The dark side of the Chinese Coase theorem for dog meat

by on June 26, 2014 at 2:04 pm in Economics, Food and Drink, Uncategorized | Permalink


At about 11 o’clock in the morning [June 20], at the grand marketplace in Yulin [China], a dog peddler was haggling with dog lovers over the price of a dog, and because they couldn’t agree on a price, the dog peddler lifted the dog high into the air three times with metal prongs, doing so to force the dog lovers to buy the dog at a high price. In the end, a woman paid 350 yuan to buy the dog. At the scene, quite a few dog peddlers used mistreatment of the dogs to force dog lovers to buy the dogs.

Here is some further background:

Also, according to the official Weibo account of Chengdu Commercial Daily, on the eve of the Dog Meat Festival, a large number of dog lovers gathered in Yulin. On the morning of [June] 20, at 9 o’clock, at the Yulin dog meat market, upon seeing that there were dog lovers present, some dog peddlers began abusing their dogs at the scene, yelling: ”Will you people buy it or not? If not, I’ll strangle it to death [with the prongs]!” Dog lovers bought the dogs with tears in their eyes, and the dog peddlers waved the cash they got before the surrounding onlookers. The onlookers cheered, and some even gave them the thumbs-up.

The story with some rather gruesome photos is here, and for the pointer I thank Ben P.

uhhh June 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm

By dog lover, do they mean someone who loves living dogs or someone who loves cooked dogs?

Joe_Beer June 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Tyler, are you sure this is Coasian? Once blackmail is introduced, the externality (which I assume to be cruelty) becomes internalized–the primary driver of the MCP is the cruelty. Further, the initial allocation of the property right is critical, not inconsequential, to the final allocation of resources. It’s hard (impossible?) to argue that the costs of the cruelty are borne by both sides–that the dog lovers are not impinging on the peddler’s…what, innate enjoyment of cruelty? Can blackmail ever be considered Coasian? Can someone straighten me out on this?

Ray Lopez June 27, 2014 at 12:18 am

I would say that the Coase theorem does apply, since the externality is society’s desire not to abuse animals. But this would never work in the USA due to the fortune telling abuse law (in Maryland and elsewhere) that makes it illegal to inflict emotional distress to a customer (Google this, basically you cannot tell a customer you put a hex on them in exchange for money to take the hex off).

Further, there’s a movie involving Morgan Friedman coming out this year where a blonde is kidnapped and chased in Hong Kong by a bunch of Asian baddies (saw the trailer), and this will further outrage most Europeans, meaning this sort of bad publicity will boomerang and make China more vulnerable to trade war sanctions. In any event, the Chinese are at their zenith now and will soon level off and possibly fall. Average is over for them too.

andrew' June 27, 2014 at 5:29 am

He rescues the girl and then straightens out her hash on her economic fallacies?

Joe_Beer June 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

Externalities are unintended consequences of a transaction that are not orherwise part of the nominal cost….so the threat of abuse is not an externality. The nature of a Coasian bargain is that both parties are potentially restricted by the transaction–the train company by reducing the number of trains, or the farmer by crop loss due to fire caused by sparks. What’s the analogy here? That the animal welfare folks are, by caring, impinging on the peddler’s enjoyment of abuse? I still don’t see this as Coasian. A thoughtful counter would be welcomed.

zeo June 26, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Whomever they refer to, definitely not a dimwit like you.

Andreas Moser June 26, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Anyone who is not vegetarian is a hypocrite for criticizing this. Cows, pigs and chicken are not treated any better before we eat them.

I am actually all for killing more dogs. They are really annoying when I am jogging or cycling. Chicken or pigs on the other hand have never tried to disturb me.

Alexei Sadeski June 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Dog lover here, agree.

Well, except for the second paragraph.

Todd June 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I have to agree. That’s why I’ve stopped eating pork. A pig is as smart as a dog so you can’t really say it’s ok to eat one and not the other.

Patito June 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I’d eat dog if it tasted as good as pig.

Chris S June 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Are you sure it doesn’t?

Dan Weber June 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know.

Finch June 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I’d eat dog. I had a dog growing up, but I’ve become convinced that in modern life dogs are bad for people.

msgkings June 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

How so?

Finch June 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

They compete with children. Neighborhoods have become a battleground between people with dogs and people with kids. Not to mention the direct effect of people with dogs having fewer kids, which is bad for everyone.

Also, they defecate in public. Right in front of my house. I don’t do that in front of your house, hows about you don’t do it in front of mine? “Clean up after your pet” is sort of a myth. The bike-path I run on is a canine minefield.

I’d have less problem with them if you weren’t allowed to take dogs outside or even just off your own land. Like goldfish. They don’t bother me.

Finch June 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I’m not that fond of cats either. Anything that carries a contagious brain parasite is probably something you don’t want in your house.

But cat owners do not behave in nearly as anti-social a manner as dog owners, because cats are not generally taken around the neighborhood.

Urso June 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

The dogs-as-children thing is super super weird, and what;s more they get *very upset* if you suggest that you love your children more than they love their dogs.

I’m sure in 30 years I’ll be considered super weird for feeling otherwise.

A June 26, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Actually, dogs ownership is associated with larger household sizes, even after adjusting for income. Maybe it’s the case that people who love having babies substitute the future kids with pets. Or it could be that the presence of dogs supports parenting somehow. Anyway, the reasoning that [blank] behavior does not directly result in babies, therefore it reduces the birth rate, is simplistic. When strategizing for an outcome, you wouldn’t limit your reasoning to first-order effects.

Jeff June 26, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Finch, the uncleanliness of dogs and cats is actually pretty useful in training kids’ immune systems to differentiateharmful microbes from benign ones. People who grow up in homes without pets are more likely to develop allergies and auto-immune disorders. Look it up. I read it on Wikipedia so I know it’s true.

