While attending the 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Animal Welfare Institute Legislative Assistant, Rosalyn Morrison, an expert in the South Korean dog and cat meat trade, expanded her mission to end the dog meat trade to Southeast Asia.
“Unlike South Korea, the dog meat trade in the Philippines is illegal, so there is more of a chance to shut operations down,” Rosalyn says comparing the countries.
Whereas medicinal superstition is the primary reason for consuming dog and cat meat in South Korea, these false health benefits are not the cultural basis for the consumption of dog meat in the Philippines.
Rosalyn believes the dog meat trade in the Philippines could be eradicated, however, “There is lack of oversight from the police,” Rosalyn explains. “They are in dire need of law enforcement.”
“We went to conduct a raid and document it, but could not locate a dog-smuggling transport,” Rosalyn says. Although the dog meat trade is a much smaller industry in the Philippines than it is in South Korea and China, dogs are collected from all over and transported throughout the country.
“Some dogs die of exhaustion during transport,” Rosalyn says, describing transports as multiple dogs cramped in cages, then stacked on top of each other.
In entirety, the dog meat trade is exacerbated by a larger regional problem in the countries of China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Rosalyn’s visit to Southeast Asia also included a tour of Soi Dog Foundation, a legally registered charitable non-profit in Phuket, Thailand that helps homeless, neglected, and abused dogs; Rosalyn met with Soi Dog Foundation Vice President, John Dalley.
“We do not believe that attacking the dog meat industry on the grounds of cruelty will be effective,” John states. “Attacks on countries where the eating of dog meat is not illegal, notably Korea, has had a negative effect.”
“Targeting health issues is the way to go,” says John, specifically referring to Rabies and outbreaks of Cholera and Trichinosis in Vietnam.
Soi Dog Foundation recently established a coalition with Humane Society International, Animals Asia, and Change for Animals Foundation. Planning to hold a conference in Hanoi in August with government representatives from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, John says, “The initial aim is to stop the cross border trade of dogs, based on all these countries’ commitment as members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations to eliminate rabies by the year 2020.”
“We have clear evidence that the trade seriously compromises this agreement.”
“The cross border trade is illegal in all of these countries based on rabies control regulations,” John continues. “Representatives from the World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health will be invited to the conference, which will also offer solutions to stray animal control.”
If successful, John hopes, “We can use the stopping of the cross border trade to further efforts within individual countries. Even where not illegal, the dog meat industry is unregulated leading to potential human health issues.” This is the methodology used in Thailand, where the dog meat trade is illegal.
“Whichever country, where the dog meat industry is an issue,” John says, “it is important that change is driven from within wherever possible.” However, this does not necessarily preclude international pressure.
John notes that international pressure in Thailand is effective because Thailand is very conscious of its national image overseas. Contrarily, in Korea, international pressure has galvanized support for the dog meat industry based on nationalism.
“It is noticeable that in the largest dog eating countries of China, Vietnam, and Korea there is a growing number of local people fighting the industry.” John adds, “The focus should be on supporting these groups.”
“Stopping the cross border trade is a very realistic objective as is stopping the domestic trade,” John firmly believes. “Thailand is a great opportunity to set an example to other countries in the region.”