On eating dog

I knew it would happen eventually. The number of times Timorese people have asked me if I’ve ever eaten dog, I knew the day would come when I’d actually be offered the meat.

And so it happened in Ermera. I’d travelled out to the district at night and been told that food had been prepared for dinner. We’d been there for about an hour before the call to eat was made.

I walked into a large room and saw people were saying grace stood around a table, on top of which was a pot of rice and a huge bucket containing what was once a dog.

I’m not keen on point blank refusing offers of hospitality from Timorese people. It sounds ridiculous, but I enjoy engaging with Timorese people in the things they do.

As I said, I was confronted with a bucket of dog. It didn’t look particularly appetising, what with one of the dog’s enormous paws on top for all to see. Again, my instinct was telling me to not eat that night, but being in a country where so many people go hungry, being offered food, especially dog, is a big deal.

I say “especially dog” because, I’ve been told, eating dog is believed to give a person strength. It’s a special meat.

I quickly tried to rationalise eating dog. People eat other kinds of meat, so why not dog? The only reason I could think eating dog has such a stigma is because we’ve grown attached to dogs and find it difficult to bring ourselves to kill them.

But then, we eat rabbits, which are also kept as pets. Could it be the higher level of intelligence dogs exhibit that has forged this kind of spiritual link between man and canine?

It could be simply that dog meat, as I soon discovered, isn’t particularly tasty. I loaded my plate up with rice and stared deep into the bucket of dog. I took the spoon and picked out the smallest, least bony piece of meat I could find.

With 20 pairs of eyes on me, I took a deep breath and before I knew it, I was chewing and chewing and chewing, rather like trying to eat a rubber band. I gagged a little, gave up on chewing, swallowed and gagged a little more.

It was unpleasant, but it was over. The people around me seemed satisfied that I’d at least made some effort, although they were concerned as to why I didn’t want any more meat.

I don’t know if it was the meat itself or just the idea of eating a dog that made me feel so uncomfortable. It may have been the large amount of bones and bits in the bucket, including the paws.

I expect that writing this will polarise my readership as I’m sure many of you will be outraged at the idea of person eating dog. I don’t have a problem with people in Timor-Leste eating dog. I didn’t enjoy it myself, no doubt because I came into it with two decades of home-grown hang-ups. Either way, it’s an interesting contrast between the East and the West.

All this aside, I’ve been told that the way dogs are killed in Timor-Leste is barbaric. I don’t know if this is true so I won’t describe it here, but it was only after my trip to Ermera that I found this out. This is similar to way what I've read about how dogs are killed in South Korea.

If you live in Timor-Leste and you mix with Timorese people, no doubt you’ll find yourself in a similar situation at some point.

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13 thoughts on “On eating dog

  1. That was an interesting read. I once found myself chewing on a piece of kangaroo tale much in the same way.

    best wishes

  2. If you own a dog it's advisable to not eat dog as your dog will pick up the scent coming off your skin and realize you are a dog eating human,the relationship will change.

  3. Congratulations on doing your best to be a good guest. I've talked with others about it, and our conclusion was that generally westerners do not eat predator land animals. Crocs and fish are different, don't ask me why.

    Tip for the unwary: My tetun tutor assures me that warungs in Dili with a sign reading RW mean that the meat served is dog. He couldn't tell me what RW meant – he thought it might be an Indonesian abbreviation.

    @Ribbon, kangaroo is perfectly nice, although for mine, the tail is probably the worst part. Only good in soup.

  4. Dog, kangaroo, whale, chicken, pig, cow, whatever… You're still taking a life for no better reason than because you feel like it.

    PS – I like meat; especially kangaroo.

  5. FYI

    In Korea and Vietnam they slowly beat the dog to death in order to tenderise the meat first.

    The more the dog suffers, the better the meat tastes.


  6. Yes, I had heard that. More adrenaline or something like that. It's pretty brutal. Supposedly the dog is put in a bag first and then beaten.

  7. I don't the idea that timoreses and africans enjoy most dog eating – this is unacceptable and absurd. if there are who eat, pliz don't generalise the idea becoz it's not fair at all.

  8. Should you have been ignorant that it was dog you were eating would it have tasted different? Would you have felt the same?

    When I was living in thailand I always ask not to know what I was eating until I had actually eaten it. I therefore ate quite a few things I would have never eaten to my deepest regrets, like plaa raa (fermentede fish), ant eggs, horse shoe crab, raw prawn and giant oyester.

    It is really all in your head.

  9. Yes, Roger. I think you're right. Had it been presented as pork or beef, I may not have batted an eyelid — other than the paw of course.

    Canine, I don't understand the point you are trying to make. Please explain why it is "unacceptable" and "absurd".

  10. Roger: Don't be knocking the fermented fish. That stuff is awesome. Ain't to som tam like a som tam isan. In fact, ant eggs, horseshoe crab, raw prawn and giant oyster are pretty damn good too. I think you and and I are cut from a different cloth…

    Lost Boy, yep, that's what I heard. Not surprising that our stories line up though, given that I was the one who told you about it…

  11. "FYI

    In Korea and Vietnam they slowly beat the dog to death in order to tenderise the meat first.

    The more the dog suffers, the better the meat tastes.


    Is this a fact/something that is common or just more PETA BS, like the claims that all fur animals are skinned alive?

    (fur farmed animals in the U.S. are put to sleep with gas before being skinned)

    Meh, even if they treated the dogs like kings and killed them as humanely as possible people would still whine about dog meat.

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