Media has been abuzz lately about the infamous dealings of dog trafficking. It’s not the purebred puppy mill business they’re describing, but the smuggling of dogs for dinner in Southeast Asia’s Mekong Delta. Street dogs, purebreds and even stolen pets with collars on are making their way via small wire cages to restaurants and dinner tables around the region. The business is thriving, and people are beginning to notice.
Canine cuisine in Vietnam, Korea and parts of China is nothing new; people have been feasting on man’s best friend in Asian countries and beyond for thousands of years. Why, then, is it making a splash in international news?
For starters, it’s the wrong season to be a dog in Southeast Asia. The cold months around Chinese New Year already increase the demands of the dog trade, since the delicacy is said to “warm” those who are eating it, help with metabolism, and even bring good luck.
Flooding in Thailand in late 2011 has also enabled business to thrive, as rising street dog numbers turn Bangkok into a dog catching free-for-all. Animal rescue groups are still working to find homes for the displaced animals, but smugglers often find them first.
Perhaps what is most alarming, however, is the newfound attention on domesticated pets. Thailand’s Soi Dog Foundation suggests that captured street dogs simply do not fill the demand in a season when dog meat reigns supreme. What to do when street dogs are in short supply? Stolen pets become a dog trafficker’s target.
Of course not everyone sides with the PETA activists and animal lovers. As perverse as it seems to feast on fido, (whether street dog or pet,) this business has been thriving for years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Roasted dog in parts of Vietnam is as common as roasted chicken in the states. It’s not even the animal cruelty that’s illegal, but the underground trade business which generates millions of dollars each year. For as long as the meat remains popular and lucky, there will definitely be dog for dinner.
What can you do? Aside from not dining in dog restaurants, there are several organizations around the world that focus on street dog welfare and putting an end to the illegal trade. The Soi Dog Foundation and the Kathmandu Animal Treatment center are just a few. Lastly? Don’t bring your dog on your backpacking trip around Vietnam this winter!