“Dog boom as China’s attitudes on pets, palates change”

The government might be getting worse by the day, but some things are improving here (via CNN):

When Shenzhen housewife Zhang Lin was growing up in rural Guangdong province, her family kept guard dogs, some of which were slaughtered for meat during the Lunar New Year.

Now she is the owner of Dou-dou, a high-energy miniature poodle she bought for 4,000 yuan ($626), more than triple this southern Chinese city’s monthly minimum wage. She never eats dog meat and treats Dou-dou like her child.

“Growing up, we always had dogs around, but their purpose was [for] meat and guarding the house,” Zhang said. “Dou-dou is my companion.”

Zhang regularly takes Dou-dou to King Glory Plaza, a large public square dominated by an upscale shopping mall, where the Shenzhen middle class come out to play. At night, the square is filled with children whizzing by on roller-skates and couples relaxing on benches, as well as with China’s newest beneficiaries of economic growth: dogs. Poodles, huskies, Labradors run off leash, tails wagging and tongues flailing, as their owners share health and grooming tips. Despite Shenzhen’s tiny apartments, most of the dogs at the square are large breeds.

How dogs are viewed is undergoing a major shift in China, and nowhere are the conflicting attitudes more evident than in Shenzhen, a city in a part of the country where dog meat is commonly eaten. Except for the occasional mutt, King Glory Plaza is a purebred showcase, as dogs have become a status symbol for many residents with newfound disposable income.

This new coddling of dogs as pets does not mean the old custom of eating dog meat has disappeared. Type the Chinese character for dog, gou, into an iPhone, and predictive text will offer you meat, rou, as a logical follow-up character.

One man who sells in-demand breeds at a pet store in Dongmen says his career of selling dogs hasn’t changed his outlook on eating dog meat.

“How is it any different from eating any other animal?” he says. “It’s just the same as beef.”

But some dog owners recoil at the thought.

“I have eaten dog meat, once when I was young,” says Pang, the owner of golden retriever Shunliu. “But now I could never eat dog meat. When others eat dog meat I also tell them they shouldn’t. When you really understand dogs you could never eat their meat. You could never be so cruel to your most loyal friend.”

A few more years and maybe some more of those dog restaurants will disappear? You’ll probably never get them out of the ‘eat anything from the land except for a car, sea except for a boat, and air except for a plane’ south, but the rest of the country might come around…

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