News / Asia

Pedigreed Pet or Party Food? Vietnam’s Taste for Canine on the Rise

Thai officials seized dogs being transported in northeastern Nakhon Phanom province, Sept. 6, 2011.
Thai officials seized dogs being transported in northeastern Nakhon Phanom province, Sept. 6, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Marianne Brown

Whether served up with a side of shrimp sauce or tucked under the arm of a teenage girl, dogs are hugely popular in Vietnam.

As the country’s economy grows and people become wealthier, the trade in dogs - and dog meat - is booming. Although an increasing number of people are purchasing expensive pedigree breeds to keep as pets, the trend hasn't diminished the national appetite for canine cuisine.

Although consumption of dog meat is against the law in most of Asia, in Vietnam it's not only legal but routine. Usually raised in rural villages, the dogs are then sold to intermediaries who transport them to restaurants in the cities.

According to Tuan Bendixsen, director of the Vietnam office of Animals Asia, as more people move to the cities, fewer remain in the countryside to raise the dogs, which creates enough scarcity to drive prices up. But increased wages mean more people can afford to eat dog, he says, which creates a parallel increase in demand.

"The problem is that there isn't enough to feed the trade, especially around Vietnamese New Year, which means dogs are going to be imported from Thailand," says Tuan. "There was an estimated 25,000 or more dogs coming in per month from Thailand."

Last month Thai police caught three men trying to smuggle more than 1,000 dogs into Vietnam from Laos.

"If you go to central Vietnam near the Laos border, you often see huge trucks coming across with at least 200 to 300 dogs stacked in cages like chickens," he says. "Each cage - and they are very small cages - with about 10 dogs. That’s to feed Vietnam's dog-meat industry."

A lack of government oversight

"Dog has a particular flavor [I] like," says a translator on behalf of Nguyen Trung Thanh, 41, a regular at a Hanoi restaurant that serves dog. He says the establishment is not only popular among friends, but that its canine dishes are flavorful, nutritious delicacies that are good for building strength.

But dog meat is not always associated with good health. In 2008, there was a call for dog-meat trade regulations after a severe outbreak of cholera was linked to eateries that serve dog.

Although farm animals like cattle, pigs and chickens are regulated by Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, there is no legislation on the dog industry. Some animal advocates say government unwillingness to curb the market is actually a good thing.

"We thought that would set a very bad precedent for the dog trade in general," says Tuan, explaining that Animals Asia opposed a 2009 effort by South Vietnamese provincial authorities to enforce regulatory measures. "We thought if this happened it would open doors for the dog-meat trade in [our country]. Vietnam should not be the first nation to enact regulation allowing the dog-meat trade."

Tuan also says most dog-meat fans are predominantly middle aged, and that younger Vietnamese are more likely to keep dogs as pets because they identify with Western societies.

A general ambivalence

Thanh Quoc Bao, senior manager at the Vietnam Kennel Association, says that although there are few pedigree breeders based in Vietnam, the range of breeds available for purchase has expanded dramatically over the last decade. The kennel association has helped formalize breeding for local pedigrees like the Phu Quoc ridgeback, which featured in the World Dog Show in Paris for the first time in July.

Of all the imported breeds, he says the most popular by far is the German shepherd, which, fully grown, can fetch as much as $1,000 on the open market - 10 times the average monthly wage.

A self-professed dog lover, Bao says he refuses to eat dog and thinks all breeders should refrain from the practice.

Twenty-seven-year-old Trinh Anh Ngoc, a company security guard in Hanoi, feels differently. Nine months ago he spent $500, the equivalent of three months wages, on a German shepherd puppy.

Although he intends to use the animal as a guard dog and describes it as a friend that he would never eat, he has no qualms about dining on other dogs.

"Vietnamese dogs are less intelligent than Western dogs and the meat is leaner," says a translator on his behalf, explaining that Ngoc regularly orders dog when it is on the menu.

Tuan says this ambivalence toward ownership and consumption is the norm in Vietnam.

"I have spoken to quite a few people who regularly eat dog meat and they love their dogs," he says. "I know one girl who has a little Chihuahua [that] she carries around in a basket, but she regularly eats dog meat. I ask her why ... and she tells me she likes the taste. To me there’s a missing connection somewhere. What they see in their dog and what they see on the plate."

Even if more Vietnamese adopt dogs as companions, he says, getting a leash on the trade is a difficult task, and it is doubtful dogs will disappear from menus any time soon.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid