Do Vietnamese eat dog meat? What do the young locals say?

do-vietnamese-eat-dog-meat

Steamed Dog meat "Your not going to eat that are you?"

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Eating dog meat is considered to be regular around Asia, and Vietnamese do. But do young Vietnamese love it and enjoy it? Let’s read this article and go deeply into the local culture.

Do Vietnamese eat dogs? Yes, people do!

There is nothing to deny that. It’s not like everyone in Vietnam will eat dog, but I believe that half of them may do. When I look up for some statistics from The Asia Canine Protection Alliance – an organization of protecting the dog in Asia, they said Vietnam had consumed 5 million dogs each year. And it does surprises me! As a young local, I eat dog meat too. But I don’t think that there are such a massive amount of dog meat has been consumed.

do-vietnamese-eat-dog-meat-yes-they-do“Cay To” means dog meat. Cre: Dan Costin

You can probably find dog meat all over in Vietnam. But Northern Vietnam will be the winner for the most consumption area. Based on local medical experts, Vietnamese believe that dog meat is hot and contains many proteins. Because of hot element, this food is suitable for a cold area like Northern Vietnam. Besides, it’s better to drink strong liquor with dog meat to protect your stomach. And this combination is perfect for cold weather. That’s why you hardly see any restaurant sells dog meat in the South of Vietnam.

Many friends of mine, from other countries, they asked me why we, the Vietnamese can eat dog. I understand that in many culture, including Vietnam, dogs are the human best friend. But in the past, due to a long time in war and famine, even core value has to be changed. And it still affects to present. Within this article, I would love to show you many angles about how local people think and believe. And the way our history affects our customs and behaviors.

Why Vietnamese eat dog?

I believe most of you don’t know the reason why we eat dog. It’s not because dog meat is more nutrient than other meat nor has a better taste. There is a story of local people, especially among older people. That eating dog at the end of month or year can help you dispel the unfortunate or bad luck.

Elder Vietnamese believe that dog represents for the dark or the night. Because of in the past, local people had a dog only for the protection of the house and other belongings at night. A dog is also a dirty eating animal refer to famine period. Even human didn’t have anything to eat. So dogs had to find food by themselves and usually are leftover or garbage. With all of these, when you had bad luck, you need a darker thing to dispel it. And eating dog is a solution.

 

do-vietnamese-eat-dog-meatWill you eat that? Cre: NeilsPhotography

This is nonsense and only words of mouth. But when we were kids, we were taught by that. So it is hard to forget and define what is right until we earn our own experiences. Back to those days when I was still in secondary school, our family had a lovely dog. One day, the weather was bad for days, leading to the crop failure. Then some neighbors came by and asked to buy our dog. We were poor too, and our parents agreed to sell her.

I cried like rain that day when some men gathered around, chased her and seized her in front of me. At that moment, I hate those men. And in the dinner, when we had the share, I didn’t touch any meat of my dog. But a few years later, I can eat dog.

The war came, and the famine made us changed. There was nothing much to eat. And we had to seek for grasshoppers, frogs, and rats to fulfill our stomach. It’s funny that all of these foods are now unique dishes and become signature for some regions. At that condition, “human best friends,” including cats, are no other than meat. Unintentional but these days became a habit and dog slowly became a typical food for human. Some people were obsessed with this kind of meat and required at least one meal of dog each month.

What about the young local reaction?

At the moment, we, the young generation of Vietnam has an entirely different point of view on this topic. Some eat, some doesn’t depend on their background. But most of us, the new generation are not seeking to eat dog meat when living conditions have been improved and dogs become human’s best friends.

dog-meat-selling-in-a-backstreet-market-of-vietnamCre: Paul Keller

Thanks to the importation of foreign dogs, many young people start raising a dog. These beautiful and expensive dogs make people change their mind significantly. And that makes them think twice when they plan to eat dog meat. Some of them still can eat dog meat because only local dogs are used for food.

a dog head in vietnamNot happy to see! Cre: Nicolas Will

Plus with interaction with the world, many young locals are now on the side of defending the dogs. They want to forbid the act of eating dog. Young people have launched a campaign of prohibiting eating dog meat. And this campaign creates such a massive wave that even the government has to notice.