Finch June 27, 2014 at 9:54 am

Toxoplasmosis is not useful training for your kids’ immune systems.

“dogs ownership is associated with larger household sizes, even after adjusting for income”

Citation please. That does not seem to be what demographers believe. Anecdotally, it seems impossible to believe.

Urso June 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm

“Anecdotally, it seems impossible to believe.”
Why would this be hard to believe? Kids love dogs. They plead for them.

Finch June 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Buying your wife a dog is a well known child-delaying or nth-child-avoiding tactic. And the quantity of two-income no-kids but-a-dog couples is high. But maybe you’re right about kids.

Jonathan Last wrote a lot about this, if I remember correctly.

Nathan W June 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Dogs are less impact on the environment than kids. Don’t worry there are plenty of people making lots of babies, the economy isn’t about to run out of people.

Tom July 1, 2014 at 6:55 am

Cue Bryan Caplan (not with his child rearing hat on).

bour3 June 26, 2014 at 10:36 pm

So in modern life then everyone lives in a city like yours. Got it.

Finch June 27, 2014 at 9:46 am

Was that directed at me? I suppose I’d have to specify the developed world, and I’m really much more familiar with Europe and North America than Asia. But I haven’t been anywhere urban or suburban not plagued by dogs these days.

I would certainly say it’s much less a problem in rural areas. If your neighbor is more than 500 meters away, you’re fine – do what you want. I’m not sure I’d call it modern life, but it sure would be nice.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

Re: Dogs v. kids.

Have seen some interesting stuff on this.

One lady theorized that you get all the warm fuzzies from dogs with massively reduced responsibility, not near so much to do and if you mess up the consequences aren’t as horrible. Or at least the dog can’t turn around and tell you that you messed up. So people get very involved in “companion animal rights” who don’t care about neglected kids.

Worked with a woman once, in her 60s, no family, who complained that she didn’t get bereavement days when her dogs died. After all, she was just as torn up when her dog died as people would be if a parent died (or I assume a spouse or child). But I”m thinking that’s not the dog’s fault. She was a teacher, by the way.

Now, we have two dogs, two cats, a hamster and three pupating caterpillars right now. And some ants. And I’m pretty sure I’m homing a bunch of toxoplasmosis. The difference between the way we behaved towards our pets before and after kids is striking. We spoil them far less, at the same time I think they are more deeply embedded in our family. The kids fight to get to have the dogs on their beds, and when there were wildfires they didn’t ask what would happen to their stuff, but what would happen to the dogs.

So maybe the deal is dogs are only good for people if the people have kids, first.

Nathan W June 27, 2014 at 3:14 pm

If you treat a dog well, generally it reciprocates.

The logic is far from clear with kids. We are more complicated than dogs. It takes decades, not months, to learn that the training was mostly for our own good,

Tarrou June 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Imagine the intelligence of an animal being a factor in what you eat! Imagine the sort of brain that would come up with that! Then eat it, because it fails its own test.

Todd June 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Well, then by all means I say we should eat the babies – I’m sure they are delicious.

JWatts June 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

“Anyone who is not vegetarian is a hypocrite for criticizing this. Cows, pigs and chicken are not treated any better before we eat them. ”

They were explicitly mistreating the animals in public to drum up a higher price. That’s not the equivalent of butchering them for meat.

dan1111 June 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Yeah, intentionally causing needless suffering is worse.

mulp June 26, 2014 at 2:49 pm

You see it as a crime to abuse property?

You are in favor of banning monster truck shows which purposely destroy cars, truck, police cars?

And gun owners frequently use cars as targets, often with gasoline and explosives placed in the cars to ensure real destruction of the cars.

Cars, trucks, dogs are just property and many are willing to pay a lot to see them hurt and destroyed. Seriously, how much would you pay to see a car carefully dismantled compared to seeing it violently crushed?

fdsaasdfasdf June 26, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Good one

FXKLM June 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

If monster truck shows bought up rare cars and threatened to destroy them unless rare car lovers bought them, I think most people would find that objectionable.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm


For the record, I appreciate mulp’s distinction between living things and other forms of property.

HL June 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Capitalism devouring value as we speak. Thanks Boomers! :)

FXKLM June 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Threatening to do something unless someone else pays you not to do it is basically blackmail, and it is a pretty sleazy and socially useless way to make money, even if the thing that you threaten to do would not be illegal or immoral absent the threat.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm

@FXKLM, so auctions (i.e. threatening to sell to someone else unless someone pays you not to) are objectionable?

The better line, I think, is that wanton destruction of property is objectionable. I think it’s stupid, but if I spent all my time finding stupidity objectionable, I wouldn’t have time for anything else.

FXKLM June 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

The issue is not that the destruction of the car or the dog is itself immoral. The issue is that the person is only threatening to do it to extract money from people who find the destruction objectionable. If the Chinese dog killers were running a legitimate market for dog meat, but they allowed dog lovers to outbid dog eaters, I would be fine with it. But by graphically threatening the dogs, they are doing something that provides no real purpose except as a threat.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Well yeah, that’s why I said it was the threat of destruction of property that is arguably objectionable, not your original formulation (“Threatening to do something unless someone else pays you not to do it.”)

It’s not the fact of the threat, it’s the nature of the threat, right? I think we’re down to splitting hairs here.

John Smith June 28, 2014 at 1:31 am

It is only blackmail if it is illegal.

triclops41 June 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

How does one “hurt” a car?

Derek June 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

You better buy this car before I break the windshield. Who will pay me more to not break the windshield? I’m gonna do it! Smash. A beautiful car wrecked. It will get worse! I’ll slash the tires! Someone stop me, offer me some money quick. Slash.

I can’t see this working.

Turkey Vulture June 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I am in tears imagining this happening to my 2000 chevy prizm.

