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VietNamNews

Dog meat spices up the conversation

Update: April, 19/2013 - 09:44

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers whether Vietnamese diners should give up their custom of eating dog meat. This topic has really sparked a debate among our readers.

Hamish McNair Wilson, British, Da Nang

Your say

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Ha Noi's Industry and Trade Department recently submitted a project to the municipal People's Committee encouraging local people to ride bicycles.

The department says that the move will save fuel, reduce pollution and traffic jams and give a much-needed boost to the domestic bicycle manufacturing industry.

However, some experts do not support the proposal. They say that while encouraging local people to ride bicycles would be good for the environment, it would also in fact worsen traffic congestion.

They argue that jams become worse when a number of cyclists flock onto roads at slow speeds together with other vehicles, especially as there are no specific bicycle lanes in the city.

Do you prefer travelling by bicycle to other vehicles? What do you think about the proposal? Will it do more harm than good? Should the committee approve the project now to turn Ha Noi into a greener city? Could you share some of your experiences of travelling by bicycle in Viet Nam?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, April 25, 2013.

I have lived in Ha Noi for over a year, one of the city's most endearing characteristics is its people and their unflinching pride in their history, heritage, culture and customs, including those which sit uneasily with many Westerners.

In an era of mass exposure to Western ideals, through TV, film and music, retaining values that clash which those espoused through these channels can be challenging to say the least.

In South Korea, for example, which has long been closely allied with America and influenced by its culture, eating dog meat is now perceived as something of a social embarrassment, with the one dog meat restaurant you'll find in each town shunned by the vast majority of the populace and by young people in particular.

In fact, in the build up to co-hosting the 2002 football World Cup, FIFA even applied pressure to the Korean government to play down the country's dog meat eating habits. Many Koreans, it seems, have been bowing to this pressure and the Vietnamese should be commended for continuing to stand up to it.

One of the core reasons for travel and living in other countries must be to respect and learn from the local culture, not to try to impose your culture upon it as some foreigners living in Viet Nam clearly do.

And one of the most special things about living in Ha Noi is the eagerness of its people to share their culture with others, their openness and sense of humour in talking about sensitive subjects in the face of hostility and their generosity in inviting foreigners to experience the exciting and delicious local cuisine with them.

Eating beef in as abhorrent to a Hindu as eating dog is to many pet loving Westerners. However, there would be uproar if any immigrants from India attempted to pressure American hamburger franchises from serving up their sacred animal.

In the West, battery farming means many chickens spend their entire life confined to a small box, inseparable from their fellow egg-layers and their own faces, yet because we fail to think of them as cuddly companions we seldom complain.

I would encourage any Westerner decrying the eating of dog meat to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Just because you happen to associate one particular animal with long walks and snuggles on the sofa doesn't automatically make eating it more cruel than any other.

Moreover, if you have chosen to live amid another culture, you should learn to accept it and, at the very least, try to respect it. I have done exactly that and have learned a lot in doing so. And one of the things I have learned is that thit cho cha nuong (fried dog meat with a lot of spices), bia (beer) and big group of friends makes for a great evening out.

David Wood, British, Nha Trang

I would never eat cat or dog meat, but it would go against all I believe and all my principals to expect a Vietnamese to act the same as me just because I personally don't like it, especially as it's part of the culture and diet and something they obviously enjoy doing.

What is never mentioned is that many Vietnamese like the English also love their dogs. You see many with pets, but those are pet dogs and much different than the dogs that get eaten.

The dogs that get consumed in restaurants are reared and bred especially for eating and no different than the cows and chickens that are consumed in Western countries, something which is never made clear in the misleading reports in the press.

Giovanni Milo, Italian

I've been travelling in Viet Nam for almost one month and have changed from a simple tourist to one who has fallen in love with Viet Nam and seriously wants to return as soon as possible to work in your beautiful country.

I've wondered about the "dog issue" many times and just earlier today I had a chat about it with my "easy-rider" man, who's definitely modern and internationally-oriented, but also confessed to eating dog meat sometimes and finding it delicious.

First, I firmly believe it might be better for the whole humanity to become if not full at least more vegetarian, though I'm an omnivore. I don't think there should be a ranking system for animals. At the end of the day all of them have the same right to survive.

Some people believe that there is limited nutritional value in other animals such as rabbits, lambs and cows, so how can they justify eating dog. For many Westerns it's just unacceptable and cruel.

It's just a matter of different customs and traditions that vary from country to country, so I would leave it up to the individual, although I believe that slowly but surely this custom will disappear.

Phil Davidson, Australian, Buon Ma Thuot

As an expat living in Buon Ma Thuot (in the Central Highlands), I have come across dog-serving restaurants and eaten it myself at family gatherings.

I would not recommend it as a replacement for pork, beef, fish or chicken.

Dogs are carnivores, that is, they eat meat. None of the traditional animals mentioned above consume red meat. Fish do eat other fish, but not red meat. This difference can be tasted in the meat.

In addition, as stated in your article, dogs are excellent companions to humans and have been a part of human social evolution for thousands of years.

They are known as a "man's best friend". They are extremely loyal and, when they are treated well, are very protective of their human families.

People in many parts of the world are genuinely horrified by the eating of dogs. Indeed I know people who refuse to travel to Viet Nam because they see this as too much to think about for a relaxing holiday. They go elsewhere.

Vietnamese people do not need to get their protein from dog meat. It is available for the same price or better from cows, pigs, chicken and fish.

The government should ban this practice so that Viet Nam and its people join the rest of the world in regarding dogs as great friends, not food.

Keith McDonald, British, Vung Tau

If the cats and dogs are bred specifically for the restaurant trade, just as a farmer breeds pigs, cows, chickens, sheep etc that are destined for the table - what is the problem?

Cats and dogs are perceived as being cute but then again so is a lamb or a piglet. If Vietnamese people enjoy the taste of dog - why not let them eat it?

I personally have never eaten dog meat (I do not like the smell emanating from these ‘specialty restaurants'), however I have eaten cat.

Most Westerners are appalled at the thought of eating man's best friend and that adorable bundle of fur, cat. People in the UK conveniently forget that it was not that many years ago that they ate dogs and cats regularly.

Do Quang, Vietnamese, Quang Nam

The question about whether we should stop eating dog meat has been debated for a long time but we have never reached a conclusion. A French tourist recently announced that he would not visit Viet Nam until Vietnamese people stop eating dog meat.

In my opinion, eating dog meat is a personal taste and decision. It's unfair or unreasonable to criticise people who eat dog meat.

Dogs are just another breed of animal, so why do people who condemn eating dog and say it's immoral think it's ok to eat beef, pork, duck and chicken?

Unless you are vegetarian, you should not judge whether someone is immoral or not if they choose to eat dog meat.

Dinh Thi Van Anh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

Have you ever seen a dog cry when it is going to be killed? Then you will understand why dog meat is ostracised by a number of people in Viet Nam. Unlike other animals, the dog is the most loyal animal in the world.

Do you remember a typical example of loyalty after the tsunami in Japan in 2011, when a dog refused to leave his owner, even though he had passed away? — VNS



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