Vietnam is currently in the top 3 countries that consume the most dog meat in Asia after China, according to Human Society International.
Is it time for Vietnam to stop viewing dog meat as a favorite food?
Talking to BBC News Vietnamese, Mr. John Dalley from Soi Dog said that the organization will continue to campaign for a complete ban on eating dog meat in Hanoi after the Covid restrictions in Vietnam are relaxed.
“We need to get rid of superstitious notions about eating dog meat in Vietnam,” said Mr. John Dalley.
Meanwhile, Dr. Karanvir Kukreja, Four Paws Southeast Asia Public Campaign Lead, told the BBC that the source of dog meat in Vietnam today is mainly from dog thieves in the community.
Vietnam consumes 5 million dogs every year
In Vietnam, it is considered very difficult to count the amount of dog meat. Currently, it is not possible to conclude which locality in Vietnam consumes the most dog meat.
According to animal protection experts, the dog meat consumption market is said to have “reduced compared to many years ago” in the Hanoi capital but tends to increase in the central provinces of Vietnam such as Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Hue, and Ha Tinh.
According to John Dalley, chairman, and co-founder of Soi Dog, Hanoi has about 24 dog slaughterhouses, with an average of 1,079 dogs being killed every day. This figure does not include establishments that sell dog meat and kill dogs on the spot for meat consumption.
Across Asia, according to estimates from Human Society International, 30 million dogs are killed for their meat each year. Accordingly, China consumes about 10 million, Vietnam- 5 million, and South Korea- 2 million.
In Southeast Asia, according to Soi Dog, dog meat is also consumed in Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Cambodia, with some being illegally consumed in Thailand and Malaysia.
According to Human Society International, there are about 3 million dogs killed for meat in Cambodia, in Laos alone, this number is still incomplete but less than in Vietnam and Cambodia.
An anonymous expert told BBC News Vietnamese, the dog meat market in Vietnam is less complicated than in Korea and China.
China now has an annual dog meat festival in Yulin city, Guangxi province, where tens of thousands of dogs are slaughtered in 10 days.
Starting in 2009, this festival is often strongly condemned by animal rights organizations because of its barbarity.
Korea is the only country in the world that currently has dog farms to kill for meat, there are an estimated 17,000 farms, with all sizes from large to small.
Message from Korea Dogs
Eating dog meat has been popular in Saigon since 1954. Nowadays, when it comes to the “famous” dog meat area, everyone knows the area of Ong Ta, Pham Van Hai street (Tan Binh district), or the area selling dog meat. Thach Da Market, Pham Van Chieu Street (Go Vap District), Bach Dang Street (Binh Thanh District), etc.
Some stall owners sell delicious dog meat, not old meat, not mangy dogs, and are sold for more than VND 100,000 ($4.4)/kg.
Dr. Karanvir Kukreja, Four Paws Southeast Asia Public Campaign Manager, told the BBC that the source of dog meat in Vietnam today is mainly from dog thieves in the community.
According to a report by Four Paws published in February 2021, “growing demand has forced suppliers to expand their supply beyond familiar villages and target towns and cities across the country, even abroad.” Soi Dog and Four Paws both refer to cases where dog thieves were beaten to death by dog owners and their neighbors.
Recently in June 2021, according to VOV, a young man was stabbed to death when he went to Long An from Ho Chi Minh City to steal a dog. In September 2021, in Binh Chanh District, HCM City, being chased, two dog thieves plunged into the canal, one person died, according to VietnamNet.
According to Soi Dog, the source of dog meat in Vietnam is smuggled from neighboring countries such as China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
Public health is overlooked
A February 2021 report by Four Paws states that the dog and cat meat trade is an underappreciated public health threat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dog meat directly causes outbreaks of cysticercosis, cholera, and rabies in humans.
Four Paws and Soi Dog say serious risks are common in all stages of the dog and cat meat trade – from sourcing to transportation, sale, slaughter, butchery, and consumption.
