The controversial Yulin annual dog meat festival in China was held last month and every year the event causes widespread condemnation from animal rights groups. Cat and dog meat are considered delicacies in many Asian countries and while most Australians would regard the practice as vile, is it legal to consume these kinds of meats in Australia? Let's find out.
When I was four, my grandma brought home some baby chicks and I had grown attached to one of them. It was my pet and I loved it to bits as it ran around in its little box in our tiny Hong Kong apartment. I watched it grow and one day my grandma cradled the now full-sized chicken into the bathroom and closed the door. There was a loud screech. We had braised chicken for dinner that night.
That was the only pet I ever ate. Yes, I am Asian and my relatives have enjoyed dog and cat meat but having moved to Australia as a young girl, I view those animals as pets that should not be harmed. I'd say most Australians would agree with this view.
But surprisingly, Australia doesn't have a specific law that makes eating cats or dogs illegal. While the processing and selling of dog or cat meat is prohibited throughout the country, South Australia is the only state that has a law that specifically states that it's illegal to kill cats or dogs for consumption.
And it seems that there are people in Australia that do discretely indulge in eating dog meat.
But while it's not outright illegal to eat dog or cat meat, the way somebody would kill the animal could potentially violate animal welfare and protection laws, which exists in every state and territory.
According to the RSPCA website:
"If such killing caused the animal unnecessary pain or caused the animal not to die instantly, it would be likely to constitute an offence under the general cruelty provisions of such legislation. It is also arguable that the act of killing a cat or dog for the purpose of consumption (regardless of how instant or ‘humane’ the killing was) may constitute animal cruelty or ill-treatment under the legislation due to the unnecessary nature of the activity. This however would be a legal argument for the courts to decide."
So there you have it; it's not exactly illegal to eat cats or dogs but let's hope you don't have the urge to do so in the first place. A pet is a member of the family and should not be viewed as livestock. It's surprising to see that Australia's laws doesn't quite reflect that.
Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.