FACT: Vietnam kills more dogs for meat than any other country in Southeast Asia.
Every year, five million dogs and one million cats are taken from their owners or snatched from the streets to be slaughtered for human consumption, the animal protection group Humane Society International (HSI) estimates. That’s at least six million families grieving the loss of their four-legged family member. But no survey can measure the pain of losing your best friend.
Mr. Hiep, a 40-year-old owner of a dog slaughterhouse and dog meat restaurant in Thai Nguyen province in the northeast region of Vietnam, was one of the reasons dogs go missing in their area. His horrible deeds caused innocent deaths, yet the family restaurant thrived for five years.
As they say, “whatever energy we put out, we get back — good or bad.” And as for Mr. Hiep, “bad karma” came knocking for his family. “I know in my heart that killing and eating dogs is wrong, and it was becoming harder and harder for me to do it,” he told the Humane Society International.
He admitted that being part of the dog meat trade was “bringing my family bad karma, so I am relieved to work with HSI in Vietnam to end this chapter in my life and start afresh.”
What used to be a ruthless and cold heart of Mr. Hiep’s became guilty and ashamed of what he and his family did to those innocent creatures. Because of his change of heart, Mr. Hiep became the first in the country to participate in a new Models for Change program by HSI. The program helps people transition out of the cruel and dangerous dog meat trade.
He is now actively campaigning against dog and cat meat consumption. “The risk of spreading rabies through the dog meat trade is something we should all take very seriously, so I feel proud to be standing up for change in my community and happy to know that the dogs who have been saved will be able to live new lives with families,” he proudly said. “It’s a good outcome for me, the dogs, and my community.”
Thanks to HSI and Mr. Hiep’s ability to turnaround, 18 dogs found alive at the property were rescued, and thousands more will be spared from the cruelty of humans.
According to HSI, the 18 dogs rescued, some of whom had been locked up in cages for fattening to reach slaughter weight, were vaccinated against rabies and distemper and moved to HSI’s nearby temporary shelter at the Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry, to receive necessary medical care before being considered for local and international adoption.
Moreover, Mr. Hiep is now ready to transform his business to sell agricultural services such as crop fertilizer, as well as groceries, green tea, beer, and snacks to waiting customers.
HSI’s Models for Change program
Humane Society International is the international division of The Humane Society of the United States. Founded in 1991, HSI has expanded The HSUS's activities into Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.
HSI’s goal is to advance the welfare of animals in more than 50 countries. They work around the globe to promote the human-animal bond, rescue and protect dogs and cats, improve farm animal welfare, protect wildlife, promote animal-free testing and research, respond to disasters and confront cruelty to animals in all of its forms.
In South Korea, HSI’s Models for Change program has so far managed to shut down 17 dog meat farms, rescuing over 2,500 dogs, all while helping dog farmers transition to more sustainable livelihoods. And now, the program has expanded in Vietnam.
“As well as tackling the tremendous animal cruelty associated with the capture, trafficking, and slaughter of an estimated five million dogs a year for human consumption across the country, HSI’s Models for Change program will also provide workers with a way out of a trade that is known to facilitate the spread of the deadly rabies virus in Vietnam,” reads the press statement from HSI.
According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills more than 70 people in Vietnam each year, according to the World Health Organization, with most cases caused by dog bites and several verified cases linked to dog slaughter and meat consumption. Last month, authorities in Hanoi reported the death of a man who contracted rabies after slaughtering dogs for meat.
Phuong Tham, Humane Society International’s country director in Vietnam, said they are extremely proud to bring the Models for Change program to Vietnam. She added that the dog meat trade is not only unbelievably cruel but also poses a grave risk to human health from transmitting potentially lethal diseases like rabies.
“Mr. Hiep is the first of what we hope will be many more people to leave this dangerous trade behind them, helping the government achieve its goal of eliminating human rabies deaths from dog interactions by 2030,” the HSI country director said.
Similar to the realizations of Mr. Hiep, Phuong, and her team recognize that many people involved in the dog meat trade are keen to leave due to low profitability, societal and family shame, and fears of bad karma. “We hope our Vietnamese Models for Change program will become a key component of Viet Nam’s strategy to provide industry workers with alternative and economically viable livelihoods while supporting the government in its efforts to eliminate rabies.”
Rabies is deadly. And the link between rabies transmission and the dog meat trade has been well established by the World Health Organization, and continued dog meat trade activities undermine the virus’s elimination.
Studies by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology demonstrate that a significant percentage of patients in Vietnam who become infected with the virus after contact with dogs do so not due to a bite but after killing, butchering, or eating dogs.
The link between rabies and the dog meat trade is so well established that in 2018 and 2019, authorities in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City urged citizens not to consume dog meat to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
Dr. Phan Thi Hong Phuc, dean of animal science and veterinary faculty at Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry, said rabies is endemic in the country, and the dog meat trade contributes to the spread of this virus to humans.
Dr. Phan also thanked HSI for bringing the Models for Change program to Vietnam because it’s “a first-of-its-kind program for our country demonstrating how dog meat trade workers can transition to better, safer livelihoods.”