Vietnamese people turning their backs on dog meat

By Quynh Nguyen   July 4, 2023 | 03:18 pm PT
Vietnamese people turning their backs on dog meat
A dog transported in a cage in Vietnam. Photo by Shuttlestock/Kanjanee Chaisin
Duc Hung’s family spent a whole night in June debating whether or not to eat their 12-kilogram pet dog.

They were preparing a homecoming celebration for a relative who’d been living abroad, and Hung wanted to serve dog meat, a local specialty from his hometown of Hai Phong, to mark the special occasion.

After some debate, the family chose to vote for the final decision.

Twelve out of the whole family of 20 people voted "no," and the 47-year-old felt bitter and resentful. He argued that Hai Phong dog meat is famous and attracts people from all over Vietnam to try local eateries.

He also said the family member who was coming home would appreciate the unique treat that "couldn’t be found" in foreign countries.

But 12 of his relatives thought otherwise. They claimed dog meat should be abandoned, as the dish contained too much protein, which often causes people to suffer from diseases such as gout and high cholesterol. Many also said that dogs are friends of families and that eating them is a cruel act.

"Without dog meat at the party, the idea became less attractive," Hung said.

Quoc Dat, 47 and from Hanoi’s Me Linh District, quit eating dog meat nearly ten years ago. He and his friends used to eat dog and cat meat every month to "get rid of bad luck."

Every time he visited his hometown in the northern province of Hung Yen, he would enjoy dog meat with his neighbors because he felt "tired of eating chicken and duck."

But now many of Dat’s friends have become resistant towards eating dog meat and his wife and children are also against the idea. People in his hometown have also started eating less of the dish.

The number of Vietnamese people shying away from dog meat just like Dat is increasing. Dog meat shops around the country have slowly been going out of business.

Nguyen Tien, 70, from Hoai Duc district in Hanoi, told VnExpress that his dog meat shop was doing the worst business he’d ever seen since he opened around 40 years ago.

According to him, in the 2010s, he sold on average between one and two tons of dog meat every month. Most of his customers were eateries located on Nhat Tan and Quang Ba streets in Tay Ho District, Hanoi. But now he’s selling 80% less meat.

Staff working at a dog meat shop on Tam Trinh street, Hoang Mai district, Hanoi, inviting passers-by to come in and try the dish. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Staff invite passersby to a dog meat shop on Tam Trinh Street, Hanoi's Hoang Mai District. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

He said that sales remained low even just before the Lunar New Year Festival this year, which is usually people’s favorite time to consume dog meat. Tien regularly goes a few days at a time without customers and has gotten used to freezing his meat so it doesn’t go bad, which is something he never had to do before.

"My neighborhood used to be the ‘capital’ of dog and cat meat," Tien said. "But many of my colleagues have closed their shops due to lack of business."

VnExpress journalists have observed the closing of a number of dog meat shops since recently. Most closures have occurred in neighborhoods that used to be known for serving the dish, including Le Trong Tan Street in Ha Dong District, Tam Trinh Street in Hoang Mai District, and Tay Ho District’s Nhat Tan Street.

The Hanoi Department of Animal Health reported in 2018 that the number of dog and cat meat shops in Hanoi had dropped from around 1,100 to around 800 after authorities' encouragement.

"The figure has probably dropped even further since then," said Nguyen Ngoc Son, vice president of the Animal Husbandry Association of Vietnam.

Nguyen Anh Hong, professor at the Academy of Journalism and Communications, points out four reasons that explain this shift. First of all, the mass media has helped people raise awareness of protecting certain species of animals.

Second, Vietnamese people have grown more determined in choosing healthy and hygienic food sources. Third, people are increasingly considering pets family members instead of products to sell or to eat. Lastly, it’s simply trendy to say no to dogs now and more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon.

Son added that there has also been an increase in the number of organizations advocating for the abandonment of dog and cat meat in Vietnam.

Vietnamese people have grown increasing interests in protecting dogs and cats, considering them family members. Photo illustration by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Vietnamese people have grown increasingly interested in protecting dogs and cats, and many even consider them family members these days. Photo illustration by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Nguyen Minh Quang, 42, runs an animal shelter in Hanoi’s Thanh Oai District where around 350 dogs and 100 cats stay after being rescued from slaughterhouses or abandoned by their owners. He said the concept of animal rights was catching on in Vietnam

"People used to say I was weird when I spent my money rescuing dogs and cats from slaughterhouses 13 years ago," he said. "But now I have a whole community with me."

His shelter now receives tens of calls a day asking for help rescuing animals.

The World Health Organization (WHO has warned that dog meat is a source of diseases like cholera and rabies, and parasites like echinococcus, which can transfer to those who consume the dish.

Son said in order to avoid getting infected with these diseases and protecting their health, people should drop the habit of eating dog meat. Local authorities should employ policies to better manage pet dogs, restrict free-range dogs, and ensure vaccinations.

"There are not any laws about banning dog and cat meat consumption in Vietnam, but we can start supervising and managing what happens at slaughterhouses more seriously," he said.

In Dat's neighborhoods where many families used to raise large amounts of dogs for their meat, now people only keep one or two dogs as pets or watchdogs .

"Eating dog meat on my own is not fun, so I gradually turned indifferent and then quit," Dat said.

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