Hawaii Moves to Ban Humans from Eating Cats and Dogs

The Humane Society is backing a bill that would make the slaughter or trafficking of cats and dogs illegal.
Activists say the consumption of dogs and cats has been an ongoing issue in Hawaii. (Photo: REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Mar 15, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

In a Hawaiian legislative hearing room this week, activists, along with their canine family members, urged lawmakers to ban the slaughtering or traffic of dogs and cats for human consumption.

Hawaii's House committee on Agriculture advanced SB 2026, a bill which would amend the definition of “pet animal” in the state's revised statues to include any dog or cat rather than only dogs or cats not bred for human consumption.

With over 160 million households with pets in the U.S., it's a taboo and shocking topic, but the Hawaiian branch of the Humane Society of the United States, which backs the bill, says the practice has been ongoing across the Aloha State for some time.

“There are numerous reports every year across the state,” said Inga Gibson, Hawaii state director of the Human Society of the United States. “It's sadly one of those issues that we know has been going on for years. It's not something you read about in the newspaper every day.”

To make the topic even more grim, the dogs and cats who are slaughtered and sold for consumption are often lost or stolen pets, many acquired from the internet or “free to good home” advertisements says the Humane Society.

The most well-known case to make headlines was that of Caddy, an 8-month-old Labrador mix who was stolen from the Moanalau Golf Club, after his owner had gained permission to leave him at an equipment shack while he golfed. Landscape workers at the club later pleaded guilty to stealing, butchering and eating the dog.

“When they were sentenced, we thought great this is going to send a message that if you're slaughtering dogs, you may be prosecuted and unfortunately here we are 6 years later and we continue to receive these reports,” said Gibson.

Citing cases that came to light last year, Gibson said the typical method usually involves decapitating the animal and removing the feet so that all that remains is the torso, rendering it unidentifiable without the help of veterinary forensics. Current law only requires that perpetrators be caught in the act of killing in order to be prosecuted.

Activists also say the unregulated nature of dog and cat meat (unlike farm animals who are mostly bred and raised to be eaten) consumption poses public health risks. Diseases included toxoplasmosis, e-coli and infectious parasites can be transferred to humans while slaughtering dogs or cats.

Few states have specific laws that ban the consumption of pets, with the wording of legislation considered vague, says Slate:

In most of the country, the legality of pet-eating would come down to the specific language of the general animal cruelty statute and how a judge interpreted it. Some states, such as Virginia, bar the unnecessary killing of an animal, with a specific exemption for "farming activities."

Some like author of "Eating Animals" Jonathan Safran Foer, however, make the argument that eating cats and dogs is no different to factory farmed animals, which are the number one cause of global warming and force billions of animals to suffer.

Dogs are wonderful, and in many ways unique. But they are remarkably unremarkable in their intellectual and experiential capacities. Pigs are every bit as intelligent and feeling, by any sensible definition of the words. They can't hop into the back of a Volvo, but they can fetch, run and play, be mischievous and reciprocate affection. So why don't they get to curl up by the fire? Why can't they at least be spared being tossed on the fire? Our taboo against dog eating says something about dogs and a great deal about us.

As the bill awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary committee, the Humane Society is asking members of the public, including those outside of Hawaii to contact members in support to fix the loophole. With the Hawaiian economy so dependent on tourism, residents outside the state have a voice in it too, said Gibson.