Ashok Rao June 26, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I would rather see my dog “violently crushed” than “carefully dismantled”

But probably not for the reasons you had in mind.

Nathan W June 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm

slave drivers used to use that one too

Jan June 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

No, not anyone who is a vegetarian. There are ways to consume meat without torturing animals to get it. Not all animal products come from factory farms.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

Hard to do, unless you hunt or raise your own animals, but doable.

Why Don't these Dang Kids get off my Lawn?! June 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

That’s one of the things about the modern world you keep seeing all these crazy millennials with their fad diets. Back in olden tymes I always knew that you eat mostly meat and not too many carbs to keep in shape. Then suddenly this Atkins diet was a big deal. I don’t know if people had been living under a rock all this time to not realize too many carbs can make you fat. That’s one of the hallmarks of the CML they like to tell people when and what to eat, and their idea of the perfect diet is always changing. A friend of mine used to be a typical steak and potatoes guy but then his doctor, who I assume was a typical liberal fanatic, told him to cut back on the meat. Nowadays my former friend is a foaming at the mouth cultist who insist on only eating raw vegetables. The millennials have gotten this idea that we should be criticising people’s food choices all the time but what do you expect from a generation that idolizes the beta male. You’re not supposed to notice these things but that’s just how The Left wants it I guess.

Stumps June 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Lol – great Z-Man parody


Adrian Ratnapala June 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm

If I didn’t eat meat, I would take up the vegetarian side of this argument.

But the issue here isn’t about dog-eating. It is about torturing dogs.

andrew' June 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm

It is about torturing “dog lovers”.

Thanatos Savehn June 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Only if you ignore the fact that we are not just mammals but super-organisms, walking biofilms. We share thanks to eons of cooperation and near cohabitation a significant portion of our microbiome with our canine fellow travelers – something not true for our avian and porcine prey.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:42 am

Is that so? That’s pretty interesting, then.

The Anti-Gnostic June 26, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Dogs are bred for work and companionship with humans. Chickens and pigs are bred for meat. I don’t fall out of my chair because Asians eat dogs. As far as I’m concerned, they can eat all they want: fried, boiled, stewed. But it’s a rapacious mentality and completely alien to my culture. They need to keep it in Asia.

Can you imagine an Arab eating a saluki? A Hindu an elephant?

Dave June 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Can you imagine an Arab eating a saluki? A Hindu an elephant?

Arabs eat camels though, even though camels are bred for work and generally regarded more highly than dogs by Arabs. The less regard Arabs have for a particular animal, the less they seem to eat them. Pigs for example.

Can you imagine the Swiss eating dogs and cats? Apparently some rural Swiss did traditionally and some still do:

Yancey Ward June 26, 2014 at 8:31 pm

I don’t know, there have been many times I was planning to go running and got side-tracked by a BLT.

Ray Lopez June 27, 2014 at 12:22 am

@AM- as a lawyer you must be able to make fine-distinctions. In this case, it can be distinguished by the facts that: (1) dogs are social creatures who like humans, unlike chickens, and arguably cows (pigs are like dogs), and, (2) many dogs in Korea and elsewhere are, while they are alive, beaten to soften the meat before they are slaughtered. It’s not uncommon in the Korean countryside to see this: dogs hanging on trees and being ‘softened up’ before slaughter, while they are alive. Chinese are probably the same. Finally, the Chinese are well known, at the borders, to import illegal dogs that are stolen pets. So these animals are often pets or strays, and hence both involving either theft or a Tragedy of the Commons theme.

Todd June 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

The story with some rather gruesome photos

WTF!! I saw that on my twitter feed this morning – I couldn’t close it fast enough. Talk about trigger warnings. I though those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials were bad.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

My favorite anthropomorphic caption: “Bewildered eyes, waiting to live or die.”

This is kind of sad. On my Big List of Sad, it’s like number 5,000.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 4:06 pm

You doubt that dogs know when they are being mistreated?

Dogs are quite emotional and perceptive. Yes, they do get sad and it reflects in their eyes.

You don’t actually have to care what happens to them to recognize that they care about themselves.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Bewildered? Pondering life and death? Pretty sure nothing of the sort is going on.

I said it’s kind of sad, which, translated into the vernacular of the first world in the 21st century, means “gruesome”. You don’t have to go to dogs in China to find sad on this planet though.

Unlike most people, what I find sad is the behavior of the humans, not any trauma the dogs may be suffering, and which people characteristically anthropomorphize and, I think, greatly exaggerate.

What dogs are really good at is manipulating the emotions of humans. It’s their thing.

triclops41 June 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Dogs can be bewildered, and they have emotions. An animal can have emotions without higher cognitive functions. This is basic stuff. You sound like someone who denies evolution because you refuse to consider that chimps can do some rudimentary thinking.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 5:11 pm

You seem like an expert on dogs. Look at the picture in question. How can you tell those are “bewildered eyes”? I think the dog looks cramped and uncomfortable, but I defer to the dog whisperers.

We don’t really know what the subjective experience of other animals is like. Lots of people generalize based on their human experiences. I think this is a massive mistake.

Now, the precautionary principle might suggest we err on the side of assuming other animals do suffer as humans do. But that goes for the humble paramecium too.

The idea that there is some level of cognitive complexity where we can draw a line here is silly. Emergent phenomena and all that. We just don’t know.

But if you’re gonna draw a line, between humans and others is arguably better than somewhere further down the line.

GiT June 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

“The idea that there is some level of cognitive complexity where we can draw a line here is silly. Emergent phenomena and all that. We just don’t know.”

No, the idea that we can draw line which will precisely and accurately capture a punctuated distinction is silly. Drawing a line is not any more silly than drawing a line between majority and minority age.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

OK, fair enough. Not silly so much as arbitrary.

