Vietnam’s Dirty Little Secret: Hell On Earth For Dogs And The Barbaric Dog Meat Industry



There are no laws against animal cruelty in Vietnam.

Eating dogs is not only a cruel and barbaric activity practiced in Vietnam it has also become big business where activists say up to 5 million dogs are brutally slaughtered annually. Dog meat is more expensive than pork and can sell for up to $40.00 a dish in high-end restaurants in Hanoi.

The horror starts for many dogs as they are snatched from the streets and backyards in Thailand and tossed into cramped, filthy cages. With no food or water and barely enough room to move, many will suffocate, be crushed to death or die from exposure. Shockingly, their torture has only just begun.

In Hanoi Vietnam’ capital seven tons of live dogs are shipped (smuggled) to Vietnam each day from neighboring Thailand and Laos over the Mekong River. Once they arrive in Hanoi, the dogs are stored in deep pits before being slaughtered and sold on to restaurants to be cooked and eaten. One busy holding house processes around 2,000 live dogs every day, with up to 200 squashed into each cage.

Nguyen Tien Tung is one of the men that run a Hanoi slaughter-house, frenetic and filthy the 42-year-old has an open air concrete patio which leads on to a busy road lined with industrial supply shops. Mr. Tung reaches into a cage and caresses the dog closest to the door. As it starts wagging its tail, he grabs a heavy metal pipe, hits the dog across the head, then, laughing loudly, slams the cage door closed. Some of the dogs are still sporting collars, thousands of dogs are stolen from gardens and porches in Thailand with many being stolen at night in Vietnam.

On the leafy streets of north Hanoi’s Cau Giay district there are a number of dog meat restaurants no one knows when the Vietnamese started eating dogs but its consumption primarily in the north is increasingly popular for drinking parties, family reunions and special occasion. Vietnamese erroneously believe it is said to increase a man’s virility, warm the blood and provide medicinal cures.

That Rae is a sleepy little town in Thailand’s paddy-filled north-eastern state of Sakon Nakhon. That Rae has been trading dogs for 150 years when a group of Vietnamese Catholics fled persecution in Vietnam. Today, locals say at least 5,000 people one-third of the population supplement their meager farming incomes by snatching, selling or killing dogs for local and foreign consumption.

Many Vietnamese believe the more the dogs suffer before it dies, the tastier its meat, which explains the brutal way the dogs are killed in Vietnam, usually being bludgeoned with a heavy metal pipe 10 to 12 times, having their throats slit, being stabbed in the chest or being burned alive. The dogs are also force-fed like foie gras in the West. They shove a tube into their stomach and pump solid rice and water in them to increase their weight for sale. Nguyen Tien Tung has a simple method for increasing the bottom line, “we just put a stone in the dog’s mouth.” He shrugs, before opening up his cage for another kill.

Demand for dogs in Vietnam has increased so dramatically where they have traditional been “farmed” in the countryside, this has led to 300,000 dogs yearly being tightly packed in metal cages in Thailand floated across the Mekong to Laos, then trucked hundreds of miles through jungles without food or water before being mercilessly killed. This creates unimaginable cruelty and suffering for the dogs in barbaric conditions that leads to many of them dying before they even make it Vietnam.

The route the smugglers take to reach Vietnam is Highway 8, a two-lane ribbon of road that cuts through Laos’s limestone mountain passes, past wooden shacks and the large, modern mansions of the wealthy. While still in Thailand, the dogs will have been crammed into poultry carriers or heavy metal cages, 12 to 15 dogs in each, six to eight cages per truck, every convoy worth around $5,000. They are driven, at night, to the border, before being floated across the Mekong and loaded on to other trucks.

This is a black-market industry, managed by an international mafia and facilitated by corrupt officials.

“At first it was just a handful of small traders wanting to make a small profit,” says Roger Lohanan of the Bangkok-based Thai Animal Guardians Association, which has been investigating the dog meat trade since 1995. “But now this business has become a fundamental export. The trade is tax-free and the profit 300-500%, so everybody wants a piece of the cake.”

Transporting dogs without proper vaccination papers is illegal in Thailand, as is smuggling them into Laos without customs and tax documents. Eating them is not illegal.

Despite the large numbers of dogs that are smuggled out of the country every year, only a handful of people run the Thai operation, claims Edwin Wiek, cofounder of the Animal Activist Alliance, a Thai-based charity pushing to stop the trade. “We know these people: we know where they live, we know their names, we even have photographs,” says Wiek, whose alliance relies on full-time informants in Thailand and Laos. “Some of the photographs show their cars – their numberplates could be easily traced – but they get away with it because they pay a lot of money in bribes. And as long as they keep paying, there will be people in the system who accept it and turn a blind eye.”

Crackdowns have increased, however, thanks to a large network of informants working primarily with the Royal Thai Navy, which intercepted a shipment of nearly 5,000 dogs as they were being stacked on to boats and shipped to Laos. Leading the busts was Captain Surasak Suwanakesa, 45, naval commander of the regional Mekong River Patrol Unit, who oversees the Thai-Laos river border crossing. His desire is to end the dog meat trade once and for all. “It really is a point of shame for this country,” he says, shaking his head.

The naval team depends on tipoffs from locals to crack down on the trade, but arrests are few and far between, activists say, with most smugglers paying only small fines and going back into business within days.

Pet ownership is still relatively new in Vietnam dogs here have traditionally been reared for either food or security purposes so activist have chosen to scrap the “cruelty” argument in favor of emphasising dog meat’s effect on people’s health. It has been linked to regional outbreaks of trichinosis, cholera and, a point activists underscore as the region looks to eradicate rabies by 2020.

Activists in Thailand are pushing for a new animal welfare law that would protect pets such as dogs and cats from being consumed or traded for consumption. But the law has little chance of making a real difference, Lohanan says. Few in the Thai government openly oppose the trade. Of the nations involved in the dog meat trade, it is Thailand that is taking most action to curtail it. Activists in Thailand are pushing for a new animal welfare law that would protect pets such as dogs and cats from being consumed or traded for consumption. But the law has little chance of making a real difference.

‘Regulation is not a step towards banning they are completely separate legislative tools and regulating a fundamentally cruel business and should not be our aim. We should not spend time and resources arguing to win a battle that we don’t want to fight. Our time and money is better spent bringing a complete end to the suffering of dogs. There is only one goal and we need to focus on that for the sake of the millions of dogs who currently suffer from absolute indifference to their needs and misery.



The dog meat trade is a highly contentious and emotive issue in most countries where it is popular. As a result of mounting national and international concerns for animal welfare, a rapidly increasing pet ownership in Asia, and a greater awareness of the human health risks associated with this industry, the opposition towards the production and consumption of dog meat has become increasingly vocal.

While no country has specifically legalized the dog meat industry, a number of Asian countries, including, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and the city of Hong Kong (where dog meat was once a popular dish), have banned the slaughtering and the sale of dogs for human consumption.

Our voice is becoming louder and our determination and commitment are resolute the tide of opinion is turning against an industry that has led to the endless suffering and cruelty of millions of innocent dogs annually.

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