I officially crossed into uncharted cuisine waters when I finally tried dog meat in Vietnam.
I know the repulse some might feel and am aware of the judgment others may send my way for it. I also know many will say, “It’s about time,” and shrug it off as no big deal. I totally understand both sides so here’s some food for thought, literally.
I swore I’d never eat dog meat. I was repulsed at the idea and often threw scorn at it as totally inhumane and sickening. I thought it was wrong. Dogs are mans best friend, so how can we eat them? They are pets and companions, not food. I looked at it in bewilderment and disgust. I would cringe when I drove past a row of stalls serving dog meat. I was against it and I had reasons to be against it but I am living in a culture different from mine and after much hesitation, I had to re-evaluate my views. Ultimately, a decision was made that it deserved at least one try.
In celebration for a friend’s birthday, on the table were dog meat, beef, pig tail, and strands of pig penis. I had eaten all of the previously mentioned in the past, excluding dog meat. I promised myself I’d never eat dog but I also promised myself that I would do everything I could to accept and embrace Vietnamese culture in every way possible.
We were at a large bia hoi (a place unique to northern Vietnam which serves fresh beer at amazingly cheap prices). The place was packed as most bia hoi’s are after working hours, especially during the World Cup. Dish after dish was brought out and eventually the dog arrived.
Something about knowing it was dog made it very difficult to eat. After some hesitation, I grabbed a piece with my chop-sticks where it stayed for quite some time. I stared at the meat. I thought about it. I wondered if this is really something I could do. I thought about all the strange and interesting foods I’d tried. From snake to scorpion, I’ve eaten many things in my time living abroad that would be very bizarre to me back home. Finally, I shook my head and said out-loud, “There’s no turning back now.”
I took the piece into my mouth and focused on chewing; trying not to think about what it was I was eating. Dog meat is very chewy and I found myself chewing longer than I anticipated, thus causing me to think. I thought too much and nearly gagged. After (a lot of) chewing, I managed to swallow the meat. Once I got it down, I started to feel a little guilty but then I began to rethink my stance which I had held quite strongly for so long.
Had I thought it was duck, or beef, or chicken, or pork, surely I would have had no problem chewing away and scarfing it down. I wouldn’t have thought about what I was eating, I would have simply eaten it. However, knowing it was dog made me struggle to get it down. It took concentration just to swallow.
Before one is quick to condemn the eating of dogs, many things should be considered. First and foremost, this is a long-standing part of Vietnamese culture.
Don’t assume this is something barbaric that only happens in a third-world country. South Korea, a highly-developed nation, regularly consumes dog also. In Vietnam, people don’t grab dogs off the streets or use pets to eat. Many people keep dogs and cats as pets and not everybody in the nation consumes dog, as a matter of fact, most probably do not. In Vietnam, only one type of dog, referred to as “cho ta”, is consumed and they are bred on a farm, or at least so I’m told. I’m not advocating eating dog but I certainly have no right to come into another country and tell them not to unless the animal is endangered or illegal to consume, which I am firmly opposed to.
The point is, before we judge the eating of any form of meat, we need to be careful of hypocrisy. Pigs are highly intelligent animals (and said to be great pets) but most meat-eaters consume pork with no problem. What’s the difference between eating pig and eating dog when both are being bred and slaughtered for consumption?
Ultimately, it is another form of meat, raised and bred in the same fashion as the pork, chicken or beef many are so used to eating. It isn’t any more or less humane than eating any other type of meat. Nobody is forced to eat dog and the process is no different from many of the other meats that are consumed worldwide. I’m not sure that I’ll ever try dog again, but I think I gave it a fair shot and have come to realize that just because something is strange, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. After all, this is Vietnam and we eat just about everything. Back to News Main Page