I’ve come to learn during my time here in Asia that animals must have a very different experience with people. Compared to a lot of other places in the world. I mean they usually end up in a pot, pan or on a fire once they’ve kicked the bucket. They feed the people. It makes sense. In this aspect all animals are equal. In most cases (cows in India being one of few exceptions…).
People in Vietnam and many other Asian countries eat dogs and cats, for example. This sounded absurd to me when I first arrived, I didn’t realize how normal and common it is here.
“How can you eat a pet? How does that even work? Whose pets get eaten? Do you wait for your own pet or a friends pet to die naturally and then eat them? Are there like dog and cat farms?” I needed to get the answers to these questions and solve this mystery.
I quickly learnt the Vietnamese word for dog meat (thit cho) and cat meat (thit meo). “Meo” is the sound a cat makes and its the name for it in Vietnamese, which was easy to remember. Once I started looking I saw restaurants selling dog meat all over the place. Cat meat isn’t so popular, I didn’t see many places selling it. I found out after some questioning that its meat is very tough and bitter. Kind of like its character.
Early on in my quest to solve the mysteries of pet eating I walked past a small meat market. To my amazement, there were about five different stalls with people selling dog meat. My heart nearly came out my mouth. Whole dogs, heads and all. Teeth baring. It was quite traumatic the first time. Meat obviously wasn’t just meat in my mind. Had it been pigs or cows on display, I’d be licking my lips.
For some reason eating a dog just made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I thought I’d be hated by every dog I tried to play with after eating one – they might sense it, you know. The more I thought about it and spoke to the friends I had made playing football in Vietnam, the more ridiculous I realized I was being for putting dog meat on this pedestal.
Then I remembered the classic George Orwell novel, ‘Animal Farm’. He says “all animals are equal and some are more equal than others”. When we went out to eat with my friends they assured me that though they have tried it, none of them really like dog meat. A few of them kept saying “dog is my friend”. So I felt less ridiculous.
I have always eaten meat and I feel sad for people who choose not to. Anyone who has tried it will tell you that it tastes as good as it smells when its cooking. I feel sorry for vegetarians and vegans sometimes. Just give it a go one day, you will enjoy it.
Just before the Tet holiday we had a farewell dinner with all the guys from football. The beers were flowing, the rice wine was flowing. Delicious food and good laughs, a good time was being had. Then out of nowhere came about four heaped plates of barbecued meat on skewers. I got excited. Then –
“You want to try some dog Ivan?”
It was delicious! No wonder they are such friendly and loyal creatures to humans – they don’t want everyone finding out how tasty they are. The meat was unbelievably good, I had three skewers. While I was enjoying my last few bites wishing there was more, I hear giggling from across the table. When I look up, it’s the same guys who told me “dog is my friend”, in tears laughing. When they see me looking, the one guy says, with tears of laughter in his eyes – “Dog is my friend…but it tastes so good!!”