In 2018, the people’s committee of Hanoi has announced a new rule. This rule requires that all dog farm has to be registered and controlled. Moreover, Hanoi is running a campaign of informing the bad side of eating and killing dog for meat. They planned to forbid eating dog meat at first, and they try to ask people to stop eating dog. And then switch to propaganda the downside of eating dog. However, it’s not easy to force local people to turn away from dog meat without a proper reason.

With this campaign and new education to the young generation, I believe shortly; the dog will be no longer required to be food. It will not completely shut down, but it will change the way Vietnamese people approach dog meat.

Should we eat dog meat or NOT?

The campaign of young people in Vietnam has a significant impact on the community, but it still has some limitation. The information is only limited around young people, who don’t consume the most and the elder hardly catch up with the news. Besides, the campaign soon becomes a fight since they assumed that people who eat dog are savages and uncivilization.

In my opinion, eating a dog doesn’t make you become a savage or uncivilization.  I feel like, when you see dog meat without anyone tell you what it is, I believe you still can eat that easy and tasty. There is no underrated food. And it’s not fair to consider that dog meat is lower rated than pork or beef. The main thing here is how we approach, how we treat and kill the dog before eating it.

dog-meat-selling-in-ha-noi-of-vietnamCre: Common Wiki

In Vietnam, many dogs are stolen to become food. So that the main reason people are angry about eating dog meat. We have no information about any dog farm in Vietnam. And that makes people think all dog meat are from illegal stealing and capturing. In my point of view, I will fight against the eating dog if they are stolen pets or from an unknown source. Even with pigs and cows, butchers are required to kill them separately and more humanity. So I think the dog should have the same treatment.

Most people are ok with eating other meats or killing other animals for food. But it is a different story when mentioning about a dog or cat. We all know that they are friends of human. In the other hand, for many peoples, a pig or a cow could be their friends too if they raise them like a pet. I think it would be better if we can separate “loving dog” and “eating dog.” I remember that in Australia, kangaroo is a symbol of the country but local people still eating Kangaroo. The government even encourages people to do that. Of course, this is a different situation. But it still shows that this matter is only depended on the point of view.

After all, there is no right or wrong in eating dog meat. It’s just a different culture and belief. If adults teach children that dogs are friends and raise one, the eating dog meat will be a horrible idea. It will be the act that only cannibal did that. The same thing can happen with others who raised other animals like pigs or birds. So if you want to try dog meat, go ahead to do it. No one can judge you nor can’t you judge anyone about this act.

Some rumors about dog meat in Vietnam

Myth 1: Vietnamese will trick you by inviting chicken

There is a familiar story, but not true at all that my foreigner friends told me. They heard that when Vietnamese see foreigners during a meal, they will try to trick you by inviting you chicken. But it will be dog meat and they wait for your reaction. This story is entirely unreal. If you are our guests, there will be no such thing happen to you. Vietnamese love and respect foreigners, that an undeniable fact. We know how much you love dogs and will never do it without asking you first. Besides, dog meat costs much more than chicken.

Myth 2: Dog meat is not safe

Another myth is eating dog meat is not safe and can poison you. This will happen if you don’t drink some local wine during your meal. This myth has half of the truth. If you choose a good restaurant or eating dog meat at home, it will not require having strong wine. But when you are eating outside or at a strange place, I do recommend taking some shots.

Dog meats in Vietnam are not farming like other stocks, so there is no organization to control the quality. We do not eat raw meat, but it’s still a thing to concern. A glass of strong wine will help to clean all bacteria and make your experience with dog meat better.

dog-eating-is-the-old-tradition-of-vietnamYoungsters love dogs. Cre: Jorge Gonzalez

Finally, my friends think that Vietnamese eat dog meat quite often, same as we have pork and beef each day. Dog meats are not that popular. As I mentioned above, we only eat dog meat in some everyday occasions or special event. Otherwise, you will hardly find dog meat in any family meal. Of course, there are some eat regularly no matter reasons, but they are mostly junkies or alcoholic.

If you want to try, where do you find dog meat?

This question is tough to answer at the moment. Back to 10 years ago, it would be so easy for you to try this particular food. In Hanoi, there were some streets so famous for dog meats that the whole street was selling dog meat.

However, due to the stealing pets problem and the against of young generation about eating dog, many restaurants have to put down the sign. There is a dramatically decreasing of dog meat restaurant in just a few years.

