Vietnam Demand for Dog Meat Keeps Thai Dog Trade Alive
Article from: Bangkok Post
An Isan subdistrict where residents eat man’s best friend is also home to an illicit export trade in dog meat to Vietnam.
A dog snatching gang rounded up on the streets of a Sakon Nakhon village in April pleaded tough economic times when asked why they were forced to steal dogs off the streets.
Normally, the dog meat trade is more organised, as everyone in Tha Rae subdistrict of the same province _ famous for its lively dog meat trade _ knows.
Police say the gang roamed several northern and northeastern provinces stealing dogs for a trading business in Tha Rae, where the trade flourishes despite recent crackdowns.
Dog traders cater to local appetites, but send the best of the dogs to customers in northern Vietnam, where dog meat is regarded as a delicacy.
The arrests were made after villagers in Phang Khon district alerted police that men had come to the village in a pickup truck and grabbed dogs off the streets.
The gang, dog traders in Tha Rae, had recently resorted to snatching dogs off the street as they were facing tough economic times. They claimed the price of dogs had gone up sharply and people did not trade their dogs for consumer goods any more.
Once, dog traders would travel to villages to barter goods such as buckets, bowls and dried food for the dogs or would just buy them outright.
The dog trade has carried on for years, particularly in Sakon Nakhon, which acts as a gateway for dog smugglers who send boatloads of the animals across the Mekong River to Laos, and on to Vietnam for sale, at prices many times the humble outlays they made for the dogs in Thailand.
A former dog trader, who asked not to be identified, said the price of a dog bought from villagers had increased sharply from 120-150 baht to 200-250 baht.
The price would jump to 400-500 baht at Tha Rae market after costs were factored in.
In August, the dog meat trade sprang back into the public eye when police arrested gangs smuggling 1,800 dogs in four trucks through nearby Nakhon Phanom’s Na Thom district, and Si Songkhram district.
They arrested two Thais, and a Vietnamese man.
”Police believe all the dogs would have been transferred to a ship waiting in Ban Phaeng district before going across the Mekong River to be sold in Vietnam,” said Nakhon Phanom’s governor Rerngsak Mahavinitchaimontree, who was involved in the bust.
The dogs can fetch prices of 500-1,000 baht.
The dogs were taken to an animal shelter in Nakhon Phanom, where almost 1,000 of the animals have since died, from malnutrition (the dogs would not eat the dried dog food provided, as they prefer rice) and common dog diseases.
The well-publicised plight of the dogs raised 20.7 million baht from the public.
Many are probably unaware of the extent of the dog trade in Tha Rae, nor how it crosses national boundaries to also involve foreign nationals from Vietnam.
As recently as 2003, the trade was so big that up to 300 to 400 strays were thought to have been illegally rounded up daily and culled.
In July that year, hundreds of people in the subdistrict rallied against a proposal by governor Panchai Borvornratanapran to ban the slaughtering and eating of man’s best friend.
Mr Panchai said the subdistrict was home to 17 dog slaughter houses, with 300 people involved in dog meat trading in Tha Rae, which exported up to four tonnes of dog meat across the country every day.
A survey of 500 villagers by a local university, commissioned by the governor, found that 79% wanted to continue eating and selling dog meat.
The trade has lost none of its value, judging by the size of the smuggling bust in August.
The province imposed a ban on exports of dog meat to Vietnam following the seizure of the 1,800 dogs.
Last week, 500 dog meat traders in Nakhon Phanom came out in protest against the ban.
They rallied at the provincial hall, saying the ban had caused the trade in the area to grind to a halt.
Trader Sawaeng Dechaloet said the sale of dog meat is an honest profession and traders never steal dogs for export.
Since the bust, media crews have descended on Tha Rae.
Few traders can be seen selling dog meat in the local market. When Bangkok Post Sunday visited, the subdistrict’s slaughterhouses were closed. Few residents were willing to comment.
