VIETNAM: A shocking revelation has reverberated across the global community as Gia Bao, a Vietnamese restaurant nestled in Thái Nguyên, northeastern Vietnam, recently shuttered its doors following exposure for the grisly practice of slaughtering up to 300 cats per month, serving them as a delicacy to its patrons.
The owner, Pham Quoc Doanh, acknowledged this appalling practice, citing dire financial circumstances as the driving force behind it.
“I felt sorry for them when I saw them suffering during slaughtering,” Doanh expressed in a press release published by the animal welfare organization Humane Society International (HSI).
“When I think of all the thousands of cats I’ve slaughtered and served up here over the years, it’s upsetting.”
The restaurant owner revealed that he introduced cat meat to the menu as a means of boosting profits and supporting his family, emphasizing the absence of other establishments in the vicinity selling such meat.
Humane Society International, recognizing the severity of the issue in Vietnam, initiated a program in 2022 that offers financial incentives to restaurants willing to cease the sale of cat and dog meat while facilitating the adoption of the animals.
Doanh participated in this program, receiving a one-time grant in exchange for closing down his restaurant and giving the animals away.
Reportedly, he now plans to open a grocery store, signalling a shift away from the controversial practice.
“Now that I’ve closed my cat-slaughter business, I feel more peaceful in my mind and feel confident and happy about my future without killing any more animals,” Doanh stated, expressing relief after abandoning the gruesome practice.
This incident sheds light on a broader issue in Vietnam, as animal welfare organizations like Four Paws and Change for Animals Foundation reported in a 2020 study that over 1 million stray and pet cats are killed in the country annually for their meat.
Dr Katherine Polak, a veterinary surgeon and Head of Four Paws Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia, revealed in a press release, “Some restaurants purchase the animals directly from cat thieves and slaughter them themselves on their premises, but most operate with wholesalers and slaughterhouses.”
The report highlighted disturbing methods used in the cat meat trade, including drowning, bludgeoning, boiling alive, and electrocution.
Many cats at wholesalers were found wearing collars, a clear sign that they were likely once beloved pets.
The intervention by HSI in Vietnam has not only led to the closure of Gia Bao but also prompted the shutdown of two dog restaurants in Thái Nguyên.
According to HSI, traders entice cats with food baits into homemade spring-loaded snares. Astonishingly, polls revealed that a staggering 87% of individuals either experienced pet theft or knew someone who had.
Additionally, distressing reports have surfaced concerning truckloads of both live and slaughtered cats being trafficked across the China border.
Cats (and dogs) endure harrowing journeys across Vietnam, often confined in the baggage holds of passenger buses for over 24 hours without respite, sustenance, or water, leading to numerous fatalities along the way.
A recent Nielsen opinion poll (Oct. 2023) commissioned by HSI shows that cat meat is consumed by a relative minority of the Vietnamese population (21%) with the majority (71%) in favour of a ban on both cat meat consumption and trade.
All 20 cats rescued from Mr Doanh’s slaughterhouse were relocated to a specially designed shelter at Thái Nguyên University of Agriculture and Forestry.
Here, they received essential vaccinations against rabies and are undergoing meticulous medical care, preparing them for eventual local adoption.
Persistent dog and cat meat consumption in Vietnam attributed to weak enforcement and ambiguous regulations
To combat animal cruelty, the Vietnamese Government established the Vietnam Animal Welfare Association in 2018 to prevent such acts and aid in investigations.
Nevertheless, a contentious debate regarding the morality of consuming dog meat has long persisted in Vietnam.
According to a 2021 report by Four Paws on dog and cat meat consumption in Vietnam, 88% of surveyed Vietnamese supported the prohibition of dog and cat meat trafficking.
However, opposing views exist, considering dog meat a traditional speciality dish prevalent in several South Asian countries, including Vietnam and South Korea.
Four Paws criticized the dog and cat meat trade for violating existing laws on infectious disease control, sanitation, cross-border transportation, theft, and animal welfare.
Vietnam’s media outlet Vnexpress reported that local authorities have urged the gradual phasing out of the trading and consumption of dog and cat meat.
They cited concerns such as the potential negative impact on tourism, especially among foreign visitors and expatriates, due to the perceived discomfort associated with consuming such meats.
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