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In the United States, there is a clear separation between the animals we consider food and the animals we consider companion animals. Culturally, Americans consider dogs and cats companions, and animals like chickens and cows “food,” but in other regions of the world, animals that Americans consider friends or companions are one in the same with food animals. In fact, Animals Asia reports that an estimated 5 million dogs are slaughtered for food each year.

In some parts of Asia, dog meat is a traditional food source and is consumed during festivals, however, as you may imagine, there is much controversy surrounding this practice. The dog meat trade has evolved over time into a large scale, multi-million dollar trade. However, the trade is largely illegal or unregulated, and outbreaks such as rabies, cholera, and trichinellosis have resulted from the consumption of tainted dog meat.

Not only is the dog meat trade an issue of animal cruelty, but it is also a great public health concern. In an attempt to stave off these issues, the governments of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam instated a five year ban on the movement of dogs between these four countries. The initial decision was put in place thanks to the help of Asia Canine Protection Alliance, with the belief that a moratorium would help control the spread of rabies between the countries.

A year later, the moratorium is working! In the past, nearly half a million dogs were brought between the four countries every year, but this year Animals Asia reports the import of dogs has been reduced to a “trickle.”

Animals Asia Vietnam director, Tuan Bendixsen, stated, “The ban has been more successful than we ever could have hoped for, and we have met with positivity from all the governments. It’s expected that when you plug the major route, several smaller routes will start to evolve, but we can be confident that this is on a far smaller scale than what was happening before.”

This is certainly a step in the right direction, and in tangent with the ban, the public demand for dog meat has also dropped significantly.

Animals Asia reported further, “With diminishing demand for dog meat, reports have suggested many dog meat restaurants are closing.”

This is a stunning example of how an integrative approach to a complex issue can be solved with the help of advocates on many levels. From the groups working to influence government policy and those on the ground spreading the word and facts about the harm done to public health, the dog meat trade appears to be on its way out. If this is the progress that has been made in just the first year, imagine what can be done in the next five!

Image source: Jrcyber/Wikimedia Commons