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Vietnam’s Dogs are Both Humans’ Best Friends and Snacks

In Vietnam, dog lovers had best keep their pooches behind high, locked fences if they don't want their pets to wind up boiled in a pot, served fried with a sprig of cilantro or twirling over a barbecue pit.

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A Vietnamese man lovingly gazes at his dog, Op-kun (front). Two days later, Op-kun was snatched up by a restaurant thief and never seen again. Photo: R Nuwer

In Vietnam, dog lovers had best keep their pooches behind high, locked fences if they don’t want their pets to wind up boiled in a pot, served braised with a sprig of cilantro or twirled over a barbecue pit. Dog meat is a treat commonly enjoyed in Vietnam, especially among men. To supply the thit cho, or dog meat, dog-stealing pirates on motorbikes often make runs through neighborhoods in search of friendly pets to snatch up while owners’ backs are turned.

With the police turning a blind eye to the puppy-snatching epidemic, some citizens are fighting back. MY Sinchew reports:

Dog-theft related mob violence has spiralled over the last few years.

In June, a man was beaten to death after hundreds of villagers caught him red-handed trying to steal a family dog in Nghe An province, the VNExpress news site reported, triggering an outpouring of public support for the mob.

“It’s not right to beat a man to death but anyone in this situation would do the same,” one reader, who lost a pet to the bandits, wrote on the site.

Some canine-loving Vietnamese are calling for the government to ban dog meat. Enforcement on such issues is lax in Vietnam, however, and even endangered (and already banned) species are frequently served up in some posh Vietnamese dining establishments. Plus, animal cruelty laws are virtually nonexistent.

Until the (reportedly) more pet friendly younger generation replaces the dog-eating traditions of older citizens, flash mobs and high fences will likely continue to be the only things standing between people’s pets and the deep frier.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Tracking America’s First Dogs 

Man’s Best Friend or World’s #1 Pest?

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