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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More