Is It Legal To Eat Cats Or Dogs In Australia?


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.


    A pet is a member of the family and should not be viewed as livestock.

    You could say that one man's pet IS another man's livestock. While i don't particularly want to try dog or cat i do eat Cow, sacred to the Hindi and many have horses as pets but would have no quarms about giving it a go.

    I don't agree with the way they are kept before slaughter but am not against anyone eating dog if that's their thing.

    Last edited 01/08/16 5:37 pm

      Sacred is not a word I would use for a country which has a thriving leather industry which walks cows to their death (because they are just sacred enough to not kill them outright) and if they collapse workers will break their tails or rub tabasco sauce in their eyes. In India I saw no one treating cows with respect. I saw cows eating newspapers out of rubbish bins and I saw people kicking and punching cows to get them out of the way.

    We kill horses for food. Quite a few countries eat horse, including Austria and France.

    As browndog wisely said, one person's pet is another's meal.

    I still don't understand why killing cats and dogs for consumption is viewed differently to that of chicks, lambs, calfs, etc? Can someone enlighten me on this with a serious answer please. Each animal feels pain so why are cats and dogs excluded?

      They're domestic animals raised for companionship, not consumption. Different purposes. All animals have varying levels of emotions, and some will form bonds with their owners, but generally speaking, livestock don't have that bond as they're not raised that way.

        I understand your point but don't accept that as a legitimate reason. Pain is pain.

          Pain is indeed pain, no difference, but I think Cam hit the nail on the head about the emotional attachment part. Emotions (on both the pet's and especially the human's part) and "legitimate reasons" are not usually good housemates.

          But it has nothing to do with pain. The decision on what animals are allowed to be eaten doesn't depend on if they feel pain. As you've stated, all animals feel pain.

        Tell that to my grandpa's lamb, Mary. He didn't. We'd a sheep dog while he had Mary... Also we've had lots of dogs who were bred for work. Not all dogs are companions...

        Last edited 02/08/16 10:41 am

      While people may not take the time to bond with "livestock" they are no less capable of emotional bonding. The death of a cow is just as tragic as the death of a dog or a cat. People just don't want to acknowledge the reality of how intelligent the animals we farm are because they might have to give up some food they've grown to love.

    Well, that's a question I had never thought of asking.

    I would guess thats because cats and dogs tend to show a lot more inteligence and affection towards us humans then say a chick, lamb, calf etc.

      Hmmmm... nope. You've obviously not spent much time around chickens, sheep and cattle. Chickens are way smarter than dogs and cats and pigs are smarter than a 3 year-old child. I'd also hazard a guess that sheep and cattle are on a par with dogs in the intelligence stakes.

        If you approach a cat or dog that wasn't hand raised by humans and used to social contact with humans it will seem just as aloof as many farm animals are. If you hand raise a cow, or goat or chicken or pig, it will be every bit as bonded to you as a pet cat or dog is.

    Copyedit: "discretely indulge" should be "discreetly indulge"

    “It is also arguable that the act of killing a cat or dog for the purpose of consumption… may constitute animal cruelty or ill-treatment under the legislation due to THE UNECESSARY NATURE OF THE ACTIVITY.”

    That would never stand as a legal argument, otherwise we would have to stop slaughtering chickens/chicks, turkeys/chicks, geese/goslings, quail, ducks/ducklings, sheep/lambs, goats/kids, cattle/calves, pigs/piglets, all marine animals, etc. ad infinitum, due to the unnecessary nature of the activity of eating all THOSE animals.

    Hmm, anyone who eats red meat, but has a problem with someone humanly killing their own dog or cat for consumption, I'd love to know your reasoning.

      I get your point in that there is no difference between a cow/pig/sheep/goat/chicken/duck/turkey/quail/deer/rabbit and a cat or dog, but "humanly (sic) killing" is an oxymoron when referring to an animal who wants to live. Whilst there are varying degrees of trauma experienced by animals during slaughter, none of it is human or non-violent.

    I'm not sure how you can write an article on this issue without touching on the fact that it's the manner in which the animals are treated that makes the Yulin festival so abhorrent. Being beaten and cooked alive is what's disgusting about it. China has NO animal welfare laws whatsoever. There is no cruelty you can visit upon an animal in that country that will illicit any kind of legal repercussions. The idea that animals are sentient and feel pain is not a mainstream belief in that country.

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