I think your example is helpful though. In drawing a line between minority and majority ages, we can draw on our own experiences and the behavior of other humans at various ages.

Determining a cognitive threshold for, I don’t know, ‘dignity of treatment’, just feels like pure guesswork, with a tendency to project our own experiences thrown in. Upthread, someone is grappling with whether or not pigs and dogs fall on different sides of this line. Smells like medieval theology. Or Pulp Fiction.

Ray Lopez June 27, 2014 at 12:23 am

triclops41 is quite right. And further, the latest research is that fish have more feelings of pain than previously thought.

Brian Donohue June 27, 2014 at 1:15 am


“more…than previously thought”!?! I guess that cinches it. The puzzle of the subjective experience of animals has been solved.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I read recently that dogs and cats recognize emotions on human faces. It’s conceivable that it works in reverse. Alanis Morisette’s commercials cannot be mistaken for perfectly content animals.

“Bewildered” might be the wrong word for a genuine emotion seen in this particular dog’s eyes, but I believe I’ve seen bewilderment in my dog’s eyes. The word means confusion, and dogs and cats can easily be confused by human tricks. My kids often trick the dog and cats with a laser pointer. A caged animal might show signs of bewilderment, especially with raucous noises from cheering and jeering crowds.

I do concur with your distaste for anthropomorphism. I just don’t agree this is a good example.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Yeah, I’d like to back off bewildered. Dogs can be bewildered. I would question the projection of that emotion onto that specific picture, however.

I suppose the reverse is conceivable. If humans were dependent on dogs or cats for food and shelter, I have no doubt it would be true.

Young children are also surprisingly astute observers and manipulators of human adults for reasons similar to dogs and cats.

As far as Alanis Morisette’s commercials, I’m not so sure. There’s a lot of priming going on there.

I look at my (very dumb, very affectionate) dogs. If I took a picture and framed it with “hasn’t eaten in a week”, I’m pretty sure you would be able to see the heartbreaking expression on the dog’s face, but for all I know, it’s just the monkey clanging cymbals going on in there.

The commercial ends with a plea for $18 per month, right?

There’s another commercial about disabled veterans. They’re asking for $19 per month. I bet it’s way less effective. I guess that’s the meta-point I’ve been trying to make all along. People are flipping nuts when it comes to dogs especially.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

I admit you may be right Brian.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

“but for all I know, it’s just the monkey clanging cymbals going on in there. ”

Oh, then you must have a lab, too.

Todd June 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I have to say the commenters here of late have really jumped the shark.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:49 am

I’ll be the Gracie Allen. . . .

Was he upset when they did it?

moo June 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm

You cant be serious.

moo June 26, 2014 at 2:55 pm

@mulp actually. Yeah, these comments are more gruesome than the story itself.

Polonia Forum June 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Thank you. This must be a great project others can do well. The performance is never enough is you keep looking for minor drawbacks.

ummm June 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

here we go again

Jan June 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

This is really interesting. When did the US pass animal cruelty laws and do we expect China to do that when they hit the same point on per capita GDP, or some other measure of development? Or will they perhaps never take that step? Is it simply the culture not to give a shit? (That seems not to be the case, as there are apparently at least some “dog lovers” there.)

HL June 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Pet rights may very well have a higher “Fury” rating than human rights at this point.

W June 26, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Indeed the story makes it clear that there are dog lovers. This should be seen optimistically. This is probably a transient state. From “don’t give a sh*t” to “appalled”. We just witness the conflict between the two states.

Chip June 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm

There is certainly an inflection point in which perceptions transition from callous to caring.

Here in Singapore, which is 80% Chinese, the media often reflects the public’s horror at animal cruelty cases. The move to ban shark fins is even picking up.

8 June 26, 2014 at 10:20 pm

The United States will eventually allow the eating of dogs because white privilege.

Urso June 26, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Seem to vaguely remember some noted internet personality who penned a lengthy screed against “appeals to sympathy” recently. Anyone recall who that was?

Turkey Vulture June 26, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I think he said that other people shouldn’t appeal to sympathy.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 4:02 pm

These heathens need to be destroyed.

There are reasons dogs, cats and horses (perhaps others) are pets rather than foodstuffs. These animals have a mutual affinity with humans – a close psychological and ecological bond.

Im quite certain ancient man ate all these animals until they realized there was something extraordinary about them. Their intelligence is only part of that esteem. Labour is another small part of it. Crossovers between pets and food are the exception, not the rule. Men generally don’t eat wolves, apes, or big cats either, and they arent domesticated.

Ricardo June 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

There is a good chance that wolves, apes, and big cats just don’t taste very good, and that’s why we don’t eat them.

OTOH, I do think there is something to your argument. Dogs were specifically bred to be companion/servant animals. To eat them is to default on that contract.

OTOOH, current generations cannot morally bind future generations, so tough luck for Fido.

Mark Thorson June 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

There is a breed of dog specifically bred for food.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Actually, I think dogs arose from wolves that were particularly less fearful of humans and then ultimately selectively bred. I saw an entire television show on this very subject. Redundancies on the canine genome make them susceptible to selective breeding. This is why there is such diversity of traits within the same species.

I dont see dogs losing their companion and servant traits anytime soon although a food shortage might change things quickly. It makes me wonder whether domestication of dogs ran concurrent with agriculture and hunting, and thus fido had a comparative advantage as companion over dinner.

I agree with someone else who said they might simply not taste good, relative to alternatives. The fact that these animals are also dangerous predators is an additional clue. Opportunity costs reign supreme.

Mark Thorson June 26, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Hunting has been around since before pre-humans became humans, but agriculture was much later — later than domestication of the dog. On the other hand, domestication of the dog occurred at about the same time humans triumphed over Neanderthals. Dogs may have been the deciding factor that helped us defeat them.

