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Supply & Demand: Lucrative Black Market for Dog Meat in Vietnam Perpetuates Pet Trafficking
The long tradition of dog as meal in Vietnam is alive and well. The Guardian quotes the number of dogs being eaten in Vietnam annually at 5 million. For a Vietnamese family reunion, social occasion or even a drinking party, dog meat, dog kabobs, or dog appetizers are the expected dish at these types of special events. Furthermore dog meat is considered to have medicinal properties, such as helping a man to reach higher states of virility, and helping women to lactate. Dog meat is protein rich and is considered to be a healthy alternative to pork or chicken in Vietnamese cuisine.
A big problem that the west would have is not only eating what we consider pets, but too the way in which the animal is slaughtered; there is a common belief in Vietnam that an animal is tastier if it is slaughtered in a more brutal manner, and this type of action would offend western sensibilities. It is common for a dog to be “bludgeoned to death with a heavy metal pipe, taking 10 or 12 blows to slaughter the animal. “Other ways to slaughter it might be having its throat slit or burning it alive, or stabbing it with a large knife. Dogs are force-fed in the same manner that ducks are as they are prepared for the final foie gras.
Dog meat is sold for upwards of 30 British pounds a plate at high-end restaurants in Vietnam. As demand for dog meat increases, and the local farming is exhausted as demand overreaches the farms’ capacity, dog snatching has become quite common. Strays and pets are snatched and dog trafficking has become multimillion pound trade. “At least 300,000 dogs each are packed into tight metal cages in Thailand, floated across the Mekong to Laos, then shuttled for hundreds of miles through porous jungle borders, without food or water, before being killed in Vietnamese slaughterhouses.”
Though the black market industry smuggles and hides, corruption officials and mafia have a large part in the activities of this underground industry. One observer noted that the trade is “tax-free and the profit is 300-500%.” Another onlooker notes that as much as 33% of the population supplements their farm income by “snatching, selling, or killing dogs for local and foreign consumption. It’s a profitable hobby that can fetch up to 6pounds a mutt.”6 pounds is about $9 dollars and 75 cents. The average daily wage in Vietnam is around $6 dollars. For a rice farmer, that amount may be less. Thus the population is incentivized to continue the dog smuggling. Some officials would like to regulate dog meat, which would get tax revenue, and which would control the meat for quality against the spread of certain diseases like rabies, which had an outbreak do to contaminated meat from dogs. A Thai government official considered that dogs could easily be farmed and regulated, but because western countries perceive that act of consuming dog meat as torture, Vietnam might lose their trade rights or be boycotted. He felt that since in the west dogs are “not for consumption” that Vietnam and Thailand would be criticized and sanctions might be put on the country.
As far as the Vietnamese goes, when one doctor eating at a dog meat restaurant was asked, he mentioned that he had two lovely pet dogs that he cared for at home. However, when asked if the dog he was eating was someone else’s pet mattered, he commented, “It’s not my pet, so I don’t really care,” and continued to eat and enjoy.
Cover Image: StuntFoodWays WordPress