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Towards a dog meat ban
By Son Nguyen
Thursday,  Sep 13, 2018,20:08 (GMT+7)

Towards a dog meat ban

By Son Nguyen

The controversy gets heated following instructions by the Hanoi City government to restrict the consumption of dog meat in the city, with the two aims to safeguard public health and enhance the city’s image as a civilized urban center where cruelty towards animals should not be tolerated. The public is divided over the restriction, with proponents outnumbering opponents.

As covered in local media, the city government this Monday issued Document No. 4170 instructing relevant departments and agencies in the city to step up their management over the rearing, trading, slaughtering and consumption of dog and cat meat in the city. The primary aim is to prevent diseases from transmitting from dogs and cats to humans, especially rabies.

The city government also highlights the need to boost media campaigns against consumption of dog meat so as to change the public perception on the unpopularity of this practice in line with the global trend, and to gradually quit their habit of eating dog meat, according to news website To Quoc under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Dog meat sales and consumption, according to local media, are never overseen or supervised by any State agency, not only in Hanoi but across the country.

According to To Quoc, Hanoi City is home to over 1,000 venues trading in dogs as a commercial commodity and dog meat, while there are only 15 venues registered to trade in dogs and cats as pets. The killing of dogs and the sale of dog meat is beyond State management.

Nguyen Ngoc Son, head of the Hanoi City Veterinary Bureau, says that slaughtering dogs for meat has become a prosperous trade in several locations in the capital, such as Duc Giang in Hoai Duc District and Duong Noi in Ha Dong District, according to Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon Online. Meanwhile, consumption of dog meat is believed to be high in Vietnam. The World Dogs’ Association, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization campaigning for dog meat ban, estimates 80% of Vietnam’s population eat this food, which is among the world’s highest, says online media.

In HCMC, there are also numerous venues selling dog meat, but according to data from the city’s Veterinary Bureau, there are no slaughterhouses registered to butcher dogs for meat. Such a fact points out that dog meat on sale is not supervised in terms of quality and safety.

In reality, says Cong an Nhan dan newspaper, dogs are not butchered at big-scale slaughterhouses, but at family-owned venues, so it is very difficult to control the trade. In addition, the Animal Health Department under the agriculture ministry has never issued any document governing the quality and safety of dog meat, so grassroots authorities do not have any legal basis to control the sale of this food.

Explaining the absence of regulations on dog meat, the Animal Health Department says on its website that not any country in the world has regulations controlling dog butchering, while international organizations also disapprove the issuance of such regulations, fearing that such rule will legalize the dog meat consumption.

Under the Law on Animal Health, says the news site, dogs are not among animals whose slaughtering is controlled, and there are no rules on supervision of dog meat quality. As such, venues slaughtering dogs for meat are not issued certificates on food safety.

The absence of State oversight of dog meat quality and safety is a good excuse for Hanoi City to discourage the consumption of this food, as it is a major source of animal-to-human diseases. But the greater concern, according to local media, is the social and cultural impacts of dog meat consumption in the country.

A reason stated in the document by Hanoi authorities is that the killing of dogs for food is seen as cruel treatment towards man’s most loyal friend, and is termed barbarous by many foreign visitors to the country. “Eating dog meat is popular among many Hanoians, so it is difficult to perceive anything weird as seen by outsiders,” says The news site of the Voice of Vietnam radio station reasons that as the society advances, the bond between humans and pets, especially dogs, also becomes tighter, so it is unimaginable if the owner kills his dog for food, especially if the pet dog has been associated with him for long years.

Many foreigners in the country have appreciated Hanoi City’s restriction of dog meat consumption, according to Thanh Nien in a straw poll.

“I support all efforts towards restricting and banning dog meat consumption,” says Chris Anthrop, a German national living in Danang. Meanwhile, a Finnish named Tim Sippala, who teaches English in Dong Thap Province, is quoted by Thanh Nien as saying that “all activities related to dog meat trading and consumption should be banned in Vietnam, as many social vices have surfaced due to such activities.” 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Homfray, administrator of the forum Expats in HCMC, says the biggest social concern is that dog meat mostly comes from dog thieves. This explains why many thieves of dogs have been beaten to death in Vietnam, she says in the newspaper.

Nguoi Lao Dong says that relinquishing the habit of eating dog meat will help eliminate thefts of dogs. Many readers also stress this point, saying other localities like HCMC should also follow suit so that the number of stolen dogs will be minimized, fatal attacks on thefts reduced, and social stability improved.

“For many families, dogs and cats are not merely pets, but also family members. Many murder cases have occurred over the years due to such thefts. This war will come to an end if dog meat is banned,” says a reader in Nguoi Lao Dong.

Although there are also voices of opposition, the number of supporters for the ban is far greater. In a survey conducted by Thanh Nien, 60% advocate for a complete ban against dog meat, versus 39% of opponents. Meanwhile, among over 1,500 readers polled by news website Vnexpress, 57% support the ban as compared to 43% of opponents.

In a response yesterday to the ban, Animals Asia hails Hanoi City’s efforts to put a check on this food, noting that dog meat consumption is still worryingly high in Vietnam, with some 20,000 dogs being transported from the south to the north each month for food, Vnexpress reports.

Calling for a complete ban on dog meat consumption, Animals Asia says this food is not merely a cultural issue. “Surveys over the years show evidence of cruelty towards dogs in all process, from transport to slaughtering,” says a representative of Animals Asia on the news site.

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