A dog resting on a mat in front of a house.

The Hysteria Around the Asian Dog Meat Trope

“As immigrants, it has always been my parents’ dream to pass on the richness and traditions of our culture…through food and service to the community,” wrote David Rasavong in a social media post mourning the closure of his family’s restaurant in California. Rasavong and his parents closed Tasty Thai just six months after opening following allegations that they sold dog meat, which caused them to receive death threats and harassment (Fresno Bee). The recurring hysteria about Asian dog meat consumption feeds on the idea that Asian people are uniquely savage and cruel to animals. This racist trope—directed against other people of color as well—disguises bigotry as animal welfare. In the process, it lets the largest animal abusers off the hook. 

In May 2023, Maria Alvarez Garcia found a pit bull tied up in a yard in Fresno. Its legs were bound, and it had no water in the stifling heat. She posted a Facebook video of her confronting the dog’s owner, who eventually refilled the dog’s water. The video sparked outrage and a visit from the Fresno Police, who later reported that there was no abuse (Fresno BeeDaily Beast). 


• Read and share Chinese Protest Recipes to think through the connection between food and social change. 

Sign the petition to oppose Ag-Gag Laws and support the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

• Support the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Cosecha.

“Some people reached out to me thinking that those people are eating the dogs… I hope that we’re able to save this dog and all the dogs that end up in that house,” said Alvarez Garcia in a subsequent video. She then posted a picture of Tasty Thai. Tasty Thai is located next to the home where the dog was tied up, but neither the restaurant nor its owners, staff, or patrons appeared in the video. There was no evidence that the restaurant had any connection with the dog. But the narrative had been created that not one but many dogs were being abused and eaten, and that their meat was served at the restaurant that happened to be next door (Fresno Bee). There was no proof for any of these claims, save for the fact that both the residents and Tasty Thai’s owners were Asian American. 

Non-Asian Westerners love stories about the “weird” foods that Asian people eat. Travel shows gawk at the “disgusting” dishes in Asian countries (The Guardian). Comedian Jay Leno joked about Asian people eating pets as recently as 2019 (Huffington Post). Asian people are thought to be so uncivilized and immoral that we’ll eat any animal whatsoever. Where the civilized see a cherished companion, we see a potential stir-fry. In this way, Asian people are framed as not only barbaric and dirty, but evil and cruel (Daily Dot). 

The Asian dog meat racist trope is so strong that it destroys common sense. Ask yourself: why would any restaurant secretly serve dog meat? There’s no way dog meat would be cheaper or more available for a restaurant owner than pork, chicken, or beef purchased from a wholesaler. Prowling around the streets hunting for strays is more work than ordering a meat delivery. And if the owners raised the dogs for meat, why wouldn’t they just raise livestock instead? The people who harassed Tasty Thai out of existence believed that its owners went out of their way and risked prison time to serve customers more expensive meat. This only makes sense if the owners weren’t motivated by self-interest but by irrational, subhuman cruelty. 

There are a small number of countries where dog meat is a traditional food, including China, Korea, Nigeria, and Switzerland. Thai and Laos are not among them. Though some Swiss farmers eat dog sausages as a traditional cure for rheumatism, there are no popular jokes about finding canine remains in gourmet Swiss chocolates (Newsweek). That’s because the Asian dog meat hysteria is about anti-Asian racism, not animal welfare. 

Mass-produced meat is so cheap because of industrial-scale animal abuse. 85% of meat production in the U.S. is controlled by just four companies (The Guardian). Factory farm workers, largely Mexican immigrants, face one of the highest injury rates of any occupation. Meat corporations hire undocumented workers so they can call ICE on their employees if they organize (FFAC). Industrial agriculture, led by such all-American brands as Tyson and Butterball, runs on factory farms where animals are routinely “beaten, kicked, maimed, and thrown,” along with “the removal of horns and tails from animals without anesthesia” and sick animals being “dragged on the floor before they are slaughtered.” Since footage of actual farm conditions sparks public outcry, some states have passed corporate-sponsored “ag-gag” laws criminalizing factory farm whistleblowing (ALDF). Examples of factory farm videos are herehere, and here. These videos depict animal suffering; discretion is advised.

Livestock animals like cows, chickens, or pigs are sentient and capable of feeling pain like a dog, cat, or person (The Conversation). Pigs are as intelligent as three-year-olds and can even play computer games (The Guardian). Though all animal suffering is bad, livestock animals on factory farms suffer conditions objectively much worse than a dog tied outside with an empty water bowl. The racist Asian dog meat trope allows the largest animal abusers to escape scrutiny while stoking xenophobia and hate. 


• A California restaurant closed after a false accusation that they abused dogs and sold dog meat. 

• The racist Asian dog meat trope is used to paint Asian people as barbaric and cruel. 

• U.S. industrial agriculture depends on widespread animal abuse and migrant worker exploitation. 

2400 1870 Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee is a writer and organizer plotting a better world in Philadelphia. His work has previously appeared in Notes From Below, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, Plan A Magazine, ROAR Magazine, and Teen Vogue.

All stories by : Andrew Lee
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