During transport, millions of dogs of unknown disease and vaccination status are crammed into small cages on trucks and transported long distances to crowded detention areas or directly to markets, and unsanitary slaughterhouses.
Dogs are transported inter-provincially in Vietnam without having documents confirming their health status, potentially posing a risk of rabies.
John Dalley, Chairman, and Co-Founder of Soi Dog said there have been cases of forging documents or bribing the inspection agency, saying the dog does not have rabies but is in fact sick.
Even a few years ago to increase the dog’s body weight and market price, traders used to pump water into the dog’s stomach. The water used is usually contaminated wastewater. This process is not only stressful and painful for the animals, even killing some dogs in the process, but also carries the potential for the transmission of water-borne pathogens such as cholera, which is closely related to the practice of eating dog meat.
Dogs that are captured and kept in overcrowded areas, in unsanitary conditions, often for days or weeks, awaiting transport or slaughter, increase their exposure to pathogens and are more susceptible to disease infection, increasing the risk of disease transmission.
In markets and slaughterhouses, dogs are kept with or next to individuals of the same or other species; being in close proximity to people, being treated roughly, and being inadequately or without food or water. Slaughtering and butchering take place on the floor, surrounded by live and slaughtered animals of the same or different species from various and unknown sources.
Slaughtering dogs with unknown health status and origin does not guarantee that their meat is safe for human consumption. Some dogs are often sick or incubated. Some can even be poisoned before being consumed by highly toxic substances including strychnine, kalicyanide, and succinylcholine. These are chemicals commonly used in dog poaching.
Extreme stress leads to immunocompromised animals, and this, together with unsanitary conditions, can increase the susceptibility of individual animals to disease and the likelihood that they will reproduce pathogens. This in turn increases the risk of infection to other animals and humans.
People who trade in or slaughter dogs and cats are at risk of coming into contact with the saliva and other body fluids of the animals during the handling and slaughter of the animals. The slaughter process is often brutal. Rarely do slaughterhouses wear any personal protective equipment or clothing or follow health and safety guidelines or regulations.
Raise a dog but still eat dog meat
The issue of eating or not eating dog meat has been controversial in Vietnam for many years.
Many advocates of eating dog meat argue that eating dog meat is not illegal, even calling it “dog rights” as a heated controversy in 2020.
In May 2020, an account named Tifosi commented on Facebook as follows: “Dogmeat, or duck eggs, are food, after all, and obviously the local law does not prohibit it. Evaluating a person’s barbarism through whether they eat dog meat or not is a messy, baseless behavior, justifying a narrow-minded, selfish question that only knows itself but doesn’t care about others. Vietnamese people are considered barbarians for eating dog meat because the nature of Western society has standards that cannot be applied to Vietnamese people, but some Vietnamese people seem to have lost all self-respect, courage, dignity, and justice when they accept Westerners as civilized, they want to be like the West, they default to Westerners “whatever you say is right. Or are you always ashamed to the point of thinking that what belongs to the Western world is ‘civilized’ and what belongs to Vietnam is ‘barbarian and jungle’?”
Many people even compare the killing of dogs for meat to killing cows, chickens, or producing foie gras, even killing whales. At the same time, given that Western and Vietnamese cultures are different, that culture cannot be applied to Vietnam.
However, there is also a middle class, who think that they can both love dogs and eat dog meat at the same time. They think that they will not eat their own dog.
However, another line of opinion believes that dogs are man’s best friends and should immediately ban the killing and consumption of dogs.
Soi Dog and Four Paws argue that dogs are different from cattle.
Cattle before being killed will be subject to animal welfare rules around the world such as fainting before killing. Currently, many countries have adopted the method of asphyxiation with CO2 gas instead of electric shock.
In Vietnam, on January 1, 2020, the Law on Animal Husbandry officially took effect with regulations on humane treatment of livestock, livestock must be induced fainting before slaughter, not allowing pets to have to witness the scene of a fellow being slaughtered…
According to Soi Dog, because dogs are not livestock, there is no law in Vietnam for dog slaughter. Dogs are killed in extremely cruel ways such as banging their heads, watering, or being held in narrow iron cages, etc.
