Why can people eat their best friends?

By Hoang Xuan, The writer is a journalist who lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Dogs being slaughtered at a slaughterhouse in Hanoi. Up to five million dogs are killed for meat in Vietnam every year, according to the Asia Canine Protection Alliance. Photo: Ngoc Thang
Up to five million dogs are killed for meat in Vietnam every year, according to the Asia Canine Protection Alliance. This is frightening knowledge.
I remember Ky, my first dog.
It has been decades since he left me but in my memory he is still jumping, running around the house and licking the face of everyone who plays with him.
Ky! Ky! Ky! My best friend when I was a child. We were just like two little babies in the family playing, eating and sleeping together.
He comforted me in the dark and delighted me when he jumped out and wagged his tail and barked to welcome me every time I came home.
He never wanted me to leave home for school. I had to promise him many times that I would come home immediately after class so he would agree not to follow me. He would stay at home and look at me as I would leave.
How can people eat their best friends?
When I was 7, my father came home one day with a new dog.
When I got home from school that day, I was frightened by the cut, fat dog that jumped out barking at me. I did not know why a section of his back was burned.
I was terribly afraid of dogs. My house was in an alley and three big dogs that hung around the neighborhood. If I saw them while walking to school, I’d always be late for class because I had to wait for an adult to pass by to take me through.
But once we had a dog in the family, I learned to love the animal.
My mother named him Ky. At that time, almost all dogs in the neighborhood were named Ky. It’s kind of a short form of “lucky,” and every kid that had a dog did indeed consider themselves lucky.
Ky became the youngest member of my family.
He grew up very fast with a thick layer of light yellow fur. He has a clear mane on his back and my father said it made him look like a lion.
My house is big and when my parents were away working, Ky and I stayed at home together.
Sometimes I read books in a hammock and Ky lied underneath. We ate sweets together. One for me and one for him.
But he was very fast. He gobbled up the hard sweets and quickly asked for more. All of my attempts to teach him to hold sweets in his mouth failed.
He was very lazy. My father had to lock Ky in a cage in order to give him a bath. He whined when being bathed but enjoyed my father rubbing his skin and fur with soap. Maybe he liked the scent just like me. Honestly, I also did not like showering. But I didn’t shout out loud when the water hit me like he did.
Ky also liked to play with dirt. I knew as a child that my mother would scold me if I played in the dirt right after showering. But Ky didn’t know that. After shaking the water off his fur, the first thing he always did was bury himself in dirt and start to play.
His hearing was excellent. Whenever I saw him raise his ears and hold his head to one side before running to the gate, I knew that my father was coming home.
By that time, I was no longer afraid of the dogs on the alley. The kids there called their dogs out to threaten me once when I was going to the school. They thought I would be afraid as usual. But I just walked through. I even pet one. Later, I began petting all three of them whenever I would see them in the alley.
Ky made me so brave. Our garden was large and there used to be power blackouts. My mother lit a kerosene lamp to work in the garden. My father was away for work and my two sisters were away studying. I was alone in the house studying tirelessly without daring to look around, fearing that I would see a ghost.
I had to call Ky. And when that big furry thing rubbed up on my leg, I was no longer scared of anything. With him around, I was afraid of nothing.
Ky! Ky! My dear Ky! How can people eat up to 5 million of my Kys every year? How can people eat children’s best friends?
Vietnam to crack down on illegal dog trafficking

Two dog thieves were lucky enough to be rescued by police from an outraged mob in Thanh Hoa Province on February 20.

The latest story of the beat-the-dog-thieves saga in Vietnam happened in a rural village in Hop Ly Commune when Ho Viet Tam and Do Van Binh snuck into the house of Tran Sy Hung to steal his dog.

The pair was caught in the act. Local police arrived at the scene to take the thieves to the office of the Hop Ly Commune People’s Committee.

Hundreds of residents surrounded the office, demanding justice. They threatened to beat the thieves to death. They prevented the thieves’ families from entering the office.

Commune police sought help from the Trieu Son District police. A number of police officers were sent to the office to "rescue" the thieves from the outraged crowd and brought them to a police station.

Anti-dog theft sentiment can be felt anywhere in northern and central Vietnam. It is nothing new in Vietnam where, in many instances, mobs have killed actual or suspected dog thieves without waiting for the law.

Authorities have failed to stop the epidemic of dog thefts for sale to restaurants and slaughterhouses, while the law stipulates just a fine for stealing dogs, making most thieves somewhat brazen.

The Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) – an international alliance of animal protection organizations formed by Humane Society International, Soi Dog Foundation, Animals Asia, and Change For Animals Foundation – estimates that 5 million dogs are slaughtered every year for human consumption in Vietnam.

In early February, Vietnam’s Department of Animal Health issued a directive ordering provincial authorities to crack down on the illegal trafficking of dogs for human consumption as rabies concerns rise.

The move follows a ground-breaking meeting in Hanoi last August when members of the ACPA met with the authorities of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and agreed to consider a five-year moratorium on the commercial transport of dogs from one country to another.

The directive specifically instructs agencies concerned to strengthen the inspection and prevention of the illegal import, transport and trade of animals or animal products. The government has also instructed the animal health department to work with international organizations to raise awareness about the dangers of consuming dog meat, and the illegality of much of the cross-border trade.

Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director for Animals Asia said: "Vietnam has long been the destination for trafficked dogs from surrounding countries – if governments are serious about stopping trafficking then the corrupt and unregulated dog industry is the obvious place to start."

Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement with Humane Society International stated: "This new directive is a big step in ending this cruel and illegal trade of dogs over international borders. ACPA intends to assist the Vietnam government to insure this new directive is implemented to its fullest, preventing the intense suffering of thousands of dogs and the further spread of rabies."

"Given that the dog meat trade involves the only current mass movement of known or suspected rabies-infected dogs, there is a strong argument to stop the cycle of infection by banning this trade entirely," said Lola Webber, Programs Leader for Change For Animals Foundation.

"The government of Vietnam is to be applauded for taking this initiative, and we hope other countries in the region will follow this lead. Many people cite culture in defense of the trade, but rabies and cholera and other diseases associated with it are no respecters of culture," said John Dalley, Vice President of Soi Dog Foundation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has pledged to wipe out rabies in the region by 2020.

According to ACPA, rabies is responsible for the deaths of up to 29,000 people in Asia every year.

Thanh Nien News

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