HANOI – Street markets in Hanoi were bustling on Tuesday as Vietnam geared up for Lunar New Year celebrations later this week.
Among the range of products and local fare on offer ahead of Friday’s Chinese New Year festivities are dogs, something which would upset many Western shoppers but which have been part of Vietnam’s cuisine for decades.
At a busy market in the capital, vendors stack whole dog carcasses in piles of up to 10, leaving buyers the option of taking home an entire meal to enjoy with several people, or snack on a quick bite of “cha cho” (skewers with barbecued dog meat) on the spot.
Such stalls are popular across the city, with most large markets featuring several dog meat sellers.
According to the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, over 5 million dogs are slaughtered every year for human consumption.
The majority are poached from neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, making both rescue efforts and hygiene conditions difficult to monitor.
In 2014, the Vietnamese government agreed with the governments of those countries to a moratorum on the trade of dog meat intended for consumption by humans.
In addition to the poor treatment and conditions the animals are subjected to, consuming canine meat poses serious health risks to people, including diseases such as rabies and cholera.
NGOs fighting the dog meat trade in Asia say that changing people’s attitudes towards the animals from viewing them as commodities to treating them as pets is one of the main challenges.
Despite this and other international efforts to fight the dog meat trade, Vietnam continues to be one of the countries associated the most with canine cuisine.
ACPA estimated in 2014 that over half (53.7 percent) of Vietnamese people were against eating dog meat, demonstrating a tangible improvement but also highlighting the extent of the challenge animal rights defenders face to end the trade for good.