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Major victory for dogs in Vietnam

I’ll never forget filming dogs being slaughtered in a restaurant in Hanoi several years ago.  For two long hours I silently cried on the inside, while making a pathetic attempt to look calm on the outside, so that the people slaughtering the dogs would really believe that I was writing a travel brochure on the delights of “exotic” food in Vietnam.

In full view of the others, these dogs were dragged out of “pig crates”, bludgeoned over the head with a hammer, and then bled out via a knife into their jugular and heart. It was brutal and cruel – especially seeing the dogs waiting for death turning their heads away from the strangled screams and the last struggled breaths of life.

With our staff and resources limited, we knew that it made sense to focus on bears in Vietnam – where bear farming was illegal too – and so we agreed to postpone a dog and cat campaign until the bear rescue and sanctuary were well under way.

As ever, fate played a hand. In early February, Tuan Bendixsen, our Vietnam Director, received an official letter from the Central Department of Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture. Apparently they had received official requests from various provincial governments in the country asking the department to provide them with the government's guidelines on the slaughtering of dogs for human consumption. Tuan's heart stopped when he heard this news and he began to work on a submission to the department – in defence of dogs.

Tuan knew it was important to collate evidence from other Asian countries that had banned dog eating, rather than only using laws from the West, and we immediately contacted Nita, Anna and team from PAWS, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (who coordinate our Dr Dog programme in Manila) as we knew that we could count on their support. Within a heartbeat, Anna was sending over all the relevant documents and legislation from the Philippines – summarising a campaign that they had worked on for so many years until dog-eating became illegal.

Tuan’s final letter to the government outlined our Dr Dog programme in seven countries of Asia and why the benefits of being in the company of companion animals far outweighed their value as a food source. He stated that no country in the world has developed a humane method of dog slaughter under intensive farming practices and that countries, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan had already banned dog meat from the table.

Tuan even touched on the economics of raising dogs as food compared with raising them as companions – citing the growing pet industry in Beijing and how much pet owners were contributing to the economy. And of course he made clear about the health risks to those
involved in the dog-meat trade and to consumers themselves, highlighting parasites, rabies, leptospirosis, and other disease. Finally he offered Animals Asia’s help in promoting public education programmes across the country as we are currently doing in China – emphasising why dogs are our friends, not food.

Within a few days, the response came back and here, in Tuan’s own words this morning, is the official announcement from the government:

”I’m very happy to announce that the Central Department of Animal Health has put out an official letter saying that the Central Government of Vietnam will not enact a regulation on the processing of dog meat for human consumption. Although the local government can enact such a regulation for their own area, usually they will not go against the Central Government’s directive. I’m now looking at getting the Central Govt to officially ban it instead of just not enacting it. Thank you every one and especially Anna from PAWS. Although this is an important first step, we still have a long way to go to achieve our main goal of ending the consumption of companion animals in Vietnam.”

This is an incredible victory for the dogs of Vietnam – and potentially in China too where we can use this development in our efforts to persuade similar bans there. Tuan, I know that everyone reading this blog will be so proud of this first, significant step for the dogs of

Here's Tuan at our rescue centre with Max, a puppy bred for slaughter. Max is now part of our Vietnam family:

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