Dogs are not only pets/companions, in some countries they are also food. Two issues arising from this are 1) is it ethical/OK to eat them? and 2) what is the welfare like for these animals? I’ve written previously about these issues in relation to the situation in South Korea. In July I’ll be giving a talk about the situation in Vietnam at the annual conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology in Barcelona, and the research will also soon be published as a book chapter in “Companion Animals in Everyday Life” (edited by Michał Pregowski).
In my research, funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, I collected data in two ways. Firstly, relevant information on the history and current status of dog use and consumption was sourced from academic literature, newspaper reports, websites, and animal welfare organizations. Secondly, in 2004, the polling agency Market & Opinion Research International (MORI, now known as Ipsos MORI) was contracted to survey 1000 adults (15 years and above) in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City about dogs. Respondents were asked about their attitudes to the roles that dogs had in their society and whether or not they would support a ban on eating certain animals, including dogs.
Over the past few decades, pet ownership has increased in popularity in Vietnam; popular breeds of dog are Pekingese, poodles, Chihuahuas, and Huskies. A magazine just for pet lovers—Me Thu Cung (A Passion for Pets) —commenced publication in 2014. Of the participants in the survey, 52% owned pet animals, for example dogs, cats, birds, and fish. The survey showed that, overall, people were supportive of the use of dogs as pets, as assistance animals, and as guard dogs, but were against the use of dogs as food. In line with this, there was support for a ban on the eating of dogs. However, there was a major difference of opinion when residents of the two cities were compared: the majority of people living in the north (Hanoi), as opposed to the south (Ho Chi Minh City), were actually supportive of using dogs for food and would not support a ban on the eating of dogs.
With increased interest in the keeping of purebred pet dogs and the promotion of kindness to dogs via animal welfare organizations, it will be interesting to see what happens to the prevalence of dog-meat eating in Vietnam in the coming years. In the meantime, the welfare of the dogs used as food (how they are raised, transported, and slaughtered) is of paramount importance.