Li Zhi June 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

Might not taste very good? LOL! We eat sea weed, bugs, worms, and octopus (why?) and tofu, we eat kopi luwak, balut, camel (see T.E. Lawrence’s 7 Pillars of Wisdom), horse, dog, sheep, …, cod sperm, and hakarl. To anyone who 1) thinks they are intelligent and 2) thinks the ‘reason’ we westerners don’t eat dog is the taste, I suggest one of the two above is incorrect. Or are just so ignorant they shouldn’t be posting here. (It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.) I’ve read that dog tastes like “gamey pork”, btw. We eat rotten milk, stuffed sheep stomaches, rotten meat. Talk about being detached from reality, wow!
Too few here have used the word compassion. feeling pain is not suffering. I have no objection to the Chinese (or anyone else for that matter) eating dog. I have a serious objection to anyone causing suffering of any being with an ability to suffer and hence self-awareness. Once a few of the offending merchants are caught alone by real dog lovers, I guess the laws will be changed – or enforced. Let us not forget the wide-spread existence of the dog fighting business in this country. Not to mention boxing and other sports causing head trauma. Some here seem to be baiting the feelies although no doubt some are just sociopaths and actually believe we need less compassion in this world. (The “If only everyone in the world were just like me” syndrome.) (fortunately, I don’t suffer from that since it was obvious to me long ago that if everyone in the world was like me that we wouldn’t have made it past the middle ages, and if by some miracle we had, the world today would be a radioactive smoking ruin, lol)
The most likely reason we don’t eat (much) carnivore, is because of the cost to raise them. Isn’t this obvious? Which would you rather be tending: a herd of sheep, or a ‘herd’ of tigers? Yeah, survival of the fittest.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

My impression is that human-cat relations are strictly arms-length business deals. Dogs have cast their lot with humans, but cats still keep one paw in nature.

triclops41 June 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm

The reason the animals you mentioned are no longer eaten is that they were domesticated into new species which served humans in important capacities. There was no special gleam in a wolf’s eye. There is evidence of many animals failing to be domesticated. Humans tried every species they could, and we see which ones worked out. The close bonds you speak of were earned over generations of artificial selection.

GiT June 26, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Weird to see Willitts channeling Donna Haraway.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Book reviews don’t get any better than this:

This is a book that contradicts itself a hundred times; but that is not a criticism of it, because its author thinks contradictions are a sign of intellectual ferment and vitality. This is a book that systematically distorts and selects historical evidence; but that is not a criticism, because its author thinks that all interpretations are biased, and she regards it as her duty to pick and choose her facts to favor her own brand of politics. This is a book full of vaporous, French-intellectual prose that makes Teilhard de Chardin sound like Ernest Hemingway by comparison; but that is not a criticism, because the author likes that sort of prose and has taken lessons in how to write it, and she thinks that plain, homely speech is part of a conspiracy to oppress the poor. This is a book that clatters around in a dark closet of irrelevancies for 450 pages before it bumps accidentally into its index and stops; but that is not a criticism, either, because its author finds it gratifying and refreshing to bang unrelated facts together as a rebuke to stuffy minds. This book infuriated me; but that is not a defect in it, because it is supposed to infuriate people like me, and the author would have been happier still if I had blown out an artery. In short, this book is flawless, because all its deficiencies are deliberate products of art. Given its assumptions, there is nothing here to criticize. The only course open to a reviewer who dislikes this book as much as I do is to question its author’s fundamental assumptions—which are big-ticket items involving the nature and relationships of language, knowledge, and science.

Brian Donohue June 27, 2014 at 12:55 am

slow clap.

nymvarid June 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Altho’ we American don’t eat dogs. We do kill (euthanized) dogs just b/c they’re inconvenient—3-4 million dogs are killed per year in dog pound/dog shelter. I doubt the Chinese can beat our number here.


Careless June 29, 2014 at 2:34 pm

The Chinese have how many tens of millions of dogs running around un-neutered/spayed? They probably run over that many with their vehicles in a year.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:54 am

My understanding is that if you have a choice between eating carnivores and eating herbivores, you should pick the herbivore. Less chance of picking up a bug and farther down the food chain.

I also, and this is probably going to far to post, have had it explained to me why so many of us are disgusted by, say, dog feces but don’t blink much at deer scat or horse and cow manure. Second group is only processing vegetable matter, not meat.

Careless June 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Great ape feces is really disgusting, even when they’re on vegetarian diets. It’s not (just) the meat.

Spencer June 26, 2014 at 4:06 pm

when I lived in Taiwan they told me if my dog is missing the first place to look is the local butcher shop.

The Engineer June 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

You will occasionally read about a Chinese restaurant in the ‘hood busted for serving up members of the local feral dog and cat population.

I remember one, in particular, that was found to have the heads out in the dumpster. Other than that, the clientele had no idea what they were eating. Nobody ever said, “hey, this sweet and sour chicken tastes like… calico!”

In my mind, with the huge problem of stray animals in the ‘hood, they were performing a valuable public service.

Can we at least agree that eating pit bulls is ok?

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:55 am

Yes, but you have to catch and kill them with your bare hands first.

Dr. Egan June 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm

This is simply braying at the margins

nl7 June 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

This is an incredibly emotional issue, at least for people who aren’t dead-inside, dog-hating, worse-than-Hitler monsters. So to divorce the market issue from the animal abuse issue, I need a hypothetical. Obviously if this is animal abuse, then further analysis is moot.

The analog to dogs should be inanimate or otherwise avoid the question of intrinsic moral rights. It can have emotional and aesthetic value, but not income-producing value. It should also not be terribly expensive to replace. So that could probably work with paintings or statues being destroyed or defaced.

