Excess feeds dog thefts and violence in Vietnam

By Hoang Xuan, *The writer is a journalist in Ho Chi Minh City. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Dog meat for sale at a stall in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
In rural Vietnam, there have been countless cases of thieves stealing dogs and selling them to restaurants for food. These men are willing to attack and shoot at their pursuers.
In cities, dog thieves are not so brutal but they too wound dog owners, albeit emotionally.
Pet dogs are often considered vulnerable and beloved member of the family. They must constantly face threats from thieves. Unlike country dogs, stolen and sold for food, pet dogs in the city are often passed on to pet shops where the owners can get them back for a ransom.
Every other day, dog lover forums in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, feature a notices about an owner finding his stolen dog.
People say thieves often sell dogs to specific pet shops in the city that are well-known for trading in stolen animals. These shops gouge the owners of lost pets.
One such notice advised dog owners to ask a friend or relative to negotiate with pet shop owners on the price because, in some cases, they offered a very high price after the owners burst into tears upon witnessing their animal's excitement at their arrival.
In such cases, some were willing to pay ten times the market prices after the shop owner threatened to sell it to a slaughterhouse.
Many victimized dog owners watch their children fall into sorrow, skip meals, cry or lose sleep. Naturally, some vow to kill the next person who tries to steal their animal.
They are frustrated because many people, who can eat whatever they like, don't hesitate to eat meat supplied, in large part, by thieves.
People eating dog meat often say that any meat is edible and dog meat is just like beef, chicken or pork. Muslims don’t eat pork and Hindis don’t eat beef because of their religious beliefs. 
They even fight on forums over the value of a man’s life versus a dog’s. 
Of course no dog's life is more precious than human’s life, though the thieves who are shooting at dog owners clearly don't think so.
That said, children don't cry over the loss of a cow or a pig. They don't demand that their parents bring it back. No one keeps a pig or a chicken to share in their sadness and happiness or to be welcomed home each day.
And unlike a dog, a pig is not a birthday gift for children.
No one has been beaten to death or burned by an angry mob for stealing a cow, chicken or pig.
This mass frustration has led to violations of the law and they will be punished.
But people do not become so frustrated because they lose a dozen kilograms of meat.
They became frustrated because of their love for the dog and also concern for the insecurity created by rampant dog thieves.
But their frustration and dog thefts all are a result of Vietnam's habit of dog meat eating. If no one ate dog meat, how would thieves sell stolen dogs?
If no one considered dog meat a delicacy, dog thieves in Vietnam would not run so rampant.
In many countries, dogs have been used to help disabled adults, children with autism and the police. Dogs help people because they possess skills that humans lack.
In Vietnam, many people eat dog meat as a luxury not a necessity. Many order an excess of food when they go out just to show off; others pile on food at buffets that they can't eat.
For all their excess, dog poses a great risk to their health. According to Dr. Tran Nguyen Giap, eating dog meat contaminated with toxocara canis, or dog round worm, can cause blindness or brain damage. It can also fatally harm the liver or spleen and can be fatal.
Traces of rabies vaccination found in dog meat can cause gradual brain damage if consumed over time.
I totally agree with Dr. Giap. Dog meat is not a specialty or delicacy at all. It is simply an eating habit of some Vietnamese people. Many people have abandoned this habit.
Personally, I cannot avoid thinking about the terrible images of dog thieves being burned on the road whenever seeing a sign advertising “dog meat”.

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