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Eating Happiness (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 92 minutes

Not for children

The film raises the question as to what’s the difference between eating a steak (which comes from bulls or steers or heifers) and eating a dog. There is no easy answer, but my feeling is that dogs are domestic animals that can bond with a human and the others are not. Dogs can be trained and establish a loving rapport. They look at you with wonder, as if they are saying to themselves, “How can anything be as wonderful as you?” As a result, dogs become part of the family and the idea of eating a dog is repugnant to most Americans.

In Asia, however, it is not so. People raise dogs to be killed and eaten. The dogs are treated despicably while they are alive. Dog thieves abound who steal other people's loved pets and condemn them to a brutal death.

This film is narrated and directed by Genlin, who is a “save the dogs” activist. It shows what is going on in Asia with the dog meat industry and how some courageous activists, like Genlin, devote a large portion of their lives to rectifying what is happening.

This is a very hard film to watch because there are lots of scenes of people stealing dogs and even more scenes of dogs who have been mistreated. The callousness in which these poor dogs are treated is shocking. It’s bad enough that these miscreants steal dogs to sell for eating, but they mistreat them while they are in their custody, and those scenes are very difficult.

It’s a big business throughout Asia. Vietnam has instituted a moratorium against the import of live dogs for five years. John Dalley, Founder of Soi Dog, says, “It has made a huge difference because you’ve had these thousands of live dogs being shipped, smuggled from Thailand, shipped to Lao and then shipped across to Vietnam.”

There are dog meat restaurants in Vietnam. But there are also at least 200 diseases that can be transmitted from dog meat to humans, including parasites and rabies, which is incurable. It’s estimated that 80% of the population of Vietnam eats dog meat. The manager of one restaurant says that he keeps dogs as guard dogs, not as food, but that he would slaughter one of his dogs to serve to his guests.

Eating dog meat is traditional in South Korea. When South Korea hosted the 1988 Olympics it moved all dog meat restaurants out of Seoul so foreigners wouldn’t be offended and cause an uproar.

Dogs aren’t man’s best friend just because they are so loving and lovable. They have 500 million scent receptors in their nose. Humans have 3 million. This sensitivity to smells has been used countless way, like sniffing out drugs and bombs on planes. But even better, they are now testing ways for dogs to actually smell cancer cells, and it works! The dogs can detect cancer when it’s still aborning, something no other cancer detection system can do.

The only criticism I have of this fine documentary is that many people interviewed are not identified or are only identified once. Every time someone is interviewed that person should be identified, even if he or she has already been identified. Viewers can’t remember everyone and I was kept wondering who it was who was speaking.

According to this film, less than 20% of China’s population eat dogs. In 1950 Hong Kong made eating dog illegal for these reasons: 1. Cruelty is involved with the slaughter of dogs for food, and 2. Rabies cannot be adequately controlled.

But it is the visuals that get you. Scenes of poor dogs shaking with fear as they await their cruel fate. The callousness of the guy in the market who holds a poor, suffering dog up by the neck with an iron bar choking it as it squirms, threatening to kill it immediately if a woman doesn’t pay him $80. There are many other compelling scenes like this that tend to break your heart.

This is an outstanding documentary that educates and informs.