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Foods and other products, such as alcohol, are generally regulated in the UK around their production and sale rather than their consumption. As a result, the regulation and licensing of food production and sale prevents dog meat being legally and commercially available for consumption in the UK.  However, there is no law explicitly banning the consumption of dog or cat meat. The Government’s position is that the sale of dog meat for human consumption is already illegal, and that there is no evidence of it being consumed in the UK.

Calls to ban consumption of dog meat

Campaigners including the World Dog Alliance, and several MPs, have called for the consumption of dog meat to be explicitly banned. Although there is an acceptance that it is not a major issue in this country, campaigners argue that it would send an important message to other countries.

There is currently an  Early Day Motion on dog meat with 24 signatures calling for the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to be amended “to make the eating of dog meat in the UK illegal and to close the loophole that is there at present”.[1] In addition, a parliamentary petition calling for a ban on the killing of dogs or cats for the purpose of meat consumption was launched on 17 February 2019, and had 1,785 signatories by 20 February 2019.

When addressing the Backbench Committee on the proposal for a debate on banning the consumption of dog meat Jim Shannon set out the reasons as follows, making particular reference to recent legislation in the US:

I think it is obscene, gross and immoral that someone could, technically speaking, cook a dog and eat it themselves and they would not be doing anything illegal, but if it were to be sold in a shop—I am not being facetious; I have been quite honest about the issue, because I feel strongly about it, as do many other hon. Members who have put their name to the application. They recognise the loophole in the law.

I am aware that the eating of dogs happens in other countries, such as China and Vietnam. In the far east, it seems to be normal and some 30 million dogs have been slaughtered. A number of concerned charities are working on that, of which the World Dog Alliance is one, and they are pushing for the UK to show some moral leadership.

In December 2018, the USA passed a ban on the practice through provisions in their farm Bill. When we have a country the size of the USA that recognises the issue and takes the steps legally to prevent it happening, I think it is time that we in the United Kingdom look at the same thing.

Let us be honest: it is a simple thing to ask for. We should not have to have a debate on the matter—it should be simple—but we want to remind our Government here in the United Kingdom that it could be included in upcoming provisions on animal welfare.[2]

The decision taken in the US refers to the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018

This bill prohibits persons from knowingly slaughtering a dog or cat for human consumption. In addition, the bill prohibits persons from knowingly transporting, possessing, buying, selling, or donating: (1) a dog or cat to be slaughtered for human consumption, or (2) dog or cat parts for human consumption.  

The Prohibition Act forms part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 passed in December 2018, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill.[3]

During the presentation of a Ten-minute Rule Bill, Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences), on 19 February 2018 Bill Wiggin set out the reasoning for proposing ban.  He highlighted the poor welfare standards in countries where dog meat is consumed, and moves by a number of other countries where there is no consumption of dog meat to introduce a ban:

It may seem extraordinary, but consuming dog meat is currently not illegal in the UK. Luckily, there is no evidence that dogs are eaten in the UK yet, but due to the vile way in which dogs are treated in China, I would like our country to join in setting an example to the world. China argues that, until we make it illegal, why should they?

Two months ago, a ban on the human consumption of dog meat was passed in the United States, following Germany, Austria, South Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This Bill is an opportunity for the UK Government to join those countries in introducing a ban, which is particularly important as the conditions under which dogs are farmed, transported and slaughtered are deliberately cruel. It is believed that inflicting suffering raises an animal’s adrenaline levels, tenderising its meat and adding medicinal properties.[4]

Government position

The Government responded to a Parliamentary Question on 31 October 2018 to the call for banning consumption of dog meat, by highlighting that it is already illegal to sell dog and cat meat for human consumption:

It is already illegal to sell dog and cat meat for human consumption and the Government has seen no evidence that dog or cat meat is being sold or consumed in this country.[5]

In response to a question in December 2018 on the US ban on the human consumption of dog meat the Government stated:

We are aware that the USA has legislated to ban the slaughter of dogs for human consumption although we have not discussed the specific issues with the US Administration.[6]

In August, 2018  an article on the BBC News website quoted Theresa May’s official spokesman responding to the US introduction of a ban:

The commercial trade in dog meat in the UK is illegal, but we will look closely at the decision taken in the US.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and we continue to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

We wish to maintain that.[7]

[1] EDM 1738 (session 2017-19) 23 Oct 2018

[2] Backbench Committee, HC Deb, Tuesday 5 Feb 2019

[3] BBC News, Dog meat ban: MPs call for UK to follow the US in outlawing the practice, 13 December 2018

[4] Ten-minute Rule Bill, Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences) , 19 February 2019 c1374

[5] WA HL10787 31 Oct 2018 and WA 187378 12 Nov 2018

[6] WA 198763, 11 Dec 2018

[7]  BBC news, Call for a ban on people eating dog meat in the UK, 7 August 2018

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