HÀ NỘI Last week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Hà Nội announced a death caused by rabies in Hà Nội.
The 50-year-old man had recently slaughtered two dogs, from which the infection is thought to have come.
As a former vegetarian, I am happy to admit that I have no love for the dog meat industry, which this man is presumed to have been a part of (though no evidence has been presented either way).
However, when news of the death broke, I was shocked at the rhetoric posted online, particularly by expats living in Việt Nam.
"I hope his suffering was long and painful."
"Best news I've heard in a while."
"Good. He deserved it."
Now, it's firmly accepted that social media has become an echo chamber for mud-slinging with very few real-world consequences.
However, celebrating a man's death simply due to the trade he is involved in removes the compassion and moral high ground that gives the animal-welfare sector the platform it uses so well to implement change.
Had the man picked up a fatal disease working at a chicken, pig or cow slaughterhouse, would the reaction have been quite the same? Would the work-related death of a pest exterminator be celebrated as a good thing?
Of course, the dog meat trade is much more emotive, particularly for expats from a different culture where dogs are primarily pets and companions.
That culture is not as strong in Việt Nam, and the dog meat industry is accepted in some parts of Vietnamese society.
There was an abattoir not far from the town I went to university, and I would often serve them coffee during their lunch break. None of them did the job because they enjoyed killing animals, or because they had a particularly cruel disposition.
To them, like any profession, it was a means to an end, a way of putting food on the table.
I wonder if it was the same for this man. Maybe it wasn't, and he was the worst of the worst, slaughtering dogs for no reason other than it took a sadistic pleasure.
But that probably wasn't the case.
Instead, he was probably just a man doing a job to feed his family, who paid the ultimate, terrifying price.
It is not our place to judge him and it is certainly not our place to celebrate his death.
After all, these high-and-mighty keyboard warriors certainly would have soymilk egg on their faces if the man turned out to be a veterinarian. VNS