Thailand remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and for good reason. Its tropical climate, welcoming people, pristine beaches and relatively cheap cost of living continue to draw millions of visitors annually.
It may come as a surprise then that this beautiful country holds a dark secret that most visitors, expat residents, and even the Thai people themselves, remain blissfully unaware of. The majority will never hear of a trade of shame that takes place far from those scenic beaches and captivating cities.
As you read this, dogs are being rounded up on the streets of northern and north-eastern Thailand, crushed into tiny, over-filled cages and smuggled illegally into neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, where they are destined for slaughter and consumption.
The dogs – many of them stolen pets – are transported for days, in unbearable heat, without food or water. During the journey, many will suffocate slowly, die from heat exhaustion, or be crushed to death under the weight of other dogs crammed on top of them. These are the lucky ones.
Those that survive the journey will arrive at a primitive slaughterhouse, where they will be brutally beaten and then either skinned or boiled alive. These horrific practices take place due to the barbaric belief that the adrenaline released during torture enhances the flavour of the meat.
The dog meat trade is one of the largest animal welfare concerns in the world. Despite being illegal in Thailand, this most evil of trades has seen half a million Thai dogs transported to the most inhumane of deaths every year.
Soi Dog Foundation, the largest stray animal protection organisation in South-East Asia, has been actively working to end a trade so incomprehensibly brutal that most residents or visitors to Thailand simply wouldn’t believe it exists. You do not have to be an animal lover to find some of the organisation’s video footage extremely distressing.
Thanks to public awareness billboards placed along the smuggling routes, warning dog thieves of prosecution and offering financial rewards to those that report them, the Royal Thai Police and Royal Thai Army have made hundreds of arrests and thousands of dogs have been rescued. Many have found new homes abroad.
Following a dramatic decline in the number of large trucks observed transporting hundreds of dogs in broad daylight between Thailand and Vietnam, Soi Dog’s focus is now shifting to the new methods being employed by those involved in this criminal trade.
Soi Dog founder John Dalley said, “It definitely appears that the large scale movement of live dogs from Thailand to Vietnam has been stopped for now, and we are grateful for the support of the governments of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for making this happen. Of course, smugglers will try other methods, and we are aware of a new trade to China and the exporting of slaughtered dogs from Thailand to Laos for processing there. We will continue to fight these new ways of profiting from Thailand’s dogs.”
Soi Dog Foundation has now launched a major viral video campaign with several international celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Judi Dench, who are committed to bringing Thailand’s sinister secret to the attention of the world. The campaign is called – appropriately enough – I Didn’t Know.
An online petition calls for the Thai government to put an immediate end to the trade, arrest the perpetrators, and provide funding for the thousands of rescued dogs currently housed in government shelters funded by Soi Dog.
Emphasis is placed on the very real threat of spreading rabies through the illegal transfer of unvaccinated dogs across international borders, as well as the health risks associated with eating dog meat, with outbreaks of Cholera and Trichinellosis already linked to the practice in Vietnam and China.
The organisation maintains that as long as Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade continues, the country’s commitment, as a member of ASEAN, to eliminate rabies by 2020 will be under close scrutiny.
And with the most horrific form of cruelty to man’s best friend about to be exposed by globally respected celebrities, the eyes of animal lovers around the world will be on Thailand.
No longer will the country’s visitors and residents be able to say they didn’t know.
To find out more about how you can help the fight against Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade, please visit:
Soi Dog Foundation is a not-for-profit, legally registered charitable organisation in Thailand, the United States, Australia, the UK, France and Holland. Soi Dog helps the homeless, neglected and abused dogs and cats of Thailand, works to end the dog meat trade throughout the region, and responds to animal welfare disasters and emergencies.
By Maeve Henry