Recently, you still find some specific restaurants serving only dog meat, but it’s not easy to see without help from a local. Most of dog meat restaurants are not located in the tourist area. In most of the local market, there are some vendors still have dog meats. Or you can book through them and buy dog meat the next day.

Vietnamese government thinks that eating dog meat is not right to promote tourism and image of Vietnam. In order to improve the country image, start from the capital, Hanoi is asking people to stop eating dog. The government is also trying to forbid selling dog meat within the city. I’m not sure how efficient this project can be, but it could be a challenge for foreigners who want to try the difference between cultures.

If you want to try, once you arrive in Vietnam, you can ask any local to guide you. I’m sure that they will be eager to help you find this food and even invite you to join them. Eating dog meat will be less tasty without a group of friends to share it.

do-vietnamese-eat-dog-meat-yes-they-do

The sign says “dog meat”. Cre: Dan Costin

Fake dog meat or “Gia Cay.”

Not all Vietnamese like dog meat. So we invented an alternative dish call “Giả Cầy.” “Giả” means fake and “Cầy” is another way to call a dog in Vietnamese. With the situation of forbidden selling dog meat, I believe this dish will soon become the best option for dog meat lover. Or any tourist who want to try the taste of dog, this will be a good option.

The main ingredient, dog meat in the original will be changed into pork while other elements will remain. However, the key to this dish, which creates unique flavor and taste, is not the meat. It is the galangal root and special yeast. If you never taste dog meat before, it will still be pretty hard to distinguish the difference until you put it into your mouth. Even you have already had the real dog meat for couple times, this dish is quite similar.

“Gia Cay” is delicious and many local people, including me, prefer this dish more than the original. The pork in this dish has less protein than dog meat. The flavor is still unique, and I think this dish is more suitable for the new age. This dish is the only closest dish to replicate dog meat, and I highly recommend you to try it instead of eating dog meat.

To cap off my sharing

Eating dog meat is used to be Vietnamese culture. If you read this article carefully, you will know the reason. Due to the history and specific situation, dogs have become our food. Thus, with the change of the world, Vietnam is also changing. We are finding a way to catch up with the world without losing our core features.

A good news for animal lovers is that: In 2018, Hanoi as the capital of Vietnam officially ban the dog meat trade by 2021, Southeast Asia Globe reports.

The announcement follows a statement released in mid-September by the Hanoi People’s Committee, which urges residents of the Vietnamese capital to stop eating dog meat. According to officials, the popularity of dog meat makes the city less favorable to tourists and can lead to the spread of diseases, including rabies and leptospirosis. Additionally, the committee hopes its efforts will encourage locals to “see value in treating animals humanely.”

Shortly after the announcement, Ngoc Son Nguyen, director of the city’s Department of Health, issued a statement saying that officials would gradually phase out the dog meat trade, adding that it will no longer be available in the city center by 2021.

We are not ashamed about the old custom of eating dog meat, but with the young generation, we prefer to be known different. A modern and lovely country with many talented people and excellent cuisine is better than weird eating food or customs. Let’s travel to Vietnam to see the truth with your own eyes and experience the real thing.

vietnam-eats-dogs

Do your thought changed after reading my article? I would love to hear from you.

And surely, we never provide dog meat in our Vietnam food tour!

Natalie Vo
Natalie Vo
100% Vietnamese, my passion is traveling and running projects related to tourism. I'm here to share what I know about Vietnam for travelers.

15 Comments

  1. Karin Liu Ryan says:

    My husband and I were planning a three week trip to Vietnam in May. After realizing that there is still a huge Dog Meat trade there, we have cancelled our trip. I would just be too upset seeing poor dogs in cages waiting to be savaged. There is no famine now and no excuse or need to eat dogs and cats now.

    • Natalie Vo says:

      Hi Karin, yes I can relate.
      Perhaps my content and the photos makes you think that you would encounter the dog meat trade here but it’s not something that you can easily see in front of your eyes.
      But as a local having been in Saigon for 9 years and going to the local markets very often, I haven’t seen they sell dog meats.
      It’s quite sad that you cancel the trip. Southeast Asia is very fascinating to travel to.

    • Natalja says:

      What is the actual need for a dog meat? I guess there is no actual need. Absolutely not. And if dog meat are even more expensive, I have minus zero ideas, why you eat them. Not du to hunger or money issues.
      Humans stepped out of cages long ago. So yes, only savages will proceed to farm or still dogs for their food.
      I do get that the parallels between dogs and pigs are fairly asked but still there is a huge difference.
      But I do think that IF you eat meat , you need to provide the best natural (to this particular animal) ways of living and most softly ways of killing.

