At one time, dogs in the hundreds of thousands were brought from Thailand without food or water to be sold on the black market in Vietnam. The Soi Dog Foundation has worked tirelessly with the Thai government to end such practices but it hasn’t dented the supply or the demand for dog meat in Vietnam. Criminal gangs run the trade and they simply find dogs elsewhere.
In Hanoi, two dog thieves were interviewed by Nelufar, they told her quite openly that they often steal dogs if they can’t find enough strays. One boasted he had been collecting dogs for seven years and in that time he had stolen around 3000 animals. The authorities don’t care so the thieves have little to fear from the police.
However, rough justice is sometimes served by the dog owners who have organised themselves in their villages into vigilante groups. If they catch the thieves they will be beaten and have their legs broken. Sometimes they will be killed.
Meanwhile in China, the Yulin dog eating festival is drawing great condemnation from animal activists. It is estimated that to celebrate the summer solstice 10,000 dogs are slaughtered every year. The festival is attended by Chinese and tourists who consume tonnes of barbecued, stir fried and boiled dogs swallowed down with grain alcohol.
Last year social media campaigns and a small determined band of animal rights activists made certain that the horrors of the Yulin festival were made known around the world. The condemnation was such that local government banned its employees from openly eating dog meat and it was reported that dog meat sales were down by one third.
Feelings were running high and clashes between vendors and activists led to one horrific scene of a dog being suspended in a noose and threats of torture and hanging if the protesters refused to pay a ransom for its life. In another incident a fight broke out between activist and diners.
Buddhists gathered from across China in protest and walked through Dongkou city’s dog meat market performing religious rites to "console the souls of the slaughtered dogs".
The Chinese locals condemn the interference, they say eating dogs at the solstice is traditional and confers health benefits which keep them healthy through the winter months. Some of those who keep to the tradition held their festival early to avoid the protesters.
Animal Asia’s CEO, Jill Robinson, said "It's an industry characterised by criminality, cruelty and poor hygiene. Dogs are stolen from their homes – increasingly by being darted and drugged in the street. Poisons that will find their way into the meals of the festival-goers."
Many Chinese people, especially the middle classes, are now keeping dogs as pets and many celebrities are protesting at the way dogs are treated at the festival.
The Actor Yan Mi wrote to her 35 million followers saying "Dogs are more loyal to people than I'd imagined – I think of dogs as friends, not meat,"
Her statement prompted 75,000 comments, most of which were in support of her message, and thanking her for speaking out.
What can be done, the Vietnamese government don’t ask questions and the diners don’t question where the meat comes from. Unspeakable cruelty is inflicted on helpless dogs for huge profit margins and the black market in animal suffering is thriving. The only hope for the dogs is that public pressure is so great that the Vietnamese government cannot ignore or pretend they don’t know what is happening.
Similarly in China, activism alone will not stop the barbaric tradition of eating dogs at Yulin. Public pressure and perhaps education is the way forward. Traditions that cause suffering for others have no place in our modern world. If China wishes to be seen as a country of culture and fashion, the Chinese government must introduce legislation to outlaw animal cruelty like the Yulin dog eating festival.
Soi Dog Foundation
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