In addition, according to Soi Dog and Four Paws, dogs have been humans’ best friends for ages. Dogs were domesticated by humans 30,000 years ago and have been companions in guarding other domestic animals.
Soi Dog also emphasizes the message “A dog is a dog“, which roughly translates to “every dog is a dog” when there are comments that pets are different from dogs killed for meat. According to Soi Dog, there are still many people who believe that dogs killed for meat do not have souls or emotions like dogs raised as pets.
Vietnam needs to follow the common trend of the world
Following the general trend of the world, Dr. Karanvir Kukreja from Four Paws said that “It is time for Vietnam to have a ban on the slaughter and consumption of dog meat.”.
According to Human Society International, so far in the world, Hongkong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand have banned dog meat consumption.
Most recently, Indonesia also signaled that there may be a law banning the killing and consumption of dog meat.
In 2017, Taiwan banned the slaughter of cats and dogs for meat, violators could be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison, and pictures and names of the violators would be posted publicly.
In China, in 2020, Shenzhen is the first city to ban the slaughter and consumption of dog meat. At that time, the city government of Jurisdiction said that “Dogs and cats have a closer relationship with humans than other animals, banning the consumption of cats and dogs is common in developing countries. This also meets the needs and spirit of civilization of mankind.”
Later, the Chinese city of Zhuhai in May also announced a ban on the consumption of dog meat, saying that “dogs cannot be considered livestock.”
Need to fix legal loopholes
However, according to Vietnamese media, in order to move towards a complete cessation of dog killing and dog meat consumption, Vietnam needs to fix loopholes in the current law.
According to Nguoi Lao Newspaper, Decree 14/2021/ND-CP stipulates that acts of mistreating pets will be fined.
However, slaughtering dogs and cats and then selling them widely is not handled. Because Vietnam does not have any regulations prohibiting eating and selling dog meat, illegal slaughterhouses are only subject to administrative sanctions.
In 2018, the Hanoi People’s Committee announced a commitment to end the dog meat trade, stating that this cruel and unsanitary trade could adversely affect the image of the city as a “civilized and modern capital city.”
At that time, Thanh Nien newspaper quoted a source from the City People’s Committee that “By 2021, there will be no trading in dog and cat meat in the inner-city districts. Besides, the functional agencies will mobilize and propagate for people to give up the custom and habit of using dog and cat meat.”
In 2020, according to VietnamNet, then-Chairman of Hanoi, Nguyen Duc Chung said “I urge the community to stop eating dog and wild animals.” However, so far, there have been no new developments.
John Dalley said Soi Dog will continue to campaign for a complete ban on eating dog meat in Hanoi after Covid restrictions in Vietnam are eased.
“We need to get rid of superstitious notions about eating dog meat in Vietnam,” said Mr. John Dalley.
Currently, in Vietnam, there are popular beliefs about eating dog meat such as eating dog meat at the end of the year, at the end of the month, or after encountering a bad thing, it is to chase away the “bad luck.”
Or eating dog meat is considered to help prolong life as well as human happiness.
According to Giny Woo, a representative from Korea Dogs, the most effective way to ban the consumption of dog meat is through legislation.
“In order to do this, in Vietnam, it is very important to put pressure on the government to take action on this issue, to jointly carry out the campaign from within and outside the country,” Ms. Giny Woo told BBC News Vietnamese.
Four Paws, Soi Dog think it’s time for Vietnam to need:
Promulgate a Law or Directive that fully and clearly prohibits all stages of the trade-in dog and cat meat, including smuggling, sale, slaughter, and consumption
Close all markets and establishments that sell and/or slaughter dogs
Issue public statements about the public health hazards of dog slaughter and consumption
Take strong measures to ensure enforcement of applicable laws, regulations, and directives to end the dog meat trade