How Much Is that Doggie on the Menu?

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Andy Zapata / AFP / Getty

A villager prepares to butcher a dog in the Pampanga province north of Manila, despite a ban on slaughtering dogs.

The old Patti Page song How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? takes on a different meaning in a country where dogs are sold not only to guard a sweetheart, as the song goes, or as a friend. Only last week, police intercepted a jeep full of dogs — mouths tied and bleeding to prevent them from barking or howling in protest, feet bound to prevent them running, and all l50 of them piled on top of each other — traveling in broad daylight along a main Manila highway. "These are hard times, sir," the vehicle's owner explained, "and this is just a job, a source of livelihood." He claims to have purchased the pooches for between $7 and $8 in nearby Batangas province, and was transporting them to a not-so-secret slaughterhouse far to the north in Baguio, where dog meat is a local delicacy. As the owner of the vehicle confirmed, "We've been doing this since time immemorial."

Although the 150 dogs on the jeep were saved, its driver was released and it remains unclear whether he faces any criminal charges. While eating dog meat has been banned in the Philippines since 1998, the Animal Kingdom Foundation alleges that as many as 200,000 dogs a year are slaughtered here for their meat. Last year, during a visit to Baguio — known as center of canine cuisine — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hosted a dinner for the Baguio City officials where she made comments that the local media deemed to have fallen well short of condemning the practice: "Dog meat keeps you warm, does it not?" the President is reported to have said to Baguio mayor Braulio Yaranon over dinner. In a transcript sent by Arroyo's handlers in Manila's presidential palace, Arroyo claimed her knowledge of the culinary use of dog meat was rudimentary.

Despite the 1998 law, if the claims of animal rights advocates are to be believed, more dogs than ever are being eaten in the Philippines. Once confined to the hills of the north, activists claim it is also now rampant in the far south on Mindanao island.

Dodong Nalupa, from Sultan Kudarat province in Mindanao, is a dog-meat devotee, and says he indulges his appetite for it every day. "I get so energized when I eat it," Nalupa claims. "It is served in every carinderia [eatery]." Although restaurants don't display it as openly since the 1998 ban, it is common enough to be served in certain areas, and is considered a common delicacy at birthdays and other fiestas. The town maintains its supply of dog meat by collecting pets from a nearby Muslim town, where keeping dogs as domestic pets is considered unclean.

Black dogs are deemed the tastiest, and are also said to counter the effects of asthma and to stimulate the libido. Dogs are often cruelly killed — feet bound, clubbed unconscious and then slaughtered with a knife. Sometimes, their blood is drained to be drunk, ostensibly for medicinal reasons. Dog skin and innards are made into an appetizer by soaking them in vinegar, garlic and ginger. But dog meat is also roasted, stewed in the sour juice of the sampaloc fruit, or served adobo style — that is, with soy sauce and vinegar.

The 1998 ban signaled a distaste in the capital of Manila for the habit of eating dogs, in line with international standards. But some Filipinos are contemptuous of such concerns: "What's the big deal about eating dogs?" asked Becky Judalena, who comes from a tribe in the northern province of Ilocos that's known for eating dog. "This is a way of life. Why impose Western culture on us natives? To each his own. And to hell with the [French actress turned animal rights campaigner] Brigitte Bardots of this world."