Slaughterhouse operated in open defiance of 1998 cat meat ban
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam––“In a ground-breaking victory against the dog and cat meat trade in Vietnam, a cat slaughterhouse has been forced to cease operations,” announced Soi Dog Foundation director of international advocacy Rahul Sehgal in a March 23, 2022 appeal to potential donors.
“This was not just any slaughterhouse,” Sehgal stipulated. “This was an industrial-scale operation that was claiming the lives of up to 500 cats every single day.
“Now the lives of 197 cats found alive are on the line. Ninety percent of these cats are believed to be domesticated.”
Appeal understated the case
The Sehgal appeal was not just hyperbole meant to cause viewers to reach for their credit cards. Indeed, Sehgal understated the case, summarized by Agence France Presse and CBS on February 17, 2023 from Vietnamese state media reports.
“Vietnamese police have discovered around 2,000 dead cats intended for use in traditional medicine,” the Agence France Presse account began. “The bodies of the felines were found at a slaughterhouse in Dong Thap province in the Mekong Delta, together with 480 live animals, according to the official provincial newspaper.
“The cats were in cold storage and believed to be destined for northern Vietnam,” Agence France Presse said.
Killing cats for meat has been illegal in Vietnam since 1998, but the law has been lightly enforced. Prosecutions of alleged offenders, including two husband-and-wife operations, were announced in 2013, 2015, and 2017, but the February 2023 cat slaughterhouse raid was the first reported to western media since a similar but much smaller raid announced by the Austria-based international animal aid organization Four Paws (Vier Pfoten) in December 2020.
The Dong Thap cat slaughterhouse raid was also among the first visible indications that the Soi Dog Foundation, headquartered in Phuket, Thailand, is making headway in a campaign “to end the brutal dog and cat meat trade” in Vietnam, announced on September 28, 2022 by Soi Dog Foundation president John Dalley, who has led the organization since 2004.
“Soi Dog Foundation has officially partnered with the Vietnamese government’s Department of Animal Health in Hanoi to help rid Vietnam of dog-mediated rabies by 2030,” Dalley said.
“In doing so,” explained Dalley, “we have a golden opportunity to prove the link between the dog and cat meat trade and the transmission of rabies and, ultimately, shut down the trade for good.
Recalled Dalley, “In 2013, when Soi Dog was in the midst of a successful fight against the trade here in Thailand, I stood in front of government leaders from across Southeast Asia and told them, “Stopping the dog and cat meat trade will not eliminate rabies, but I guarantee you that if we do not stop this trade, we will never eliminate rabies.
“That statement is as true now, almost a decade later, as it was then,” Dalley said.
(See Dog meat trade spreads rabies in Vietnam.)
Rabies in cats
Cats, when bitten by another rabid animal tend to die soon after contracting rabies, but in the brief interim while still alive after a rabid bite become lethargic, weak in the hindquarters, and easily captured by cat meat dealers.
Then, going into the furious final stage of rabies, a rabid cat packed into a truck with hundreds of others may infect dozens before succumbing en route to be killed for meat.
Each of the other infected cats may in turn infect any other animals or humans with whom they come into contact.
Rabies in dogs
Canine rabies afflicts dogs somewhat differently. A dog may carry rabies, and transmit rabies through bites, for weeks or even sometimes months, before exhibiting any active symptoms. This means dogs have a much longer opportunity to infect other animals, or humans.
But, like a cat, a rabid dog is more easily captured, and because a rabid dog tends to live longer, a rabid dog in the meat trade is even more likely to spread rabies from place to place for relatively long distances.
(See Rabies risk is medically identified from eating dogs & cats and More medical warnings link dog meat to rabies.)
“Routine testing to prove the rabies risk”
“As long as innocent dogs are being stolen from streets and homes, shipped across the country and slaughtered,” Dalley emphasized, both in 2013 and in 2022, “we will not see an end to canine rabies. The two go hand in hand.
“Our joint work with the Department of Animal Health,” Dalley said, “will include routine testing of samples from dog and cat slaughterhouses to prove the rabies risk; strategic rabies vaccination campaigns and outbreak response; and education of at-risk communities, including targeted materials for children.
“A rabies surveillance system will help guide these efforts to ensure the data collected and the actions taken are as effective and accurate as possible.”
“Data is important here”
“Data is important here,” Dalley insisted.
“Emotional pleas to end the trade on the basis of the cruelty involved have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. Instead, we must present governments with the cold, hard facts: that the dog and cat meat trade is harming their people as well as their animals.
“No human should be lost to this entirely preventable disease, and no dog or cat should be lost to this brutal trade,” Dalley said.
But Dalley did not discount the cruelty involved in the dog and cat meat trade, either.
“In 19 years with the Soi Dog Foundation,” Dalley recounted, “I have sadly seen a great deal of cruelty, but the dog and cat meat trade surely comes top of the list.
“To me, and I’m sure to you too, there is nothing more barbaric than the slaughter of companion animals, which takes place in the most brutal ways imaginable and solely for human gain.”
“I witnessed the cruelty first-hand”
“I witnessed the cruelty involved first-hand,” Dalley testified, “when we took on the dog and cat meat traders in Thailand in a three-year fight that resulted in the trade being eradicated and the country’s first animal welfare law being introduced.
“In the process of fighting the trade between 2011 and 2014, thousands of animals were rescued and rehomed around the world. Once destined for a slow death for a quick meal, many of these lucky animals are still alive, safe and very much loved to this day,” Dalley said.
“Success in Thailand”
“Seeing success in Thailand fueled our fire and our determination to achieve the same in other Asian countries.
“In the years that followed, we launched nationwide campaigns, worldwide petitions and partnered with organizations and authorities on the ground in Vietnam, Cambodia, and South Korea. Slowly but surely, public opinion is shifting, and real change is taking place.
“In Cambodia, the slaughter of dogs was banned in the popular tourist province of Siem Reap. In South Korea, working with our partner ARK119, slaughterhouses were shut down and dogs rescued.”
Gains against rabies
As well as making progress against dog-and-cat consumption, the Soi Dog Foundation is making demonstrable gains against rabies.
As of 2013, when Dalley brokered a four-nation suspension of dog meat imports and exports among Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, Vietnam reported more than 100 human rabies deaths per year. From 2017 through 2021, Vietnam averaged 76 human rabies deaths per year.
Only 40 human rabies deaths were reported in Vietnam during the first eight months of 2022.
10 days wages for average Vietnamese
The Soi Dog Foundation intervention on behalf of the 197 surviving cats from the Dong Thap slaughterhouse raid ensures that they will not meet the same fate as reportedly several thousand stolen cats who were illegally trucked into Vietnam from China in January 2015, and after impoundment were reportedly buried alive as suspected disease risks.
(See Horrific events spark rise of animal advocacy in Vietnam.)
Contrary to common western impression, dogs and cats are not consumed in some Asian nations as “cheap meat.”
Agence France-Presse correspondent Cat Barton reported in July 2014 that the going price of cat meat in Hanoi was $50 to $75 per cat, depending on size, about the equivalent of 10 days’ wages for the average Vietnamese citizen.
Jamaka Petzak says
Horrific and evil.
Thank you for reporting on this heinous crime.
On the same day I received this article in my email, I also coincidentally got one from Vegan.com titled, 11 Vietnam Vegan Restaurant Reviews. Here’s hoping that Soi Dog’s achievement represents the last gasp of one hideous industry, and the review collection points toward the rise of a far more positive one in this part of the world.
Debora Jane SANDERSON says
SO MUCH EVIL IN THIS WORLD. THESE PEOPLE ARE STUPID AND UNEDUCATED.