MaryAnne Shults's Blog

March 9, 2011

Please don’t eat the thit chó

If you believe your loyal, intelligent family dog is “man’s best friend,” you may not want to read this.

In the United States alone, 45.6 percent of households own at least one dog as a pet. The total number of domestic canines in America is over 77 million, according to a 2009-2010 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association.

Puppy in Bac Kan, VietnamPuppies are often family pets in Vietnam. However, they are often left to run wild and are injured or killed by street traffic. Courtesy of Larissa Bahr

If those numbers seem staggering, how about the fact the survey shows the average family spends over $500 per year alone on each dog for expenses such as food, vet bills, treats and toys.

However, in some countries, dogs are served as an exotic cuisine, considered a delicacy.

In Hanoi, Vietnam, Nhat Tan St. in the Tây Ho District is allegedly the venue of choice for the canine connoisseur as it’s lined with restaurants specializing in this fare. On this street, one can also find an open market specializing in dog meat. Generally, men choose this exotic meat as it is supposed to wipe away bad luck, enhance health and increase libido. There’s even a special type of local snake wine called Tam Xà served with dog meat.

“Boiled, baked, grilled and fried are some of the choices. Livers and intestines are also served: one of the most popular delicacies is dog sausage – deep-fried intestines stuffed with spices and chopped meat. Dog’s leg and tail soup is also on the menu,” according to an article published by Reuters. It is a low-fat source of animal protein.

Dog helps himself to table scraps in Bac Kan, VietnamThis dog was content to assist its owners clean up the leftover scraps from the family's last meal. Courtesy of Mario Davis

The article also says most of the dogs are raised as pets, and then the restaurant owners select and buy the dogs while they are still alive. Most come from rural areas and are transported into Hanoi, kept in handmade cages of bamboo or similar natural design. Only healthy dogs are selected to be the evening’s fare.

I’m happy to report that most dogs I saw while in the rural areas and small cities within a day’s drive from Hanoi seemed alive and well. Even happy. I only saw a few I would confirm as pets. One was a chihuahua reclining in a silk shop in Hanoi while the other was perched on the front steps of a shop front-sans-market in Bac Kan.

Most of the dogs were medium sized and were similar to something between a Siberian husky and an Akita. In Bac Kan, I asked a local man standing in front of a shop that rented and repaired motorbikes across from my hotel what type of dogs were roaming the area. He said some were a rare breed called Phu Quoc.

This breed, originally from the island of Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang province, are known for having ridges on their backs. These dogs are excellent hunters, unafraid of heights, intelligent and very loyal yet trusting with strangers, according to Du Thanh Khiem, a member of the World Canine Organization in Ho Chi Min City.

Sadly, many dogs were at one time domesticated but now seemed to run wild. From my hotel window, I saw two dogs romping in a grassy median as motorbikes and honking trucks cruised by, not even giving the canines notice. Others wandered into the street, the motorized vehicles casually taking a slightly alternative path to avoid hitting the dogs. Others were scrounging through the garbage in an alley.

When I returned home and opened the front door, dragging my luggage, I was greeted by three happily wagging tails, and leaned down to feel their wet noses sniffing the strange odors on my clothing that only a dog can smell. I dropped to the floor, not minding their wet kisses telling me they were happy to see me.

I think it’s time to consider a vegan lifestyle.