It’s a dog eat dog world in Southeast Asia

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?

Street puppies at Kathmandu's KAT center

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.

Dogs in Bangkok after the floods

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!

Posted by | Comments (5)  | January 31, 2012
Category: General, Travel News


5 Responses to “It’s a dog eat dog world in Southeast Asia”

  1. Chris Carruth Says:

    On the subject of Fido, I remember feeling a bit of cognitive dissonance when in South Korea. On one hand you’d see tiny “toy” dogs being decked out in sweaters and sold as if they were fashion accessories, while on the other you know that somewhere, someone was chowing down on Gaegogi (a.k.a. Korean canine cuisine). Good read and great links. I especially like the comparison to chicken in the Western world; it’s all about perspective, right?

  2. Bob R Says:

    As I was snapping a few photos of a boiled dog in a market in Nanning, China, my guide/handler asked: “Do you find this interesting?” “Yes, very,” I assured him.

  3. DEK Says:

    If you can show me some tradition in which Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Ol’ Yeller and the Dog of Flanders were chickens, some tradition in which travelers floundering in a snowy mountain pass are saved by a chicken with a flask of brandy around his neck, some foggy moor where lonely travelers pass over in fear of the dread Chicken of the Baskervilles, then we can talk about cultural perspective.

    That probably didn’t add much to the discussion, but it certainly was fun.

    Cultural equivalence can certainly lead one to funny places, though, can’t it?

  4. Rolf Potts Says:

    Yes DEK, that was fun. I wrote about dog meat in Korea back in ’98:

    http://www1.salon.com/wlust/feature/1998/10/28feature.html

    …and was amused to find my reportage cited in Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals” more than ten years later. When I give lectures about travel I often use the dog meat situation (contrasted with Koreans’ attitude toward the elderly, which is much kinder and more generous than in the West) to illustrate cultural contrasts.

    OK, off to see if I can tie a flask of brandy around the neck of a chicken.

  5. A Guy in New York » Blog Archive » Assorted Links 2/4/12 Says:

    […] It’s a dog eat dog world in Southeast Asia – “Canine cuisine in Vietnam, Korea and parts of China is nothing new” […]