The first man sent into space by China said in his autobiography dog meat was on the menu during the mission.

Yang Liwei, 44, commander of the Shenzhou Five mission in 2003, said the astronauts on the mission ate meals including braised chicken, steamed fish and dog meat from Guangdong province's Huajiang county, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

"Many of my friends are curious about what we eat (in space) and think that the astronauts must have some expensive delicacies, like shark's fin or abalone," he wrote. "Actually we ate quite normal food. (There) is no need to keep it a secret."

Officials said the same menu was used last year when Chinese astronauts conducted their first spacewalk.

Dog meat is a common dish in northern China and canine meat from Huajiang is reputed to have medical benefits.

However, animal rights campaigners criticized Yang for eating dog in space.

"Yang Liwei is a role model for so many young people and he is one of China's greatest heroes," said Jill Robinson, founder of Hong Kong-based Animals Asia. "We hope that he might recognize dogs as the heroes they are too: They found survivors after the Sichuan earthquake and protected people from potential terrorists during the Olympic games. Surely they deserve more."