With thousands of miles of porous borders, ailand is continuously ghting illicit international trades. e border with Laos is over 1700km long and over half of that is the natural boundary of the River Mekong. Most know about the ght against the drug or endangered wildlife trade. But few know that it is ghting another battle against a di erent type of animal trade - that of domesticated dogs.
Currently NGO’s, local o cials and the ai Mekong River navy, as well as a handful of concerned citizens, are ghting a continuous battle against the illegal dog meat trade. Stolen and bought dogs are collected throughout the country, and brought together in remote areas of Northeast ailand. Here, deep in forest hideaways, the dogs are stu ed in to metal cages, before being illegally shipped across the Mekong in the middle of the night, to Laos where they make their way overland, sometimes thousands at a time, up to the dog meat restaurants of Northern Vietnam.
In April 2013 alone, almost 2000 dogs were rescued having been caught before shipped to Laos. e culprits o en ee the scene or are given lenient nes of a tiny US$30 for trying to smuggle hundreds of dogs. How many dogs get past the o cials and across the border per year is unknown but believed to be tens of thousands.
e epicentre of ailand’s dog meat is a small town called Ta Rae. Home to a large population of Vietnamese Catholics who arrived here during the US war and never returned. Little evidence of the trade can be seen on the streets but it is where the masterminds live, control- ling the entire trade. Buying a dog in ailand can cost as little as US$8 yet are sold in Vietnam for up to US$100, making it an extremely pro table trade and one very hard to stop.
My work follows the trade route from its source, Ta Rae in Sakhon Nakhon Province and the rescued dogs in Nakhon Phanom, across the Mekong in to Laos and nally to the slaughter houses of Hanoi. It is di cult how to deal with this issue. Vietnamese have eaten dogs for thousands of years and don’t have the same connection to them as other nations. To them they are simply animals for consumption as cows or pigs are.
But one thing that does need to happen is the improved welfare of the actual dogs themselves and how they are treated. ere are dealt with horrendously and if they are still alive by the time they reach Hanoi they are already in very bad condition both physically and psychologically.