Dog meat trafficking disgusts health experts

Hanoi, Vietnam – Tha Rae, a small town whose name means “butcher village”, is located in the northeast Thai province of Sakhon Nakhon and it's a hub for the region's multi-million dollar illegal dog industry.

About 150km of Laos separates the province from central Vietnam, from where the animals make their way up to Hanoi to fetch as much as $ 10 per kilogram of dog meat – two to three times as much as pork.

Dog meat is illegal in Thailand. It is not illegal in Vietnam, but the importation of for consumption from abroad is. Defying the law, at least 10,000 – and by some estimates as many as 30,000 – dogs are smuggled from Thailand through Laos to Vietnam each month to feed a popular industry, an activist with , a non-profit based in Thailand, who didn't want his name published.

The activist runs a network of undercover agents across Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam who try to intercept dog smugglers in a game of cross-border cat-and-mouse. In the past week he and his men have stopped two pickup trucks from crossing the border through a new route in Bueng Kan province. One had 117 mutts.

“The other had 163 in the back of one pickup, which takes some believing,” says Soi Dog founder . “But we've got the pictures.”

Rising prices

A Soi Dog Foundation activist says the traffickers make $ 10-$ 30 per dog in Thailand, an amount that rises above $ 250 in Vietnam – good money in one of the poorest parts of the region, especially considering they get most of the animals for free by corralling strays from the streets.

Mongrels are packed into wire cages and stacked on top of each other in the back of pickup trucks – 10-15 per cage, 70-100 per truck, crammed as tightly as possible with limbs sticking out for a 2-3 day journey with no food or water. Several die from dehydration or suffocation in the course of the trip, activists say.

As witnessed by blogger Austin Bush, before a recent crackdown in Thailand up to 1,000 dogs would be shoveled into a large truck, flooding the road with the dank stench of “fur and excrement coupled with the endless sound of howling and fighting”.

From the moment they're seized until they're killed, the way the animals are treated is brutal.

“They'll be force-fed with pipes shoved down their throats, since they are sold by bodyweight,” says Dalley. “Dogs will be burnt with blowtorches to get rid of their hair.

“There is a belief that causing pain increases adrenaline which tenderises the meat. So you have dogs that have their legs broken right before they're killed, dogs that are boiled alive, dogs are killed in front of other dogs.”

Pet kidnapping 

In Hanoi's Cau Giay district, Dan Thi Ngan cuts slivers of meat with a large butcher's knife. Even without understanding the sign labeled “Thit cho” above her shop, it is easy to ascertain what dish she sells. The storefront displays the grilled torsos of several medium-sized dogs.

Ngan and her family have been running this stall for 10 years, and they share the road with four other dog-meat vendors. At the restaurant next door, a group of mostly men are having a late Saturday lunch: a plate of dog and a round of beers.

“We eat dog meat at the end of the month, or when we have bad luck, and because it's tasty,” said one of the diners.

While there are towns in north and northeast Thailand that are fond of dog meat, it is demand from north Vietnam that drives much of the illicit trafficking.

“There's not enough supply to match demand in Vietnam, especially in the north,” says Tuan Bendixsen of the Animals Asia Foundation in Hanoi.

Over the past couple of years, however, even northeast Thailand's strays have not been enough, leading smugglers to increasingly look towards a new source – people's pets.

“It's very common to have dogs stolen in Hanoi, even if you let the dog go out on its own for just a few minutes,” says Tuan. He describes the experience of his in-laws who live nearby. “One day they opened the front door, the dog went out and in 10 seconds it was gone.”

Tho, a lifetime Hanoi resident, lost her dog last September and suspects it was kidnapped for the dog-meat trade. “We were having our gate repaired at the time, and so he wandered outside. He liked to play with other dogs.” Her family never saw their pet again.

Tuan says there have been situations where community members have formed groups to stop pet thieves when they hear that one is in the neighbourhood. “Thieves sometimes get beaten up or killed by the owners,” he says.

The kidnapping phenomenon has spread to Thailand, with Dalley reporting that pets are now being stolen from the country's south.

Change of strategy

“They are smuggling pets because strays are becoming scarce, especially in Nakhon Phanom and Sakon Nakhon,” says Phumphat Phacharasap, a former member of parliament and one of the few politicians to take on the powerful industry.

“I've had my life threatened,” he says. “There's definitely a lot of corruption involved. It is very influential as a lot of the smuggling happens in areas where people are poor. Authorities are often paid to keep quiet. Even the police are paid off.”

Local authorities also mostly don't care; from their perspective, the strays are a nuisance anyway. And in Vietnam, consumption of dog meat is a part of the culture, and many feel it is hypocritical to accept the slaughter of chickens and cows for food, but draw the line at mutts.

“Culturally, politically, there is no answer for stopping dog meat now,” says Tuan. “In the 1940s and '50s, during times of famine, people ate dogs to survive. People believe that dogs are rich in protein, and people like the taste.”

Tuan says national governments aren't eager to take responsibility for the issue. An alliance of animal welfare organisations in the region is trying a different tack – getting the Thai, Laos, and Vietnamese governments to crack down on the trade for the dangers it poses to human .

They are pushing the countries to meet and develop a plan of action to address dog trafficking.

According to Lola Webber of the Singapore-based Change for Animals Foundation, dog meat consumers are at high risk of contracting rabies and cholera, as well as trichinosis. From a sample of 76 dog brains collected from slaughterhouses in south and highland provinces of Vietnam, Webber says 16.4 percent were infected with rabies.

“Realistically we have to look at this,” says Tuan. “We'd love to change people's minds about how to treat dogs, but in the near future we need to work on the health issue.”

Dalley agrees. “We've got pictures that no newspapers would publish because they are so grotesque,” he says. “But the cruelty is not going to convince any government to do anything.”

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    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    It’s estimated pitbulls make up 4% of the US dog population yet they are responsible for 100% of human deaths by dog attack so far in 2013.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    brief history of the american bulldog

    1700’s original british bull baiter comes to america and morphs into the bulldog.

    1835 blood sports are criminalized in the UK and the bull baiter is phased out and the fighting nanny dog is phased in.

    1960’s american bulldog is on the brink of extinction. a handful of bulldoggers get together and resurrect the ambull.

    there is not enough genetic material available so they use PITBULLS.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Physical threats over the internet. How futile.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Watch this video again. That’s the pitbull’s dog fighting genetics turned on.

    • arentol7
    • April 2, 2013

    A while back a California fisherman threw fireworks vaguely near a seal, doing it no actual harm, and he got 5 years. My problem is not so much the dead seal as the fact that if you are politically connected you can kill them without any punishment while if you are not you get sent to prison for doing essentially nothing to them. Also, kudos on being a stereotype by trying to turn this into an emotional issue when knowledge, logic, and reasoning fail you.

    • Newtonsmaman
    • April 2, 2013

    that’s a load of crap – you are making things up as you go along. I work in animal rescue and know this to be absolutely false

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Fatal dog attacks this year:

    Mar 2013, GA Name not released, 1 y/o Killed by pitbulls
    Mar 2013, WI Daxton Borchardt, 1 y/o Killed by pitbull
    Mar 2013, IL Ryan Maxwell, 7 y/o Killed by pitbull
    Feb 2013, TX Isaiah Aguilar, 2 y/o Killed by pitbull
    Feb 2013, CA Elsie Grace, 91 y/o Killed by pitbull
    Jan 2013, TX Christian Gormanous, 4 y/o Killed by pitbull
    Jan 2013, SC Betty Todd, 65 y/o Killed by pitbull

    Other breeds: ZERO
    African Lions: ONE

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    How do you know they have no interest in herding?

    • Newtonsmaman
    • April 2, 2013

    keep spewing irrelevant stats – you make this shit up and expect everyone with an ounce of brains to believe you? bull crap — a huskey killed a baby recently — hmm no on your list anywhere? why is that — that is just one example. anyway — respond away- I am now blocking you so I don’t have to see your responses as they are totally fabricated and mean nothing when spewed by an idiot who likes to shoot seals as a break from using his catheter in his mom’s basement bye bye ugly troll

    • James Toney
    • April 2, 2013

    Lol, I haven’t threatened you at all. I’m just saying that I bet you are on the lower tier of human beings in a physical sense. I base this off of my own observations on humans. I notice you aren’t disagreeing with me on that either. Now obviously not all weak people hate pit bulls, but I am pretty most people who hate piy bulls are weak. What’s your agenda here anyways? Seems like your Jimmies are suspiciously russled over an animal fucking up another animal.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    I didn’t make up those 7 deaths by pitbulls. Pitbulls made that list possible.

    You claim a husky killed a human. Not this year. This year is the year of the pitbull. Plenty more maulings of humans by pitbulls and even more deaths and maulings by pitbulls of people’s foo foo pets.

    Take another look at this video. It’s people like you who are part of the pitbull problem. Quit lying and accept your pit for what it is.

    • James Toney
    • April 2, 2013

    This guy is coming with more copy pasta anti pit bull talking points than I’ve seen in one place. He clearly has an agenda. You seem like a level headed reasonable though.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Your comment, “I bet I could kick your ass too.”

    You imply it and nobody encouraged that statement out of you. You made it up all by your little self.

    Pitbull owners are weak and need a dog who’s been bred to kill other dogs to feel superior.

    I’m tired of your pitbull owners/advocates lying about your dumb ass pits. I’ve been around many dogs, and yes, pitbulls, many of them. Quit making them something they are not.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Not normal dog owners

    To understand the experience of owning a negatively perceived dog, TUFTS CENTER FOR ANIMALS AND PUBLIC POLICY did a CASE STUDY on PITBULL OWNERS that was published in 2000. Researchers found that with “outlaw” breeds, such as pit bulls, the human-dog relationship is sociologically more complex than previously known. Owners of pit bulls, they discovered, directly feel the stigma targeted at their breed and resort to various tactics to mitigate it.

    • James Toney
    • April 2, 2013

    The funny part is I don’t own a dog. So are you or are you not a physically weak individual whose sense of self and safety is threatened by an ultra muscular dog that makes you look weak by comparison? I bet you get uncomfortable around blacks in a locker room too ya pussy. Seriously though, if you match the descriptions I listed before you pretty much lost this.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    You’d be surprised. 😉

    • James Toney
    • April 2, 2013

    That pretty much says it all right there.

    • TheWarloghe
    • April 2, 2013

    Apr 2, 2013

    Owner tries to stop her pet pitbull’s attack on two women

    “The lady was lying on my porch,” said Woodard. “Her ear was on the bottom step.

    “I tried to choke him down, but he dragged me right off the porch.”

    Even after she struck her pet pitbull on its nose and head multiple times with a baseball bat, “Poochie Pup,” as she affectionately referred to her pet pitbull, would not release its strong grip on Parker.

    “I beat my baby’s poor nose until it started to bleed.”

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