Around five million dogs are killed in Vietnam every year, making the country the second biggest consumer of dog meat in the world after China, which consumes roughly 20 million.
Dog meat, or thit cho, has been a Vietnamese delicacy for as long as the older generation can remember. The dogs are a specific breed, cho ta in Vietnamese, and are raised for their meat. Thit cho is normally grilled, steamed and made into blood sausage (doi cho), then served with apricot leaves and shrimp paste - the infamous mam tom. The dish is largely considered delicious and also nutritious as it's high in protein.
The meat is so popular, especially among men, that there are areas that have made a name for themselves with the dish, like Nhat Tan and Van Dinh in Hanoi. Northern provinces like Phu Tho and Nam Dinh and the port city of Hai Phong also have famous thit cho areas.
However, the high demand has created a lucrative black market for dog meat. Many of the dogs are stolen pets sold to small, unregulated abattoirs and killed in a barbaric fashion, making dog thieves some of the biggest public enemies in Vietnam.
Yet they are rarely punished, and nor are the people who buy and sell stolen meat.
Vietnamese law only treats theft as a criminal offense if the object stolen is worth more than VND2 million, less than $100. Due to rising pressure both inside and outside the country, legislators are considering a provision that would criminalize the theft of pets.
For now, vigilante mobs often justify their actions, which sometimes prove fatal, to the lack of legal repercussions for the crime.
"They deserve it!" is the comment often given in media reports about dog thieves being assaulted or killed in Vietnam.
Should Vietnam criminalize the theft of pets or go further and ban dog meat altother given that even rescued dogs that end up in animal shelters are sometimes abused or even re-sold? Are dogs more like pigs and chicken to the Vietnamese - a source of meat - or are they our friends, making their consumption barbaric? Let us know below by casting your vote and leaving a comment.
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