A worldwide petition that began in April was presented to the UN FAO in Rome yesterday (23 November) to request that all western breeds of dog be removed from the list of animals deemed fit for human consumption.

In 1998, the Chinese government imported dogs from US and Europe to initiate breeding trials into the viability of producing dog meat for the consumer market. As a result, the St Bernard was proclaimed the “dog meat of choice” for intensive farming and brochures advertising the unique qualities of the breed were distributed to potential business investors.

Elly Maynard, who organized the petition from New Zealand, explains that St Bernards are popular because they grow quickly, but that the trade contravenes any UN notion of animal welfare in agriculture. The countries where the meat is popular condone the practice of beating the animals to death, thereby tenderizing the meat and enhancing its well-advertised “aphrodisiac qualities.” “These practices do not belong in the 21st Century,” said Maynard.

Organizers hope that, at very least, the high profile of this petition will raise Western awareness of the dog meat trade in S.E. Asia, where few animal protection agencies exist and attempts to expand operations have meant that many western breeders have been approached to sell animals abroad. Maggie Hansen, who is coordinating the campaign in Norway, explained that few in western countries even believe that such farms exist, and that St Bernard breeders need to know where their dogs might end up if they are sold for export.

In light of the Chinese bid for the 2008 Olympics, organizers have planned a second global petition to protest against the country’s involvement.

Petition website: http://www.petitionpetition.com/cgi-bin/cgi12.cgi?petition_id=315
Petition signing: http://www.homestead.com/nisba/