It's a dog's life in China: sold for £1m – or stolen and sold as meat
From prized mastiffs to dogmeat as wintertime dish, attitudes towards pets are changing but animal cruelty is still widespread
Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing
The Guardian, Sunday 9 December 2012
A Tibetan mastiff expo at in Yantai. The species have become prized pets in China, with one puppy fetching £945,000 in 2011, becoming the most expensive dog ever sold. Photograph: Chinafotopress/Getty Images
Yang Chun is exhausted. The 34-year-old businessman has just driven 1,550 miles back to Beijing from the Tibetan plateau, where he spent half a million pounds on two droopy-eyed, short-snouted dogs the size of small bears.
Tibetan mastiffs have become a go-to luxury good for the country's moneyed elite, and Yang has been coasting on their popularity. He owns about 40 of the animals, which he breeds in a sprawling brick complex on the agrarian outskirts of Beijing. Last year he sold a puppy for £50,000. One from a rival breeder fetched £945,000 in 2011, making it the most expensive dog ever sold.
Yang said mastiffs are prized in China for their lush coats and intelligence, but most importantly for their size and ferocity, which deter thieves who kidnap dogs and sell them for their meat. "This is the only kind of dog that doesn't fear violence," said Yang. "You can hit one with a big stick and it won't back down."
China can be an unforgiving country for dogs: attitudes towards pets have become more progressive over the past decade – a product of growing wealth and exposure to foreign ideas – but large canines are outlawed in many cities; pet markets are poorly regulated, and puppies frequently die soon after being purchased. .................(more)