THE SOCIALIST Republic of Vietnam is a beautiful country steeped in history and unique in its cultural makeup.
As the easternmost country in the Indochina Peninsula, it identifies geographically as part of Southeast Asia. But, bordered by China to the north and ruled by it for over a millennium, its cultural inheritance is largely Chinese, with the lives of its people bearing closer resemblance to that of its East Asian neighbours.
Apart from its politics, governance and overall social and moral ethics, the one thing that makes Vietnamese culture quintessentially East Asian is its cuisine, specifically its practice of eating dog meat.
But all that’s about to come to an end. In fact, government officials are hoping to phase out the practice by 2021.
Dog meat is consumed in some parts of China, South Korea and Vietnam, a practice that dates back thousands of years. And every second, a dog is slaughtered somewhere in these countries.
In 2014, it was estimated that 25 million dogs are eaten each year by humans. That number could have gone up to 30 million dogs a year by now.
In China, dog meat is believed to be a health tonic, and thus, 20 percent of the population still consume dog meat.
China hosts the controversial 10-day Yulin Dog Meat Festival, during which some 100,000 dogs will be eaten. Some are pets that were snatched from their owners’ homes.
Animal protection groups such as the Humane Society International (HSI) have been campaigning to end the festival.
Similarly, in South Korea, HSI has begun identifying dog meat farms in the East Asian country and is working on pulling the dogs out of the farms.
In South Korea, 60 percent of the people eat dog meat regularly, according to the World Dog Alliance (WDA). And it does not go as far as just eating the flesh – Koreans use dog flesh extracts in skin lotions.
As of Oct 9, 2018, HSI has successfully shut down 13 dog meat farms in South Korea.
Additionally, earlier this year, the country’s city court ruled it was illegal to kill dogs for food.
In Vietnam, where as many as five million dogs are eaten every year, Hanoi officials last month announced that the sale of dog meat will be banned from the central districts of the city beginning in 2021.
The Hanoi People’s Committee released a statement urging Hanoi’s citizens to abandon the habit of eating both dog and cat meat.
“Slaughtering and using dog and cat meat has created objections among tourists and international visitors living in Hanoi, affecting the image of a civilized capital,” the statement read.
Southeast Asia Globe cited a Hanoi Department of Health representative as saying that there are plans to “gradually phase out the slaughtering and trading of dog meat.”
Currently, there are more than 1,000 shops selling dog and cat meat in Hanoi alone. And according to HSI, more than 80,000 dogs are trafficked from Thailand and Laos to meet the demands in Vietnam each year.
The Department of Health hopes that “by 2021, there will be no dog meat restaurants in the city center”.
The move is also part of a national program to stamp out rabies, caused by the improper raising of the animals, by 2021.
A version of this article was first published on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.