, has warned that it is extremely unethical to kill dogs for food. He maintained that all those who kill dogs should be mindful of the existence of animal laws, lest they be culpable.

"Over time, dogs have been man's closest friends. A good and well-trained dog can

be a better friend than man. They are very intelligent and that is why the world over, the elite keep them as companions or as security guards."

Ogboso who is the Chief Executive Officer, Ceeoh Veterinary Hospital, debunked the assertion that dog meat cures malaria or has medicinal value. "This has not been proven; it has no scientific background. Whatever perceived health benefit in dog meat is mere belief. In fact, dogs carry zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans.

"There are also some bacterial and other viral diseases and infections associated with dog meat that can endanger human health. One of such diseases is toxoplasmosin. This disease can actually cause abortion in a woman preparing the dog meat because of her exposure to it.

"Unfortunately, the dogs that are supplied to some of those consumers are the stray

dogs; the owners have given up hope on them after some serious search. "As a vet whose oath is to protect animals, it is against veterinary practices, which are by the way the oldest profession in the world, to sell dogs or encourage their consumption," he stated.

Another vet, Dr Muoma Alagboso, described dogs as "our friends."

Hear hwe: "They are not like other animals. You cannot compare them with other animals. In terms of intelligence, they rank after the dolphin and the horse. They are like humans. That is why people who have dogs at home treat them like humans and make them members of the family.

"That is why you don't refer to a dog as a non-living thing. Using 'it' to qualify a dog is wrong. Dogs are very friendly animals, although some breeds such as the Rottweiler and Alsatian are very vicious, no matter what you do for them. That is their temperament.

"It is unethical for me to affirm that dogs are consumable meat. As veterinary doctors, we care for all animals. In fact, dogs are meant to be treated like humans. You pamper

them. Some use them for security purpose while some use them as pets, and

some keep them for both purposes. People say that the dog is the only animal that can

give their lives for their owner.

"However in Nigeria, people see dogs as other animals. This is improper. Unfortunately, veterinary practice in Nigeria is very poor because people don't know anything about animals.

"Dogs are peculiar animals. Overseas, some people keep dogs as their companions. The older people keep trained dogs and send them on errands.

"Even here in Nigeria, some persons have also trained their dogs to be able

to run errands for them. If you don't have anybody around, the dog is a good companion.

"And so from the medical perspective, people who eat dogs are ignorant. They may see it from other perspectives but I took an oath to protect their lives. So, it is improper to eat dogs."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the largest dangers of dog meat is the spread of rabies to both animals and people.

WHO notes that despite its efforts to mass vaccinate dogs and prevent the spread of rabies through the processes of sourcing, slaughter, and sale of dogs, the dog meat trade moves tens of thousands of dogs across international borders, making rabies

prevention enormously difficult.

The body noted: "Workers can easily be infected with rabies during slaughter and spread the disease to other dogs and humans alike."

And Ogboso added: "This has the capacity of causing negative impact on human health if it is not addressed by ending the consumption of dog meat."

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