If a guy in a market had a stack of unremarkable paintings and threatened to destroy them if nobody paid a ransom, what is the economic analysis? It doesn’t really make sense in that light, except if you are a hoarder or somebody else who instantly attaches magical significance to inanimate objects. Nor would it be worse if the market guy started cutting the edges of the paintings or smearing water on them. Weird, maybe, but how many people would cry for the art?

And what are the bidding dynamics? All the dog lovers want the same thing – the dog’s life. If any one of them wins, they all win. So they will generally not bid directly against each other except out of error or misinterpretation. However, the richer and more dog-loving of them may go to higher prices faster – though I imagine the dynamics are such that only one or a few will bid. Maybe in some situations multiple dog lovers will pool resources. The dog-haters might bid up, but for the most part I think the question is a two-sided negotiation rather than an auction. It ends when the ransomer thinks that the most-sympathetic and highest-bidding dog-lover is tapped out.

The dog ransomer could go home and let dogs breed to take puppies to ransom at the market, which is a scary incentive. It seems like some possible equilibria are: 1. all potential dog adopters are out of space and so ransoms go unpaid, 2: dog lovers mostly manage to avoid markets where ransom is allowed (maybe going to markets with rules that exclude animal torture or ransom), 3: ransomers breed so many dogs, perhaps publicly slaughter so many dogs, that either social outrage severely stigmatizes dog-murder or the dog lovers become increasingly desensitized and pay out little. All options assuming no state intervention. Vigilante action is also a possibility, circumventing the market and the state.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

This is sober analysis.

I think people have threatened artwork and people have paid to prevent destruction. The Monuments Men went to great lengths to preserve art.

When the Taliban destroyed the Buddha statues, I thought we should have invaded them. Not because I valued the art that much or believed it to be a casus belli unto itself, but it revealed who the Taliban were. To me, war with them was both inevitable and just.

Remember Larry the Lobster? I believe it was an SNL theme where the audience voted on whether to cook or save Larry. Interesting contrast to the reaction if Larry were a mammal.

Mark Thorson June 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm

I suggest to the dog sellers in China that they set up a website. There, you can watch a live webcam of puppies in a cage. Every 15 minutes, the floor of the cage is electrified and the puppies receive a painful but harmless electric shock. Unless some kindly person pays a few yuan to skip this one.

If that seems too brutal, a slight alteration of the concept would be to feed the puppies a near-starvation ration of the cheapest food. But for a few yuan, a robot flicks a nice dog treat into the cage and you can watch it being eaten on the webcam. You also have the option of identifying yourself to the other watchers. That premium dog treat was paid for by Mark Thorson. Thank you, Mark!

Of course, an inversion of the concept is also possible. The puppies don’t get shocked unless someone pays for it. Heck, I might buy a few of those just to see if it really works. And I’m not overfond of dogs.

Todd June 26, 2014 at 8:43 pm

And I’d suggest a kickstarter to kidnap the dog sellers and we can pay to watch them be tortured for weeks on end. Care to wager who makes more?

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Lost my coffee on the computer screen on that one.

nymvarid June 26, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Here’s something that’s going to upset you more (or should): 3-4 million dogs are killed each year in the united states of America in dog shelters—about 9000 dog per day conservatively est. Now for you dog lovers out there, what is worse, this annual dog eat festival or the mini dog holocaust happening every day in the US?

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Does there need to be an ordinal ranking of those events?

I’m not so much a dog lover as much as I hate to see needless torture and death. My hunch is that shelters do not enjoy that work. And many dogs euthanized in shelters have incurable diseases.

Am I supposed to be equally upset about veterinarians who euthanize cats and the monster in Yonkers who tortured and murdered cats? I don’t think so.

FWIW, I do oppose euthanasia solely for the purpose of controlling populations. On the other hand I admit I haven’t devoted every spare dime I make to stop it. We adopted three animals, and I’m not seeking more. If I donated more, I’d always have more to give. Sad to say, but we prioritize even when it comes to death.

nymvarid June 27, 2014 at 12:12 am

Yes, the ordinal rank is pretty clear. Torturing defenseless animal is morally repulsive. But the sheer number of dogs being put down annually is worse. Its a silence holocaust—9000 dogs kill per day conservative estimation. The US probably kill more dogs in a year than the number of dogs exist in China currently—I’m guessing but I don’t think I’m far off. (Let’s not even mention felines in shelter being “euthanized” also).

anon June 27, 2014 at 12:41 am

You estimate there are 300-400k dogs in China?

I estimate you are wrong by a factor of between 50 and 100.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 11:58 am

Torture much worse.

Silas Barta June 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Wow! Another Coase booster finally learns the perverse incentives of buying off jerks!

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:49 pm

I think the original Coase bargaining solution was not for repeated games, although I’m fairly certain TC’s profession has examined dynamic equillibria in such games. Clearly in this case much mischief can be made, especially since the hostages reproduce.

John Smith June 28, 2014 at 1:34 am

I am pretty happy with the way it turned out, how those stupid animal activists got owned by the vendors. Pretty sick and tired of activists always getting into people’s faces.

Ashok Rao June 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

This is gruesome and a large number of the comments here suggest a lack of reading/viewing the linked item.


I would caution against hating the peddlers. The analogy here is elephant poaching (or any other sort of poaching, but elephants are most prominent), not eating poultry as some nonsensical commenters claim. And in this case it is very clear that while, yes, poachers are barbaric, they are compelled by their own economic tragedy. We can – and should – look down upon such behavior, but it becomes a more nuanced problem when the question is whether to torture a dog or feed your kid.

What we should collectively look down upon are the masses of affluent or middle-class attendees of something as stupid as this festival. Just like we should look down on the elite who feel the need to purchase ivory chopsticks. Unfortunately, these people get away, even though they are the root cause.

Note isn’t exactly Coasean: torturing the dog in the interim is a pretty significant transaction cost: for the dog.

