Though dogs are not exactly the new item on the menu in Vietnam, pets are now being targeted for sale in the country. Kept in deplorable conditions, poachers prepare them for slaughter. Countless pets become slabs of meat in Vietman’s booming dog-meat trade. A new British television documentary uncovers it all.
Dog theft is a major crime in Vietnam. Hundreds of pet dogs are stolen from owners every day across Vietnam, packed into cages and force-fed rice to meet weight requirements for market value. Each day, seven tons of dog meat are transported to market in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi. Tens of thousands of dogs stolen from homes across Vietnam resurface in restaurants on dinner plates.
Like many crimes, the crimewave has had its casualties. Recently, three boys were killed by thieves after chasing them attempting to recover their animals.
Lao Huynh lost his 18-year-old son, Bau, one of the three victims. He recalls how much Bau loved his dog. Like many in the world, Bau loved the canine the way he did human beings. Anger drove the determined young man to chase the thieves. Huynh regards the shooting as intentional for Bau sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the temple.
Huynh’s experience was featured in Unreported World. The documentary profiled the increase of dog theft in Vietnam’s Dog-Snatchers and the backlash associated with the killing of hundreds of them. In the documentary, one dog thief admits to stealing about 3,000 canines both big and small. Thieves can earn nearly $100 a night.
The documentary evidences dog harvesting, slaughtering, and selling in the year 2011. Documentary reporter, Nelufar Hedayat, says dog meat fits perfectly into Asian culture now that they spend more money on food and other pleasures. But ending up on the menu in Vietnam means the dogs are put through horrendous conditions.
Hedayat accounts his own experience in The Mirror. From the smell of dog and filth permeating the entire room to the desperate, high-pitched barking of hundreds of dogs crammed and others vomiting rice onto the wet floor. He details how the dogs were treated, being grabbed by the throat, dragged, and choked as tubes were rammed down their throats for rice to be force-fed. He remembers a dog screaming in pain, apostatized, and urinating. The dog was returned to his cage where he vomited the rice on the floor of his cramped pen.
Animal rights activists intervened, condemning eating dog meat for its cruel treatment of the canines. However, dog remains an accepted popular delicacy for some Vietnamese as well for many in other Asian countries like China and the Philippines. But activists are requesting lawmakers to curb the problem.
Thailand, a long time importer of dogs to Vietnam, has experienced resistance to the dog thefts by Soi Dog Foundation. This year, the advocacy group joined forces with the Thai government to arrest smugglers. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s government tried restricting the dog meat trade by banning imports.
Many thieves, however, are not deterred. Convicted thieves do not face jail time. However, some do see a far worse fate. As many as 20 thieves have been killed with many more badly beaten by angry animal-lovers who, like Bau, sought revenge.
The dog meat market is a dangerous but lucrative business as dogs are transported from warm loving homes to menus in Vietnam. More will be incited to retaliate as the demand increases and more dogs are supplied. Refer to local listings for Unreported World: Vietnam’s Dog-Snatchers.
By Charice Long