Oct 02, 2014 22:30
by Nelufar Hedayat
Reporter Nelufar Hedayat looks at the terrible conditions dogs are forced to live in just to keep the black market in dog meat supplied
A shocking new TV documentary will reveal how hundreds pet dogs are being stolen every day in Vietnam for the lucrative dog meat trade. Unreported World shows disturbing evidence of how dogs are stolen, force-fed, kept in cramped cages and slaughtered for meals. Here, reporter Nelufar Hedayat exclusively reveals the horrors she witnessed.
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.
To call it a house of horrors would be no overstatement. But this is the reality of the dog meat industry in Vietnam, where thousands of dogs are force-fed to increase their weight, and therefore their market value when they are sold on.
Breathtaking, after what I’d just seen, I asked the owner if the dogs feel pain when they are force-fed like that. His off-hand reply was “no-not at all, no pain”.
On the flight to Vietnam to investigate the dog meat trade in the country, I had prepared myself mentally. I knew what I was about to see would be brutal, difficult and shocking. But what I found was beyond even what I had imagined.
Almost certainly some of the dogs being force-fed in that room will have once been people’s pets.
The insatiable appetite for eating dog in Vietnam has sparked a huge black market in it and has provided a huge payday for thieves who steal thousands of dogs to sell on and meet the demands of the lucrative market.
Traditionally, dogs were trucked over in their hundred of thousands from Thailand where they would go without food and water for days on end till they reached Vietnam.
In the last six months the Soi Dog Foundation has worked hard with the Thai government to stop these criminals and bring an end to the dog meat silk road.
But the lack of dogs coming into the country has meant that criminal gangs have taken hold of the trade and need to find dogs from elsewhere.
In Hanoi, I spoke to two thieves fresh from a night’s work stealing dogs in a local village. They told me business is booming and gangs like his now prey on villages in Vietnam, stealing pets and guard-dogs by the hundreds.
“In the seven years I’ve been working, I’ve stolen round 3,000 dogs, big and small” one of them tells me.
Pets, strays or family guard dogs – they didn’t care because they had no-one to answer to and lots of money to make in the multi-million dollar industry.
But those whose animals have been stolen certainly care.
One man, Dang, who lives in the town of Nghe Ann, keeps his dog in a cage to prevent it being stolen and told me: “Along this road, all the failies living on both sides have lost dogs.”
Sold: Dog trade
Almost 300 have been stolen over the last few months.
But it is a drop in the ocean of the dog meat trade overall.
It’s eaten in a host of countries including Thailand, South Korea, Philippines and China among others for a variety of reasons, from purging yourself of bad luck to increasing male sexual prowess.
It’s estimated that millions of dogs a year are raised, farmed and stolen to meet the ever-growing demand.
Every day or so I would I would see trucks in Hanoi with cages upon cages of deathly silent dogs all staring at passers by without so much as a bark.
They would be sold to slaughter houses or restaurants, kept for a few days and then killed in front of one and other by the roadside in the markets of Hanoi.
At one of the marketss the street is lined with holding pens, each with up to 500 dogs inside. The will be weighed to assess their value before being packed into incredibly cramped crates.
For sale: Dogs as food
At busy times, the holding houses on this street process around 2,000 dogs in a single day.
The lust for dog meat grows as the Vietnamese become increasingly better off. The country has been transformed from one on the brink of starvation 30 years ago, to a place on the up and up by rapid economic changes.
People now have more money to spend on food, going out and partying and dog meat fits perfectly into that culture.
Any celebration and especially the end of the lunar month calls for a trip to the many dog meat only restaurants there. But do these people know where the meat they feast on comes from?
“We don’t know but we don’t care” one group of young teenage diners told me. “We only care about how it tastes and we love it” he said as his pals nod in agreement.
But in Vietnam, dog theft is not a crime, all you get charged with, if at all, for stealing dogs is a fine of up to $100 (about one night’s work for thieves).
But that’s rare as dog thieves operate in the dead of night and are notorious for being armed with home-made stun guns, swards and machetes to stop any pet owner from fighting them off. They’ve viciously attacked and even killed people who have fought back.
But the tension is getting to much to bear and now some villages across the country are fighting back. Numerous mob killings of dog thieves have made national headlines.
In one such village, N-hi Trung, in the centre of Vietnam, 68 people confessed to the killing of two dog thieves who they say stole over 300 dogs from them that year alone.
“We are not scared of them” one pregnant villager who took part told me. “We won’t beat them to death, just break their arms and legs.”
It felt surreal, just bizarre, to think people were being killed for someone else’s dog meat dinner.
But more than anything, what was the most upsetting was the scale and truly inhumane way the dogs that had been caught were treated.
You don’t have to be an animal rights campaigner to see blatant cruelty at almost every turn and some of the killing and brutality I saw will stay with me for ever.
Horror: Caged dogs
There are no health and safety or hygiene regulations for the killing of dogs and at a slaughterhouse I watched as a dog was grabbed from a pit and rendered unconcsious with two blows to the head before its throat is slit.
And I cannot forget the terrible scenes of those dogs being force-fed at one of the largest dog-trading market villages in the north of the country Son Dong Village.
In a single day seven tonnes of live dogs would be packed into massive metal crates piled high on top of one and other and shipped to Hanoi City alone for the restaurants and slaughter houses.
From what my team and I saw, the whole situation seems to be coming to a climax in Vietnam.
I’m not against people who eat meat, far from it, and our Unreported World film isn’t about that. What we have uncovered is a world of lawlessness when it comes to dog meat in Vietnam.
A government with a don’t ask don’t tell policy; middle-men and thieves who do unspeakable things to the dogs for better profit margins and the dog meat lovers who rarely question where the meat they were eating came from.
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.
My hope is that after watching this film, people, campaigners and even the Vietnamese government are moved to end the cruelty in the dog eat trade. It simply isn’t right for things to continue as they are.
* Unreported World: Vietnam’s Dog Snatchers is on Channel 4 tonight(FRI) at