The consumption of dog meat in some cultures is a taboo. Animal rights campaigners detest the slaying of dog for consumption. They describe it as cruelty to the animal. These campaigners can go to any length to stop the
slaying of animals such as dogs for consumption. They consider dogs as man's best companion among all the domestic animals. Some persond train their dogs to the point that they act almost like humans. Some dogs are so close to their owners that they can't do without each other. Dogs help their blind owners move around by guiding them. Dogs serve as guards. They hunt. They help shepherds keep stray herds in check. And when such dogs die, they are given befitting burials, rather than being cooked for a meal.
The foregoing picture about man's relationship with dogs is the ideal in western society and common with some of the elites in our cities. The elites feel that dogs are too close to man to be slain and consumed. They feel a sense of revulsion at the thought of that.
Going down to the grassroots and in some cities such as Calabar, the Cross River State capital, dog meat pepper soup, which is popularly called '404', is consumed with relish by the local folks. That is why some outsiders erroneously harbour the perception that once you arrive in Calabar, what stares you in the face is dog meat pepper soup. Sometimes you have to ask people to be able to locate where it is sold. It was not so in the past. For those who savour it, all the talks about animal rights means nothing to them. All they desire is a piece of the action and some cups of palm wine to wash it down as they say.
In the past, dog meat pepper soup joints were usually found around most street corners in the city. It was openly advertised. But now, modern sit-outs and viewing centres predominantly offer roasted beef, chicken pepper soup, goat meat pepper soup and what the Igbos call Nkwobi (cow leg or cow tail pepper soup).
Despite the dominance of other forms of pepper soups, dog meat pepper soup joints still thrive in parts of Calabar. One can be found at Ikot Ishie axis of Old Odukpani Road close to Methodist Church. There is a small signpost advertising 'Pami(palm wine) and 404'. Here, a plate of the stuff is sold for affordable prices of between N200 and N250, depending on the quantity a client wants. The joint is for low income earners.
There is a popular joint at Anantigha near airport open field. Because of the neatness of the place and its location, patrons cut across the middle and upper classes of people. Even the rich go there to savour it. Some go with food flask to buy and take away. A plate is sold for N300. The price is slightly higher because it is prepared in porridge form with plantain and periwinkles locally called 'mfi'.
For those who consume it, the delicacy has a special taste which they can't do without. Aniekan Abasi who was seen eating a plate with relish at the Anantigha joint, told TNN that “it is very delicious, especially when prepared with palm oil in porridge form. The taste is different from what you experience when you eat other types of pepper soup. I come here to eat it occasionally. Most Akwa Ibom and Calabar people like eating it.”
Asked why most people like eating it with palm wine, he said “it is a matter of choice. Few people take it with beer. Those who take it with palm wine feel it is a local delicacy and as such it will naturally be delicious if eaten with a natural drink. It is not a taboo to eat it without palm wine.” A beer bottle of palm wine goes for N100, while a cup of palm wine is sold for N50.
There is also a joint at Hawkins in Calabar South and several of them at Mbukpa and other parts of Calabar South. Another joint is at the bridge head near Tinapa and any time it is available, big pots containing the stuff could be seen outside the joint. Like other pepper soups, dog meat pepper soup is usually served hot.
It is not clear why dog meat pepper soup joints operate mostly on Saturdays and Sundays. Perhaps, that is when they get the majority of their clients. It was observed that some of the joints do not look as flashy as sit-outs and viewing centres where beer and other types of pepper soups are sold. Some dog meat joints like the one in Ikot Ishie described earlier are makeshift shacks built with corrugated iron sheets. Some are built with bamboos. It is not clear if it is deliberate, but the joints are constructed to make them have that local feel or outlook or to look down-to-earth.
It is not just any dog that is slaughtered for pepper soup. It is the local ones which consumers say have better taste than Alsatian or foreign or 'Oyinbo' dogs. In fact, a consumer who pleaded anonymity, told TNN that 'Oyinbo' dogs are fatty and tasteless. So pepper soup joint owners prefer to slaughter the local ones.
There is a dog slaughter house at an extreme corner of Marian market. The dogs are conveyed there crammed in metal crates that easily fit into car boots for slaughter. Then the meat is distributed to joints where it is prepared for pepper soup. Asked how the dogs are sourced for the pepper soup, Bassey Alfred, the owner of one of the joints, told TNN that they are brought in from Benue and Nassarawa states. There is a big dog depot close to Eta Agbor by IBB Way roundabout. It is from there people buy the dogs and take them to slaughter houses like the one at Marian market.
So, the next time you visit Calabar, do not leave until you have visited a dog meat joint. You will surely ask for more.