Dog’s Dinner: Southeast Asian Nations Ban Illicit Canine Meat Trade

  • Share
  • Read Later
HOANG DINH NAM / AFP / GettyImages

Dogs wait to be killed for meat at a slaughterhouse in Hanoi

As urban myths go, it’s a good one. A woman takes her pet dog to a Vietnamese restaurant and hands it to the amiable waiter to be fed kitchen scraps. But then with great fanfare a silver platter arrives and poor Foo-Foo has been roasted and served up as the main course.

Of course, the veracity of this modern fable is easy to dismiss, and your own “best friend” is very unlikely to be butchered at a Hanoi eatery. However, thousands of pet dogs are served up every year in Vietnam — victims of a cruel smuggling trade that four Southeast Asian nations have finally decided to stamp out.

(MORE: Just Stick to Celebrity Gossip: Vietnam Bans Discussion of News From Blogs and Social Sites)

A deal struck this week by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos aims to halt the trafficking of dogs for meat. Most of the victims are well-groomed pets stolen in Thailand that are forced into abhorrently cramped cages and shipped over the Mekong River to Laos, and eventually to dinner tables in Vietnam. “Stray dogs are far too difficult to catch, even with hi-tech equipment,” John Dalley, founder of Phuket-based charity Soi Dog, tells TIME. “The vast majority of intercepted dogs we see are actually stolen pets — most have collars on and are very tame and friendly.”

But the spread of disease rather than organized crime or animal cruelty lies behind the new initiative. Vietnam has one of Asia’s worst rabies problems and dogs are the principle cause — one recent epidemic in a Hanoi suburb saw 117 people, including young children, bitten by rabid animals. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations aims for all member states to be rabies-free by 2020, a target that dog traffickers are putting at peril. “While stopping the dog meat trade will not in itself eliminate rabies, it certainly will never be eliminated while it’s going on,” adds Dalley.

The new program focuses on motivating law enforcement to tackle smuggling and includes a five-year ban on importing dogs into Vietnam. However, many remain wary as all countries in the region already prohibit the transport of dogs across borders without evidence of vaccination against rabies, health certificates, export licenses and being properly identified. “[The deal] is a great move forward but we need to obviously see that it’s enforced,” explains Dalley. “It will need strong action from the government and involve other agencies such as the border control and police.”

(WATCH: Vietnam’s ‘Dragon Bridge’ Is Six Lanes of Fire-Breathing Fun)

In addition, the colossal profits at stake make many doubtful that the scheme could ever be a complete success. Each pooch can fetch 5,000 to 7,000 baht ($155-215) and an estimated 5 million dogs are slaughtered annually, making dognapping a significant illicit industry. “We are still seeking solutions as the border between Thailand and other countries is long and difficult to manage, considering the illegal trade we are trying,” says Boonseub Chemchoig, Chief Inspector General for the Thai Ministry of Interior. Many fear that targeting smugglers will just force them to find new routes.

And no matter whether enforcement attempts succeed, a huge domestic slaughtering industry means that dogs will not be disappearing from Vietnamese menus any time soon. “I can’t imagine much will change either in terms of stopping the consumption of dog meat or curtailing illegal dog trafficking,” Mark Lowerson, who runs a popular Hanoi restaurant blog and street food tours, tells TIME. “The Vietnamese remain quite traditional and proud of their culinary traditions.” So while dogs in Thailand can perhaps rest that little bit easier, don’t expect to spot wagging tales in Vietnam any time soon.

PHOTOS: Malcolm Browne: The Story Behind the Burning Monk

SEE ALSO:  The Big Surprise of Martin Luther King’s Speech 

10 comments
smather2175
smather2175

This really bums me out. I was planning an Asian vacation and was looking forward to eating a puppy.

YAJVEK
YAJVEK

God will punish the Vietnamese as he did punished the Japanese with the tsunami for being so cruel to animals.

JonusGrumby
JonusGrumby

And I was in the process of writing a new cookbook: 101 ways to Wok Your Dog

Galwyn1984
Galwyn1984

@YAJVEKWhy?  How is it different from killing cows for meat, or other animals?  I could never personally eat one, but I can understand that in some cultures, that developed to be the norm, and I can't see God punishing the Vietnamese anymore than Americans for killing animals for meat, in which there are also deplorable conditions.

JohnnyShiloh
JohnnyShiloh

@Galwyn1984@YAJVEK@Galwyn1984@YAJVEKConsuming dogs for food is A LOT different if you have a heart at all.  Surprised that one even needs to explain it to you and other commenting here.  Haven't you ever owned a dog and seen its' loyalty first hand, its' willingness to literally die to protect you from harm?  Dogs aren't called "man's best friend" for nothing!!!  The thought of killing these affectionate animals is offensive to all whose senses have not been depraved by cultures of unnatural appetites.

The intelligence displayed by many canines approaches so closely to human intelligence that it is a mystery. They see and hear and love and fear and suffer.  They manifest sympathy and tenderness toward their companions in suffering. Many dogs show an affection for those who have charge of them, far superior to the affection shown by some of the human race. They form attachments for man which are not broken without great suffering to them.

What man with a human heart, who has ever cared for these loyal creatures, could look into their eyes, so full of confidence and affection, and willingly give them over to the butcher's knife? How could he devour their flesh as a sweet morsel?

YAJVEK
YAJVEK

@Galwyn1984 @YAJVEK 

I agree with you, God created animals as he created us and they have the right to live as us and punish us too for what we do to them, although the Vietnamese  beating the dogs before killing them so the meat will be more tender. I am a vegetarian, I eat what grow from earth not what walk on it.   

deliboy281
deliboy281

@Galwyn1984 @YAJVEK I agree, I'm very peeved about how the US always has to poke their noses into other people's cultures and making them look like savages.

Timbo1959
Timbo1959

@deliboy281 @Galwyn1984 @YAJVEK Did you bother to read the article? The majority of these dogs are PETS that are being STOLEN and smuggled into Vietnam. I for one, do not eat cows or pigs. I find the consumption of any mammals deplorable, however this is the lowest of the low.