When images of Thailand are broadcast abroad they tend to be of the holidays-in-paradise sort: of happy elephants frolicking in a river, or white sandy beaches. However, in recent months a new spate of videos that show the Kingdom in a much, much less flattering light have been spreading around the world: Thai dogs crammed into cages for export to meat-eating countries, namely China and Vietnam.
Street dogs and beloved pets alike have fallen fowl of this dastardly and illegal cross border trade, thousands disappearing from streets and homes all across the land. And that is not even the worst of it… the conditions under which these dogs are transported and slaughtered are inhumane to say the least, with many dying from suffocation long before they reach neighbouring countries. They, in reality, are the lucky ones. Often, those that are still alive are tortured for hours before being skinned alive. The reason for this is that people believe that the pain inflicted leads to the tenderising of the meat. Most shocking of all, is that some dogs are still alive when their fur is removed.
How could this be allowed to happen, especially in a dogloving nation such as this one? According to John Dalley, vice president of the Soi Dog Foundation, a Thai charity working hard to end this appalling practice, a lot of the reason stems from the disinterest or ineptitude of the authorities. “No penalties have ever been imposed on the traders who are making millions of dollars per year from what is an unimaginably inhumane trade,” he says. “The trading and eating of dog meat is abhorred by the vast majority of Thais and this multi-million dollar industry in effect run by a criminal mafia. Despite this being open knowledge the Thai authorities appear unable or unwilling to halt the dog meat trade at its source and thereby prevent this suffering from continuing.”
Despite the grim outlook, progress is being made. Soi Dog along with other animal welfare groups has presented draft legislation to the Thai Parliament for strong animal welfare laws to be enacted. And since active campaigning was begun in late 2011 more arrests of smugglers have occurred than during anytime in the past.
In late 2011 arrests were made in the northeastern province of Nakhom Phanom, with more than 1,000 dogs rescued from tiny cages. Four trucks were intercepted attempting to smuggle the dogs out of the country. The dogs, stacked high in metal cages were being transported to Vietnam for slaughter and consumption. 119 had already died of suffocation in the cramped cages.
In early January, a Thai navy patrol caught a gang of dog smugglers on the shore of the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province back. At least 750 dogs in small, rusty cages on a truck near a ferry ready to take them across the river to Laos were rescued. One Thai man was arrested on charges including illegal transportation of animals, while the other smugglers escaped.
More recently, on the 24 and 28 of July, a further 1,300 dogs were intercepted in Nakhon Phanom and Bueng Kan province in two separate raids carried out by the Thai Border Patrol and Royal Thai Navy, assisted by members of the Thai Animal Activists Alliance. Currently, all these traumatized mutts are being cared for in shelters in Buriram and Khemmarat, both in the northeast, as well as one in Kanchanaburi.
How can you help ensure they pull through and that more don’t experience the same wretched fate? According to the Soi Dog foundation, hard cash is what is really needed, preferably donations of $15, $25, $35 or $45 a month. Not only does this help fund their Trade of Shame campaign (which hopes to end the trade by pushing for stronger enforcement of existing laws and the introduction of stronger legislation), it’s also needed to cover thecosts of caring for the thousands of dogs they’ve saved since it began.
An estimated half a million baht a month is needed to feed, treat, sterilize and vaccinate the dogs they currently have in their care. Vaccinating them is especially important as without it there is a real danger of them being wiped out by distemper and parvo, as has happened with other rescued dogs in the past. In other words, these dogs can be saved but not without your support and generosity.