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I really want to visit China, but I am concerned about seeing animals I am not use to seeing for sale as food. Any tips to avoid this?

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Aug 14th, 2006, 11:40 PM
  #1
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I really want to visit China, but I am concerned about seeing animals I am not use to seeing for sale as food. Any tips to avoid this?

After reading previous posts, people will probably suggest that I go to Disney World instead, but I would really love to put on my blinders,and try to avoid seeing animals that I am used to seeing as pets for sale to eat. I am not trying to make any value judgements and I understand that there are many different cultures and that cost/availability is also an issue. I just don't want to feel the anxiety of not being able to help these animals looking at me from a cage. I personally do not even like lobster tanks. Obviously I do not go around freeing lobsters.

I am currently considering a week in China (Beijing)and a week or more in Thailand (Chiang Mai).

If I stick to the big cities and main tourist attractions in Beijing and Chiang Mai, and eat at my hotel is there any way to avoid this?

I will be travling with my two young children who will be 5 years old and they will not understand this. At the same time, I do want them to know about the world and its differences. It has been my dream to go to China. They have already been to Europe and we are going to Kenya and Egypt next month, so they do have some experience, and will have a little more before our China/Thailand trip.

I understand there is animal cruelty in the US as well. It is upsetting any where, and obviously it pales in comparison to cruelty that many children have to endure. I apologize if I have offended anyone. I am just looking for a little advice.

Thank you, Heather
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Aug 15th, 2006, 12:06 AM
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Don't worry. You'll not see anything unless you look for or ask for them.
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Aug 15th, 2006, 12:41 AM
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This is such an overblown issue and is very much misunderstood. This is an urban myth which IMO is right up there with (i) electronics are cheaper in Hong Kong (they are not) and (ii) chewing gum is illegal in Singapore (it is not, just the sale of gum is illegal, not the possession). The number or Thais and Chinese eating dogs and cats is EXTREMELY small and you are very unlikely to encounter it on a trip to main tourist places like Beijing, Shangahi, Xian, Guilin, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, etc. In China this occurs mostly in more central provinces (Shanxi and Sichuan) and mostly among the older generation. Also in Thailand I believe this is again mostly limited to remoter northern provinces. Even if there are restaurants in main cities serving dog or cat I can say with confidence that it is virtually impossible for you to be going to a restaurant which would serve it, your clue would be whether there are English menus; if there are, there is very little likelihood that any pet is on the menu. These people understand that non-Asians have different beliefs than they do, just as you seem to recognize that not everyone views a dog or cat in the same light as you. Therefore, anyone catering to Westerners is very unlikely to serve dog or cat. In more than 20 years of living and working in Asia, I have never seen cat or do on a menu and never been offered it at any business or social dinner.

Please do not limit yourself to eating in your hotel, as there are so many excellent restaurants, including many, many vegetarian ones. Go to http://www.happycow.net/asia for a list.

You may see animals in cages in markets, but do NOT automatically assume that they are for sale as food, they can also very likely be for sale as pets. Bird and other animal pet markets are not uncommon, especially in Thailand.


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Aug 15th, 2006, 02:59 AM
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It's certainly true that you won't see Fido or Cinnamon for sale as tonight's dinner.

However, if you walk through a residential area, you are surely going to pass by a market, and you will very likely see live chickens, ducks, and other fowl. And it's even possible that without a whole lot of effort, you'll see one of these beasts getting prepared for sale: beheaded, gutted, and drained of blood. [Admittedly, I'm not certain if this has changed at all since the bird flu issues, but in my experience it has always been a common sight on, say, the streets of Wan Chai.]

I imagine that you can avoid virtually any of such visions if you stick to the more formal tourist places, but you would of course be missing a great deal of what the country is all about. It is also reality. It seems to me a very good idea for any non-vegetarian to understand that the hamburger or chicken sandwich comes from a real animal. I am very much a carnivore, but I can still spare a thought for the unlucky creature who gave his/her life for my nourishment.
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Aug 15th, 2006, 03:17 AM
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You will still see live chickens for sale in markets (in Hong Kong at least, I just was in the market in Wan Chai today). I assumed the OP was talking about cats and dogs, as she referred to seeing animals that she is used to being "pets", which typically does not apply to chickens....

If the OP has an issue with that, she should avoid food markets as live fish, shellfish and poultry will be on offer. Not to mention the freshly killed ones just hanging out.
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Aug 15th, 2006, 04:22 AM
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We spent a week in Beijing, walking around both the obligatory tourist sights and the city's daily street life, including street markets, and didn't see anything disturbing. Certainly no dogs, although I'd have been happy to donate my neighbour's nasty little poodles to the nearest wok.

Relax, no need to stress - just enjoy your time in one of the world's great cities.
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Aug 15th, 2006, 04:51 AM
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Fascinating - seems it's OK as long as you don't see it.

If it's such a point of principle with you then why go anywhere where dogs and cats are eaten?

And when push comes to shove - unless you are a vegetarian - then you need to be sure in your own mind why it is OK to eat cow or sheep, but not dog.

