To some, dogs are faithful pets and loving companions. To others, they are simply food. As shocking to our Westernized sensibilities as eating dog flesh may be, it pales in comparison to the suffering and abuse these poor dogs experience before they are consumed, as a hard-hitting new documentary reveals.
Every day in Vietnam, hundreds of pets dogs are stolen as part of the lucrative meat trade. Before the dogs are slaughtered, they are force-fed and kept in cramped cages and subject to a catalogue of horrors, as reporter Nelufar Hedayat discovered when she traveled to Vietnam to investigate the country’s dog meat trade.
Writing in The Mirror, Nelufar explains how even though she had prepared herself mentally for experiences which would be both brutal and shocking, what she discovered was far beyond her imagining.
Her first-hand account of what she found in Vietnam makes for harrowing reading.
“The smell of dog and filth permeated the whole room along with frantic, high-pitched barking from the hundreds of dogs crammed into the large metal caged room. Inside, line upon line of smaller crates were already packed with dogs who seemed to be vomiting rice onto the wet floor.
“Grabbing one dog by the throat, the four men dragged it to a contraption at the back of the room, where one of them attached a tube to small buckets full of rice. He then pushed the other end of the pipe down the dog’s throat as the fourth man pulled down hard on a pump, forcing rice into the dog’s stomach.
“The terrified local Vietnamese mutt screamed in pain, defecting and urinating as it was forced out and caged again, only to vomit the rice he’d just been force fed. I watched horrified as this then happened again and again and again, presumably something happening to the hundreds of dogs here?”
The dogs are force-fed because it increases their weight and makes their market value that much more valuable when they are sold. Horrified by what she had witnessed, the reporter asks the owner if the dogs feel any pain when they are force-fed in such a manner. His reply is telling in its abrupt casualness.
“No. Not at all, no pain.”
The horror of the scene is made more real for Nelefur when it dawns on her that some of those dogs being force-fed in this room of horrors would have once been people’s pets.
Traditionally, Vietnam imported their dogs from Thailand. Hundreds of thousands would be ferried over by truck without food or water. During the last six months, the Soi Dog Foundation has worked hard with the Thai government to stop these criminals and put an end to the dog meat silk road.
However, with the supply of dog meat drying up, opportunities have arisen for criminal gangs quick to exploit any gap in the chain of supply and demand.
One thief in Hanoi explains that business is booming, and that gangs prey on villages. He reveals that in ten years of working, he has stolen around 3,000 dogs, big and small. He also admits that he and his fellow thieves don’t care if the dogs are someone’s pets because the criminal gangs have no one to answer to. Besides, dog theft is not a crime in Vietnam. Apart from facing the occasional fine of $100, dog thieves are free to go about their appalling business.
In Vietnam, dog thieves have viciously attacked and even killed any loyal pet owner who has tried to save their beloved animal from the horrific fate of being abducted, abused, slaughtered, and eaten.
Nelefur recalls that every day in Vietnam she would see trucks in Hanois containing cages of broken and defeated dogs starring hopelessly in mute abandon at passers by, their eyes devoid of hope.
Do the customers of the Vietnam’s many dog-meat only restaurants care where the flesh they feast upon comes from? Nelefur asked a group of teenage diners.
“We only care about how it tastes and we love it.”
Nelefur admits that by the end of her time in Vietnam, the blatant cruelty she saw at almost every turn will haunt her forever. Yet she hopes after watching the documentary Unreported World: Vietnam’s Dog Snatchers, people are moved to end this widespread cruelty.
“Whether the answer is regulating it, like pork or beef here in the UK, or banning it outright — as it currently stands people and dogs are suffering pointlessly as a result of the dog meat trade in Vietnam. It simply isn’t right for things to continue as they are.”