And who ever said culture doesn’t matter. God knows I wouldn’t want my kids born in a country where go to a “dog meat festival”.

“This is really interesting. When did the US pass animal cruelty laws and do we expect China to do that when they hit the same point on per capita GDP, or some other measure of development? Or will they perhaps never take that step? Is it simply the culture not to give a shit? (That seems not to be the case, as there are apparently at least some “dog lovers” there.)”

GDP is irrelevant here. Plenty of poorer countries have far better treatment of animals, and richer ones (Japan, Denmark) do not. Some cultures, as you suggest, seem not to give a shit.

And, by the way, this is not a very political/liberal thing either. If you follow the Fox News comments on Facebook (which represent the very right tail of the Republican distribution) you find a similar distaste towards animal cruelty (though not slaughter in general). Large corporations have done an exceptional job shielding everyone from the reality of CAFOs.

Vigilante action here seems like the appropriate choice.

Note the contrast of the reaction towards this – largely furious – to the “never negotiate with terrorists” (or “don’t give to beggars”) policy.

GiT June 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm

“And who ever said culture doesn’t matter. God knows I wouldn’t want my kids born in a country where go to a “dog meat festival”

Google “beef festival.” Or “pork festival.” Or “poultry festival.” &etc.

Ashok Rao June 27, 2014 at 12:24 am

Oh you don’t have to convince me that we have a long way to go in this country. (From CAFO, at least, I’m more ambivalent about the rest).

But torturing dogs and slaughtering chickens in less than ideal conditions are just not the same thing. There were people in that crowd clearly unfazed by the behavior (not to mention the goers and peddlers themselves).

That just would not happen in this country.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm

We used to enjoy a pig pickin.

I actually think pretending the meat you are eating wasn’t a live animal once is a huge chunk of the problem. I don’t have a problem eating an animal. I have a problem eating an animal that suffers in its captivity or its death. And I have an enormous problem with the amount of dead animal we throw away at the end of our meals.

nymvarid June 26, 2014 at 6:01 pm

GDP is relevant b/c it would increase the number of dog lovers as per capita rise. 10 yrs ago when per capita was only around $1K the numbers kennel club/dog owners was vanishingly small. I don’t have numbers for today, I suspect the numbers of dog owners has dramatically increased. When per capita hits, say, $15K, they’ll be much more dog lovers to bid for those captured dogs to be free.

Urso June 26, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Nothing in the post makes me think that clicking through would be a good idea. When it comes to scenes of dog torture I’m happy enough to remain ignorant.

Chip June 27, 2014 at 12:08 am

Why would anyone assume that Fox News viewers wouldn’t have a distaste for animal cruelty?

What a strange thing to say.

Here are the five states with the fewest pets per capita:

Rhode Island

Notice anything?

Ashok Rao June 27, 2014 at 12:28 am

No, you would assume something because it is common to dismiss organic, vegetarian, things as liberal items. These are trends that are far more common in urban, liberal cities and harder to follow in the middle of nowhere (I can tell you this, given that I lived in the middle of nowhere for most of my life).

I’ll admit it was very silly of me to say that this would be surprising without providing more context. Granted, organizations like peta thrive in certain circumstances, not others.

Chip June 27, 2014 at 12:41 am

I still don’t see the connection between lack of veganism among Fox viewers and an assumed predisposition for cruelty.

Do vegans love children more than non vegans? Do Whole Foods shoppers give more to charity than meat eating churchgoers who presumably favor Fox over MNBC?

Ashok Rao June 27, 2014 at 2:06 am

I don’t know why you’re being so difficult – I admitted I was wrong.

I confused p(a|b) with p(b|a). That is I think if you pick an arbitrary vegan or vegetarian you’re likely to find an urban liberal. But not vice versa.

Has nothing to do with charity or Wholw Foods, the CEO of which (by the way) is far to the right.

Anon June 26, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Tyler, have you tried dog during your travels? If so, would you recommend it?

ohwilleke June 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I am not opposed to using dogs for food, and animal shelters routinely kill large numbers of dogs on a regular basis in almost every major city and town in the nation. But, tormenting animals for profit in an effort to emotionally distress a dog lover is pretty foul conduct. This constitutes both animal cruelty and an unfair trade practice, in my book.

I have no quarrel with executions of criminals about to be executed for their crimes that are visible painful as punishment for their own acts. But, torturing a dog that is innocent even if it will be killed eventually for utilitarian reasons like food or just because there are too many dogs in a town is evidence that the person doing so is depraved and probably a danger to fellow humans as well. Animal torturers tend to be violent criminals, while farmers and slaughter house and animal shelter employees do not.

I would feel the same way about someone who tortured a pig, cow, or chicken in order to try to extract an above market price from an animal lover.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I agree. These heathens are the same type of people who ignored a child who had been hit by a truck. She lay in the street while people walked by and another truck ran her over.

This market is symptomatic of people who have little respect for life, innocence, and necessity. I admit to having somewhat less disgust for, say, exterminating vermin. I wouldnt make a celebration out of it like the Prairie Dog Hunt or snake clubbing.

Chip June 27, 2014 at 12:13 am

It’s been interesting to see people in Vancouver react to the recent wave of immigrants from mainland China, following a previous wave from Hong Kong in the 90s.

The notions that 1) all cultures are equal and 2) all Chinese are the same have taken a beating.

You see the same thing in Singapore, where the local Chinese animosity to the so called PRC is something to behold.

Brian Donohue June 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I’m not justifying the behavior, but incentives matter.

While it is ignoble and repulsive to torture animals for money, torturing animals for the fun of it is a whole other level of chilling in my book.

ohwilleke June 26, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Fair enough.

