This is a touchy subject but it is part of Asian foodways. I was recently interviewed for a Los Angeles Times article on US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lucius's effort to change Vietnamese mindset on the eating of dog meat.
While serving as an attache at the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, Lucius locked eyes with a dog that was destined to be slaughtered. The event precipitated his becoming a vegan and launching a Kairos Coalition, an educational nonprofit that aims to end animal cruelty.
Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Chawkins and I talked about Vietnamese foodways and the eating of dog meat. Chawkins's provocative article was published today.
Take a read of his article. I've also found several others for your consideration.
- Marine Fights Vietnam's Dog-Meat Tradition (Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times, 12/13/10)
- China Banning Dog Meat? (Robyn Eckhardt, Zester Daily, 2/19/10)
- The Dog Meat Mafia (4-part series on Southeast Asia's dog meat trade) (Patrick Winn, Global Post, 11/29/09)
- I've Got Dog Breadth and My Puppy Might Know (Mark Lowerson, Sticky Rice, 2005)
- What's Wrong with Eating Dogs? (William Saletan, Slate, 2002)
I've never eaten dog meat but understand that it has a special taste that some people love. Certain breeds are bred for food while many others are kept as pets. As Vietnam's economy improves, you see more people with pet dogs. Nevertheless, the practice of eating dog meat endures.
Dog is treated as a specialty food in parts of Asia. It's an exotic meat, a delicacy so to speak. Not all Asian people eat dog. Sadly, there have been awful stereotypes of Asian people as dog meat eaters. It is not everyday food. There are many other things to eat!
In Vietnam, dog is mostly a northern thing. A head-to-tail rigor is applied to the carcass and little is wasted. The flesh can be skewered and grilled or simmered into stewy dishes. The entrails are made into sausages.
Robust galangal, lemongrass, shrimp sauce (mam tom), and turmeric are the common seasonings in Vietnamese dog preparations. In Vietnamese, dog meat is called "thit cho" and "thit cay." There are restaurants that specialize in it so you'll likely see it on signage in Vietnam.
There are also a number of Vietnamese mock dog dishes that employ pork as a substitute. Cookbooks published in Vietnam typically list recipes for dog meat in addition to those featuring pork, beef, rabbit, and goat — just to name the four-legged animals.
Chawkins' article points out that dogs are sometimes tortured before being harvested. The theory is that such an animal is good for the male libido. That's ridiculous. It is cruel to treat an animal with such disrespect, especially when it will grace your table. Seriously.
What are your thoughts on Asia's dog-meat eating tradition? With regard to Lucius's campaign to alter Vietnamese foodways, do you think that is it cultural imperialism? Cultural relativism? An animal rights/cruelty issue?
Thanks for weighing in. I realize that this may be an uncomfortable subject to ponder.