I don't know the answer but like some intellectual rigour now and then.
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Aug 15th, 2006, 06:32 AM
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Thank you for all of your advice and information. I feel a little silly as it does sound like a lot of wives tales I have bought into. I feel much better about the upcoming trip.

thank you.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 05:40 AM
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Unlike you, I actively searched out the wild animal markets because I wanted to see something different -- you will not inadvertantly stumble upon cats, dogs or endangered species unless you make an effort. So, don't go to Qingping Market in Guangzhou (its like a zoo where all sorts of exotic animals can be purchased for food, and also lots of cats), and in the very back of the main food market in Xian I saw lots of dogs. I went to the wet markets in Beijing and it was all fruit, vegetables and fish. If you stick to the main tourist sites, you won't have any strange encounters.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 06:36 AM
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But the strange encounters make for the best travel stories!
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Aug 16th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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Hi

I went to China a couple of years back...we went to Beijing, Xi'an and Hong Kong. I didn't see anything unusual on the menu. I have posted my trip report with pictures here: http://gardkarlsen.com/china_beijing.htm

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
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Aug 16th, 2006, 08:40 AM
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I wouldn't be so sure you won't run across a "non-Western approach" to animals in the normal course of your travels. One time in Shenzhen, I met up with a Hong Kong SWAT team on a shopping trip. After a couple hours in a tea shop, they invited me to accompany them to their favorite restaurant. When the cab pulled up, there were so many cages in front on the sidewalk that I thought it was a pet store. We ate for about six hours and before many of the courses, one of the gents would excuse himself and go outside to select the next course.

In addition, I can remember at least two restaurants in Beijing that had a remarkable variety of meat on the menu, printed in English I might add. One of them did serve dog, as well as mule, goat, horse. It's an awfully large country and there is no predicting what you'll run across. That's the magic of travel.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 10:14 AM
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These people have NOT been in the same China I was in several times. 1. when you see a pussy cat in a basket on a counter in a restaurant, that cat is not there looking for adoption. When you see one or more cats tied up outside a restaurant (I have - many places incl Guilin, Hainan, Guangzhou), they are not there because the Restauranteur is so fond of kitties. Yes, you will see this & you have to go have to avert your view.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 10:32 AM
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If you see a cat in a cage along with other exotic animals, then yes, they're for food. Such restaurants do exist, but they are really "specialty" place. Just like you don't find bison or ostrich meat on menus at most restaurant in the US.

If you see a cat with a collar and chained at the counter, or in a nice basket, then it's not for food. They are not pets or for adoption, but they're for catching rats at night after the restuarant is closed.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 02:20 PM
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Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I've crossed China off my list after reading an article in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago about some town in China, can't remember the name, where 3 cases of rabies were found in humans so, the police, with government backing, went around grabbing pet dogs from people who were walking them and beat them to death in front of the owners. In order to get the rest of the dogs, they went around banging on things to get dogs to bark, went into people's homes and took the dogs and BEAT THEM TO DEATH. It's one thing to kill an animal, it's another to do it in such a horrific way. Any government that would sanction such a practice is not one I care to contribute money to. I was in China 5 years ago, I doubt I'll ever go back unless there is some real change.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 02:52 PM
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laurieco - There are way too many reasons not to visit China. Inhumane treatment against dogs? Well, how about human rights violations against humans?

Anyways, different people have different ideas about how to change a country. Some think boycotting will work (like it did in South Africa), some think trying to have that country open up to the world will (like it did in China).

BTW, I highly doubt the central Beijing government sanction beating dogs to death in front of people. But do these things happen every now and then at various places? Sure.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 03:08 PM
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rkkwan, your points are well taken and if the central government had nothing to do with it, I'd reconsider. I understand what you say about violations of human rights which, believe me, I am wholly against. But torture of animals is something that gets me more than anything, I cannot bear to hear of it and it bothers me more than just about anything else. I'm often accused of likeing animals more than people. You don't have to agree with it. It's just the way I am and I make no apologies for it.
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Aug 16th, 2006, 04:46 PM
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Well, we've all seen how well policies of isolating and applying sanctions against certain countries have worked, haven't we?

I know human rights abuses are common in China, but as bad as they are, they don't compare with what happened under many past regimes, including the Nationalists my government enthusiastically supported before (and after) 1949. Of course that doesn't excuse the current crew, but I'm optimistic that a policy of engagement will see a gradual improvement. And really, when you're dealing with prospectively the biggest economy in the world, what choice do you have?

And my definition of "human rights abuses" includes capital punishment. This isn't stopping me form visiting the United States in a few weeks' time. It also includes the historical neglect of my country's indigenous people, but I'm not about to emigrate.

Back to the OP - we westerners can get sentimental about animals we use as pets, but the fact that they're eaten in some countries bothers me less than cruelty to animals - and do you know how pigs and battery chickens are treated in your own country? Do you eat pork and non-free-range eggs?
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Jan 27th, 2009, 09:04 AM
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OK well personally in the 90's and the past 3 years visiting China for work I have never seen "Pets" for sale as food. But Remember that Ch9ina had a horrific famine under MAo and ate anything in the countryside as many starved. Hence now some "grosss" items in our opinion are delicacies.

Dog is a winter food and made into soup I am told. It is a warm blooded animanl and they believe theis will make your warm in winter when eating according to a friend. They eat horse in France...did you know that?

Haggis I think is quiote gross when you think about it. and lambs are so sweet byt we eat them in the spring. Its the perspective you see things at and to be honest so many people had pets of little dogs and cats when I was in china the past three years. I was mostly in Big cities and yes I believ you can get dog etc in "specialty " places but its not an everyday occurrance.
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Jan 27th, 2009, 11:10 AM
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SiobhanP, any particular reason you dredged up this 2.5 year old thread?
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