The Thai dog smuggling trade delivers cheap protein to Vietnam
THE Vietnamese Navy has intercepted a ferry on the Mekong River making ready to smuggle 800 dogs into the country from Laos. The Bangkok Post says Capt Teerakiat Thong-aram was acting on a tip-off that Thai dog smugglers were at large. The navy spotted a lorry. The vehicle was carrying 40 cages filled with 800 live dogs. It was waiting to board a ferry. On the river bank were around 100 empty cages.
At a busy restaurant in Hanoi, a woman weighs and chops up small puppies for her customers…
Diners are mostly men – they believe it will make them more virile. But eating dog is reserved for the second half of the lunar month. Dog meat sellers do good business then, with many customers who believe they will dispel their misfortunes by eating the meat. The dogs are small with long bodies and short legs, best eaten at about a year old. They come from puppy farms or are collected from the countryside.
What’s so wrong with cheap protein? Are dogs a special case, more so than pigs and cows?
The Bangkok Post reported in 2011 on Thai smugglers:
The dog trade has carried on for years, particularly in Sakon Nakhon, which acts as a gateway for dog smugglers who send boatloads of the animals across the Mekong River to Laos, and on to Vietnam for sale, at prices many times the humble outlays they made for the dogs in Thailand. A former dog trader, who asked not to be identified, said the price of a dog bought from villagers had increased sharply from 120-150 baht to 200-250 baht.
The price would jump to 400-500 baht at Tha Rae market after costs were factored in.
What happens to the rescued dogs?
The dogs were taken to an animal shelter in Nakhon Phanom, where almost 1,000 of the animals have since died, from malnutrition (the dogs would not eat the dried dog food provided, as they prefer rice) and common dog diseases.
Does saving the dogs work, then, or just prolong their agony?
As recently as 2003, the trade was so big that up to 300 to 400 strays were thought to have been illegally rounded up daily and culled.
Stray dogs get eaten. In Romania, the Government has passed a new law to deal with the country’s stray dogs:
Romanian lawmakers voted Tuesday to make it legal to euthanize the thousands of stray dogs that roam the country’s streets… Bucharest alone is home to an estimated 50,000 stray dogs, according to local media, and they are a part of city life, crossing the street, snoozing on sidewalks and even hopping on buses. But backers of the law say local governments must have the option to euthanize because the dogs are a public health hazard…. a Romanian woman died this year  after she was mauled by a pack of dogs. In 2006, a Japanese tourist was killed by a stray.
(Romanian Animal Welfare Coalition (RAWC) representative David Newall advocates for a program that, rather than euthanize healthy dogs to control stray population, neuters dogs, educates the public, encourages adoption and keeps the streets clean of garbage.)
So. Is killing to eat worse than just killing?
In July that year, hundreds of people in the subdistrict rallied against a proposal by governor Panchai Borvornratanapran to ban the slaughtering and eating of man’s best friend. Mr Panchai said the subdistrict was home to 17 dog slaughter houses, with 300 people involved in dog meat trading in Tha Rae, which exported up to four tonnes of dog meat across the country every day.
A survey of 500 villagers by a local university, commissioned by the governor, found that 79% wanted to continue eating and selling dog meat.
What says the law in Thailand?
Because the Animal Diseases Control Act does not mention dog trading for meat, several dog traders have argued there is actually no direct regulation in place to regulate the practice, and as a result they have not broken the law.However, the department sees it differently. It considers that dog trading for meat are also about animal trading, which are regulated under the act… Arrested dog caravan drivers are charged with illegal trading of animals and illegal transportation of animals. They are also charged with cruelty to animals under the Criminal Code.
Penalties for illegal trading in animals are light: jail of up to two years, and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht.
Finally, the meat trade could be worse. In 2003:
The Gia Dinh Xa Hoi (Family and Society) newspaper said two addicts took the homeless 13-year-old from a market in Halong city. They tied up the boy, put him in a sack and sold him to a restaurant for 300,000 dong ($19), the report said. The restaurateur released the boy, fed him and told the police. No arrests have been made yet, the newspaper said.
Would you choose to eat a dog?