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China takes dog off the menu for Olympics

Man's best friend is off the menu in China for the Olympic Games: Beijing officials, fearful of offending Western sensibilities, have ordered restaurants not to serve dog for the duration of next month's Games and September's Paralympics.

The Beijing Catering Trade Association (Beta) has forbidden all 112 specially designated OIympic restaurants to provide dog-meat dishes during the Games, and "strongly advised" other establishments to take canine cuisine off the menu too.

Dog is mostly eaten by Beijing's large Korean community, but the Chinese have eaten dog for 7,000 years, and it is widely believed to have medicinal qualities. Xiong Yumei, vice-director of the Beijing Tourism Bureau, told the Xinhua news agency that waiters should "patiently" suggest another dish if dog-meat was ordered. "Conflicts should be avoided," she said, adding that when eaten for medicinal purposes, the canine ingredient should be clearly listed.

Dog features prominently in the cuisines of Yunnan, Jiangsu and Guizhou, and it said to have warming qualities in winter, hardly an issue in a scorching Beijing August. Dogs are farmed in China for their meat but dog is less popular these days because of the high feeding costs. Young dogs are preferred because the meat is softer.

The move is part of efforts "to respect the dining customs of different countries" and is also aimed at heading off protests by animal rights groups. It is unclear whether other delicacies, including donkey and horse, will be kept off the menu for the Games.