Our inquiries show that local politicians and Vietnamese nationals jointly operate the trans-border trade, under which thousands of dogs have been rounded up and sent to markets in northern Vietnam.
Checks of vehicle registration records of the four pickup trucks intercepted in the Nakhon Phanom raid a few weeks ago suggest some local politicians are involved in the business.
Provincial administrative staff in Nakhon Phanom say two of the seized trucks are owned by local politicians.
One of them is a member of Tha Rae Tambon Administration Office, and another is a member of Tha Rae municipality.
A Vietnamese national owns another of the seized trucks.
The driver of this vehicle is thought to have ”cleared the way” for the dog caravan, by paying bribes to officers at checkpoints along the route.
Local investigators are piecing together clues to figure out how the trade works. They say Vietnamese nationals travel from Vietnam to contact dog traders in Tha Rae.
Traders order their dog collection teams to search for dogs.
These collectors go away for four or five days at a time, offering plastic bowls in exchange for dogs. The bowls cost 50 baht to 100 baht each.
They travel as far as Phichit province on the Central Plain in search of the animals, though some are stolen right from in front of their owners’ homes.
The dogs are kept in temporary cages, before being taken to Ban Phang and Na Wa districts in Nakhon Phanom for their voyage across the Mekong River.
The dogs are put into temporary cages by the river where Vietnamese traders select ”top grade” dogs.
Those selected are put into cages on longtail boats, and sent across the Mekong River to Laos.
They are then taken by road to the north of Vietnam.
The ”low grade” dogs rejected by the Vietnamese traders are taken back to Tha Rae for local consumption.
Once it has crossed the border to Vietnam, each dog (worth the price of a plastic bowl in Thailand) can be sold for as much as 800 to 1,000 baht.
Livestock investigators believe at least two consignments of dogs are taken across the border each week.
One truck can take up to 300 dogs crammed in stacked cages.
”It’s a trans-border operation, with some Vietnamese directing the operation themselves,” said Nakhon Phanom governor Mr Rerngsak.
The dog trade has been ticking away quietly in this region but it wasn’t until 2003 that it grew into a trans-border operation.
The first arrests were made in 2003, when over 800 dogs intercepted, and some Vietnamese were identified as being involved.
The Livestock Development Department can issue permits to regulate the dog trade, but says no one has ever applied for one.
Because the Animal Diseases Control Act does not mention dog trading for meat, several dog traders have argued there is actually no direct regulation in place to regulate the practice, and as a result they have not broken the law.
However, the department sees it differently.
It considers that dog trading for meat are also about animal trading, which are regulated under the act.
Dog traders also have been found playing their trade in several other provinces, including Maha Sarakham and Kalasin.
Arrested dog caravan drivers are charged with illegal trading of animals and illegal transportation of animals. They are also charged with cruelty to animals under the Criminal Code.
Penalties for illegal trading in animals are light: jail of up to two years, and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht.
Select comments from: Bangkok Post
I think that dog meat or rat should or could be a cheap way to feed people, but, It should be farmed! Then there would be strict controls on quality and cleanliness. OK the rats in Isan are good as they feed on crops and not rubbish from bins, the same cannot be said about the dogs now! The unwanted soi dog’s should be culled and farms set up to breed certain dogs for food. But allow the work to be run by local farmers, not Government, Police or any politician.
On another side of this, pigs are intelligent (far more than dogs) and very friendly, so why not same standard for them?
Discussion1: If the dogs have many diseases then why does your goverment let them run free all over the country? If Thailand would take care of its Dog problems then you wouldnt have people eating them. I am sick of stray dogs keeping me up at night. I was hurt on my motorbike because of these stray dogs. I really wish the people of Issan would come get the dogs in my village and eat them soon. I think better they are on a plate then killed in the road or killing or hurting people that are driving motorbikes.
I would thank Thai government for ban eat dog meat. Dog have many disease and cause illness to people. I never eat dog while lived in Thailand. I think dog is my best friend and I took care dog like my good company. My dogs visit doctor every year, nice place to sleep, and good food every day.