Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

This guide is designed to help veterinary clinicians to consider cultural differences in clients

Animals as food

Horses as Food

In the United States, the United Kingdom and some other nations, horses are largely considered pets, and as such, horse meat is culturally unacceptable as food. In other cultures, however, horse meat is considered a delicacy. Mexico, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, and China are among the nations where many people eat horse meat.

Dogs as Food

The practice of eating dogs is found in many Asian countries, including the Philippines, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand.  While the practice is not nearly as prevalent as it once was, it does continue. In general, this consumption is seasonal, with most dog meat being consumed in the winter. Dogs used for their meat in China are mostly sourced from commercial dog breeding farms within the country.

Rabbits as Food

Rabbits usually symbolize prosperity, good luck, and fertility. In most European and Asian cultures, rabbits are springtime animals, symbolic of fruitfulness and renewal. In the U.S., rabbits are symbolic of cleverness, devotion to self-improvement, and good luck.

While rabbits are the luckiest of the Zodiac animals in China, they are primarily seen as trickster animals by Native American and Central African cultures.

Rabbits serve many different uses across cultures. They can be produced for pets, for human or pet consumption, as medical and educational lab animals, and for their wool and skin.

In the United Kingdom, fresh rabbit is sold in butcher shops and markets, and some supermarkets sell frozen rabbit meat. Based on a comparison of 42 countries in 2021, China ranked the highest in rabbit meat production with 462,681 tonnes followed by North Korea and Egypt. Other large consumers of rabbit meat are Russia, Italy, France, and Spain.

In the United States, there are more than 2,000 commercial rabbit farms, comprising a $1.5 billion industry. It is estimated that Americans consume ~10 million pounds of rabbit meat each year.

According to the 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook published by the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), there were 6.1 million pet rabbits in the U.S. that year. The American Pet Products Manufacturing Association Pet Owners Survey noted that in the past decade, rabbits have surpassed hamsters as our favorite small pet, making them the third most popular companion mammal, behind cats and dogs.


  • Michal P. Pregowski (ed.) Podberscek A. (2016). An Appetite for Dogs: Consuming and Loving Them in Vietnam. In: Companion Animals in Everyday Life: Situating Human Animal Engagement within Cultures (pp. 111-128). Palgrave Macmillan. Ebook.
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM