What a difference a couple of generations make. From the 1960s to the early 1970s, Vietnam was engaged in a protracted war with the United States that led to devastating mortal and social consequences for our country. Today, Vietnam is a travel destination for adventurous Americans, celebrated in part for its lively street food culture and best exemplified by 2016 images of President Obama and the late chef Anthony Bourdain breaking bread on an episode of Mr. Bourdain’s television show. But it seems there is about to be a shift in the country’s vibrant food scene.
As of 2021, a ban on dog meat will go into effect in the tourism-heavy “inner districts” of the country’s capital, Hanoi, both to cut down on the risk of people contracting infectious diseases from dogs, including rabies (people still die in Vietnam from rabies), and to polish the country’s image. Says the government, using dogs for meat “is a negative image for international tourists and foreigners coming to work in Hanoi,” which strives to be recognized as a civilized and modern capital.
There are an estimated 500,000 dogs in Hanoi, with between 85 and 90 percent of them owned as pets and the rest used for meat. Sometimes, reports say, pets are stolen for the restaurant industry; more than 1,000 shops in the city offer dog (and cat) meat. But the tide will change not only because of new government urging and regulations. Vietnamese citizens, like people all over the world, tap into social media and see the way dogs are treated in other countries, and that’s starting to have an impact on public opinion.