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.
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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs