Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Man or Animal?

I've written before about the dog meat trade here in Vietnam. It is one of the few topics sure to fire up almost any expat, as well as most locals. In spite of stereotypes, most people here do not eat dog. It seems to be mostly consumed by the same out of touch, conservative, rich old men who also believe that tiger bone paste and bear bile will cure their ills.

That being said, there is no doubt that demand for dog remains, and the trade can be lucrative. You could go back and forth on the ethics of eating dog all day, but what really gets most people is the way these dogs are treated. A recent front-page CNN story detailed the typical journey of a dog intended for a dinner table from Thailand to Vietnam. It makes for disturbing reading, as dogs are packed into trucks by the thousands and often die before they even reach the destination. If they make it to Vietnam alive they are beaten to death, or sometimes even skinned alive. Anyone would agree that this is inhumane.

The main reason this trade continues is money. Dog meat is expensive, costing $5-$10 per kilogram. This provides incentive for something that has been big news recently: dog theft. Young men working in pairs on motorbikes will cruise a neighborhood looking for vulnerable dogs and snatch them.

A few days ago two dog thieves in Nghe An province were caught by a local mob. They were beaten savagely, and when police arrived the mob prevented them from reaching the men. By the time the cops got through the crowd one of them was on the verge of death. He died on the way to the hospital, while the other thief is recovering. Their motorbike was burnt down to its frame. This isn't the first time something like this has happened, and the vigilante justice dispensed by the mob has sparked a heated debate, with some people saying the thieves deserved what they got; while others say it is insane to kill a human over an animal.

As much as I love dogs (and I really freaking love them), I have to side with the latter argument. (Though if somebody stole my family's dog I'm not sure how I would react.) People can't just go beating someone to death because they stole their pet. Of course, part of the problem here is that dog thieves usually aren't punished. Under Vietnamese law a theft is only criminal if the stolen goods are worth more than VND 2 million ($100). Most dogs aren't considered to be worth that much, so if thieves are caught they are simply released. If the theft of dogs was criminalized, perhaps that would deter people from taking matters into their own hands. These are ugly stories, and Vietnam doesn't need more of them.

2 comments:

  1. I feel really bad for all the dogs that are born or brought into Vietnam. Ive seen first hand how they are treated over there and it really is a shame.

    If someone were to try to steal my dog, I would like to think that I would never take a life. (not on purpose anyways)...But, I definately would beat the shit out of them.

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