Every year, hundreds of thousands of pet dogs in Thailand  captured and smuggled out of the country to supply the lucrative Vietnamese dog meat trade, The Guardian reports. In Vietnam, dog meat is regarded as a prized delicacy, and is regularly featured on the menus of the country’s high-end restaurants.

Dog meat is said to increase a man’s virility, help pregnant women to lactate more effectively and warm the blood on cold winter nights. In addition, it is commonly believed that the more viciously treated the dog is before being slaughtered, the more healthy and tender its meat will be. The Vietnamese demand for dog meat is so high that smugglers have taken to stealing dogs from Thai pet owners in order to supply it.

In Thailand, however, the dog smugglers’ actions have been met with a rising tide of anger. Soi Dog Foundation, an animal rights organization based there, has stated that since it began to actively campaign about this issue in late 2011, the Royal Thai Police have arrested more dog smugglers than any time in the past.

The World Health Organization has recently cited the dog meat trade as a major contributing factor in the recent outbreaks of rabies and cholera in South-East Asia. In response to these pandemics, Thai government officials have agreed to work with the Asia Canine Protection Alliance to put an end to the dog meat trade.

A five-year moratorium on the commercial transport of dogs between Thailand, Vietnam and other South-East Asian nations is to be enacted, and existing anti-smuggling regulations in these countries are to be more tightly enforced.

Pornpitak Panlar, an official with the Thai Department of Disease Control, has stated in an interview with the Bangkok Post that “we cannot change culture or habit, but we should stop the smuggling of dogs.”

Speaking about his government’s pledge to work with the ACPA, he said, “This meeting was important to urge government agencies to see the problems caused by the dog meat trade and discuss a platform to stop the spread of rabies.”

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