  2. Gia Tue Lac says:

    Hi I’m a student in ISHCMC AAVN . I’m now working on a PSA for my English class about dogs meat. I and my partner are trying to prevent people from eating dogs by making a PSA video but the things is I don’t have enough information about this problem. So after reading your article I thought that you might be the one who would be an expert in this problem ! I would love to hear back from you and know more about what you know about this.
    I hope to hearing from you soon!
    Thanks!
    Gia Tue, Lac.

    • Natalie Vo says:

      Hi Gia Lac Tue, Saigon Kiss Tours is happy when reading your words. Glad that our articles help you with your study and research!

  3. Lex says:

    As a dog owner, this is so much more than a cultural difference. I have read and seen videos of how dogs are killed there and it’s monstrous beyond belief. I have traveled to Viet Nam a few times and I love it there so much that I would like to move there…to HCMC, for a few years. The only thing holding me back is that I have a dog. I am terrified that someone will steal her from me. Is there any safe place in Saigon to have a dog? Will I have to worry if I take her outside for a walk in a park or anywhere? I hope you will answer me.

    • Natalie Vo says:

      Hi Alex,

      Totally understand your worry when moving to Vietnam with a dog. But if you read my article carefully, you will understand that the Vietnamese locals in the city love dogs and many family has dogs as pets. The locals take dogs to the public areas and it’s a popular scenes. You don’t need to worry about that.

  4. Error says:

    The committee also urged residents to stop eating cat meat, which is less popular but still available. It highlighted the fact that many of the animals were cruelly killed.

  5. Hubris says:

    I am Vietnamese American, born in the USA. The pictures were hard to look at but I appreciate your article and it was very informative in helping me understand the history.

    The government is right that this tradition is not compatible with the western world. I believe people are free to do as they please so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. But I personally can not associate myself to anyone that favors this practice. As a dog lover myself, I see such treatment of dogs as abhorrent and it breaks my heart. Like the other commenter I would not be able to bare the thought of seeing it in real life so I could never travel to Vietnam. It would overshadow anything good I could ever experience there.

    I feel many other westerners feel the same. If Vietnam continues to follow this tradition I would think this will come at some cost.

    My children are teased from other students about this topic. While I do teach my children about the many of the strengths of the Vietnamese culture, I also tell them this particular topic is a shame we have to learn to endure. Despite that fact we are all born in the USA and identify fully as Americans, the history of this tradition continues to haunts us.

    I will be happy if and when this tradition ends though I do respect the right of a people to do as they please in the pursuit of their own happiness.

    My gut tells me this will end at some point. As the people of Vietnam because more prosperous, the idea of seeing pets as companions will also rise as more people are able to afford them.

    • Natalie Vo says:

      Hi Hubrishugh,

      I’m sorry that my article has photos that is painful for you to look at as a dog lover like you. You’re right that this tradition will end in the future when more people see pets as friends than food.

      Many blessings to you and your kids.

  6. Diane Azzopardi says:

    I was on a tour outside of Hanoi and heard a dog screaming in the distance. It wasn’t a yelp; it was SCREAMING. It prompted me to ask the tour guide if they ate dog meat in Hanoi and he said it was good in winter as the meat is warm. WTH??? I was in shock that it was happening here ( I knew of the dog trade in China but not in Vietnam ). You say it is not easy for tourists to see yet some tourists we met said they came across dog carcasses at the markets in SAPA. They also saw dogs crammed into cages on the back of vans ( obviously not going to a groomer) I’m glad I didn’t go there and you’re right- tourists don’t want to be associated with an area that not only kills and eats dogs, but also tortures them before they eventually die. I have friends who have no interest in coming here and this is one of the reasons.

    • Jenny Molloy says:

      it is a real thing, happening now and it hasn’t stopped even with the government saying it is now illegal! more awareness needs to be put out there as hard as it is to watch, the more people are aware, the more change can happen

  7. Jenny Molloy says:

    Natalie, why don’t you comment on recent posts? Tourists do not want to eat dog mostly and yes you do need to think of dogs as dogs and not just meat dogs, same as people are one, not just different based on the colour of their skin! there is a lot to be learned here for Vietnam

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