Li Zhi June 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm

One word: dog fighting
dog fighting is endemic in the USA.
How does one have a useful discussion on a subject when most of the participants seem to be … without basic information? Comparing euthanasia with torture is simply bizarre. We’ll all be dead in the long run. There are value systems which don’t use the same dichotomy as the (typical) western legal system (property vs property holders (vs others)). How does the legal system in such countries handle harm to the ‘environment’, to objects, to living things, to vertebrates, to mammals, to hominids, to children, to the severely mentally handicapped, …? I don’t know, but know the US system remains quite barbaric (although markedly improved from previously).

Marie June 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

It’s true, and I think there are millions of Americans who do things all day every day that they find distasteful because it’s just part of the job.

I try to remember that when I get a telemarketing call.

Brian Donohue June 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Bill June 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Ambiguity of the day:

Sign outside of Chinese Restaurant:

No Dog Allowed.

Marie June 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

In order to serve man.

Benny Lava June 26, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Shameful commenters here. No one mentioned that buying these dogs only increases demand for dogs, driving up the value and increasing the supply of dog meat. Demand and supply people, the only true thing in economics.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Increases QUANTITY SUPPLIED. Whether the number of dogs killed increases or decreases is ambiguous without more market information.

FC June 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Poison a few infants, torture a few dogs. It’s capitalism with Chinese characteristics.

GiT June 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Sounds like capitalism with the same old characteristics as anywhere else.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Perhaps true, but I see no greater concern in socialist economies. Have any socialist countries banned animal lab testing?

GiT June 26, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Dunno. The objection is to the notion that there’s something “Chinese” about this. Whether or not it’s an indictment unique to capitalism is besides the point. I don’t think it is.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Are there places besides Korea and China where dogs are standard fare?

Im not a cultural relativist. While I accept that they might find it perfectly “normal” to eat dog and torture animals, I believe those norms are culturally inferior. Im sure Muslims and Jews feel the same about pork eaters. I respect their right to find disgust in the behavior of others.

In American culture, coughing without covering your mouth, snorting and spitting are widely considered foul. In Chinese culture, blowing your nose into a handkerchief is disgusting. These two groups might never reconcile their differences. But Im damned sure that the two practices are not equal when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases. Time tells.

Ashok Rao June 27, 2014 at 12:31 am

With Willitts.

Certain cultural practices are inferior. And hopefully competition will get rid of them. God knows it’s been happening at a rapid pace (see: westernization).

GiT June 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Some norms are inferior to other norms but for many norms there are multiple equivalent, arbitrary, irrelevant, or otherwise ambivalent equilibria or optima. Relativity and superiority are compatible. “Concern” about the heathen barbarians in the east is likely inferior, as far as cultural attitudes go.

ChrisA June 27, 2014 at 4:02 am

I think everyone would agree that Chinese capitalism is vastly better than Chinese socialism for people. And I would guess that the same is true for Chinese dogs. While not perfect, we can say that we have now tested enough political systems to say that by far the best is capitalism.

slip June 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Dog meat is pretty tasty… surprisingly so. I think dog meat would work well in tacos.

Here (small remote tropical island) people eat it on occasion for birthdays or other parties.

The way its done here is certainly more humane than what a factory farm does to a pig or cow or chicken.

Dbltap June 27, 2014 at 1:26 pm

The only good thing I can say about dog meat in the Pacific is that it’s a lot better than cat meat.

Tom June 26, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Sick, but progress for dogkind in a Chinese context. In much of China dogs have been traditionally regarded either as livestock or vermin. Only in some areas are they traditionally kept as pets or herders. There are now activists rescuing dogs in an area where dogs are livestock. Never used to happen.

8 June 26, 2014 at 10:28 pm

People really need to check their white privilege.

Sialwfabpthespyhelowel June 26, 2014 at 10:52 pm

This is addressed to many of the posters here who thought the deep and vicious distress so many dogs in China have been subjected to is an appropriate springboard for their cold-hearted demonstrations of “interesting realistic attitudes” or “black humor” or “humorous libertarian comments”. The problem with your strenuous pretentions to being a tough and funny human who, in your mind, correctly understands the human / animal hierarchy is that … well, I will let you figure out what the problem might be, but a big hint is that cruelty and callousness of every kind, including verbal cruelty and callousness, is a sin. Sin is a little word for a big phenomenon that hurts every single person you have ever loved or will ever love.

Willitts June 26, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Jesus laughed.

John Smith June 28, 2014 at 1:36 am

Nobody gives a shit about these stupid thoughts of yours.

ricardo June 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I love dogs. It’s in my utility function. You can’t argue me out of that, f***wits.

ChrisA June 27, 2014 at 4:15 am

Another proof that moral calculations are impossible. Morality at this level is highly culturally specific (basic morality is probably more genetic), and only a naïve person would expect to go to another culture and expect to see the same moral structure as her culture. I am sure that the dog torturers could easily construct a moral framework for what they are doing (I could make one up, but I would be worried that people would construct that as my preferred moral framework). From a non-normative point of view, it has been a bad strategy for people to insist that other cultures conform to their moral standards, and from a normative view I also have this preference.

Linda June 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

This story is not confirmed. Many people have suspected that it’s actually self-directed.

A search on the Chinese version of Twitter (Weibo) should come up with a lot of posts analyzing the case, with photos taken in the area suspecting that the incidence was an act.

Adrian June 29, 2014 at 4:32 am

Yep. china smack is hardly known for its excellence in journalist integrity

Dave June 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm

“Can you imagine an Arab eating a saluki? A Hindu an elephant?”

Arabs eat camels though, even though camels are bred for work and generally regarded more highly than dogs by Arabs. The less regard Arabs have for a particular animal, the less they seem to eat them. Pigs for example.

Can you imagine the Swiss eating dogs and cats? Apparently some rural Swiss did traditionally and some still do:

Floccina July 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

On the other hand when did people in the USA become servants of our pets.

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