Nguyen Anh Phuong (second from left)
Working as a tour guide for inbound tours for the last 10 years, Nguyen Anh Phuong has met many travelers who consider dog meat eating as ‘odd’. They show strong objection or don’t want to hear the word ‘dog meat’ at all.
“Some travelers told me they won’t accept the slaughtering of dogs and using dog meat as food. If they see dogs being attacked or killed, they will try to prevent the behavior, even though the dogs are not theirs,” Phuong said.
Mostly serving Spanish and Portuguese speaking tourists, Phuong said that 50 percent of tourists from the markets protest against the use of dog meat as food in Vietnam. They grimace and turn their eyes away if they see dog meat sold at sidewalk shops or at traditional markets.
“One day I led a group of tourists to the Old Quarter in Hanoi. A member of the group asked me why Vietnamese eat dog meat. Before I could reply, another tourist harshly waved his hands: ‘Don’t talk about dog meat, I don’t want to hear it. It’s scary’ and then turned away,” Phuong recalled.
When going with tourists to rural areas such as Ninh Binh and Nam Dinh to enjoy the countryside, Phuong and tourists can see people carrying dogs in iron cages.
“They ask me where the people are carrying the dogs. I try to explain that once families don’t want to breed dogs anymore, they sell the dogs,” Phuong said.
Quang Dinh, an experienced tour guide, said when seeing dog meat, most travelers show surprise and curiosity, but they are polite and don’t harshly protest.
“Every nation has its own culture. Spanish people, for example, eat rabbit meat, but British don’t. They respect the culture of the host countries,” he explained.
|Most foreign travelers are against the use of dog meat as food and some of them show harsh opposition, but there are some travelers who want to try dog meat.
However, some tourists have an attitude of disparagement, considering the slaughtering of dogs as ‘barbarous’.
“In this case, I have to explain to them why Vietnamese began eating dog meat in the past. And I tell them that the number of people eating dog meat has decreased. Many people love this animal. I myself have a cat and a dog at home and I never eat dog or cat meat,” he said.
When foreign travelers try dog meat
Dinh and Phuong said not all foreign travelers oppose the eating of dog meat. Many travelers even ask about dog meat dishes and about the addresses of shops that provide high-quality dog meat.
“There are many people who travel to experience and discover new things. They even want to challenge themselves. They want to try the things that exist only in Vietnam, such as fish sauce, pipe tobacco, dog meat and snake meat,” Dinh said.
“Sometimes I have led travelers to try some ‘horror’ dishes such as clam worms. But I politely refused the proposal for dog meat. I told them that Vietnamese don’t sell and don’t eat dog meat on the first days of the lunar month,” he said.
Kieu Thanh, a tour guide who mostly serves tourists from the US, said: “A young man asked me to buy dog meat for him to try. I told him that I could find dog meat nearby. The man then decided to go to buy dog meat at a market, brought it to the hotel and asked the hotel to process the dog meat for him. I only heard the story from hotel officers after the tourist left,” Thanh said.
Tour guides’ explanations
The fact that dog meat is sold at pavement shops and traditional markets affects foreign travelers’ thoughts about Vietnam. Because of their surprise and curiosity, tour guides have to give reasonable explanations about dog meat.
“We usually have to ease travelers’ anger or displeasure when seeing dog meat at shops. The image of slaughtered dogs can be an obsession for travelers. We try to explain to foreign travelers that not many Vietnamese still eat dog meat,” Thanh said.
“There are not as many shops selling dog meat as seen in the past,” she said.
Before serving groups of tourists from different markets, Phuong has to learn carefully about their cultures so that he can ‘move with the times’.
“I explain to foreign tourists that every nation has its own culture. For example, when I visit their countries, I won’t eat rotten shark meat or aged cheese,” Phuong said.
Many tour guides, like Dinh, Phuong and Thanh, have supported Hoi An authorities’ decision not to use dog and cat meat.
“I believe this will receive positive feedback from foreign travelers. I hope the move will be followed by other cities and provinces and all Vietnamese will say ‘no’ to dog and cat meat,” Phuong said.