Heather & Hayley are reunited with Mothi and Stewart
For me being a vet has always been an incredibly rewarding career, and I’ve found that I particularly enjoy frontline emergency response work. So I was delighted when the Worldwide Veterinary services and Soi Dogs offered me the opportunity of contributing to the veterinary care of dogs rescued from the meat trade in Thailand.
Over 2,000 dogs were rescued at the Thai border en route to dog meat restaurants in Vietnam. The unlicensed export of dogs from Thailand is illegal, but unfortunately a thriving illegal trade exists. Most dogs are community or street dogs, living free-ranging lifestyles but generally owned and fed by village families. These dogs are rounded up in the night by traders, or sometimes sold by their owners. In a place where there is an excess of dogs and a lack of resources, its easy to understand why trade may occur.
Many groups campaign against the trade in dog meat and a multi-stakeholder organisation, the Asia Canine Protection Alliance has recently been formed to take a united stance against this trade. There is much debate around the trade in dogs for meat, with opinions ranging from ‘dogs are no more sentient than sheep or pigs – why shouldn’t they be consumed?’ to ‘Dogs are companions and should not be eaten.’ Personally, of course I see dogs primarily as companions – I’ve never lived without a dog in my life. But the rational scientist within me also understands that sheep or pigs are equally as capable of feeling fear, pain and distress and so I cannot draw a line between these species. For me, what is important is that any animal raised for food, is raised in a humane way, able to express it’s natural behaviours, transported humanely, and slaughtered quickly and painlessly with appropriate pre-slaughter handling and stunning. Of course a black market trade in a species not regulated for human consumption fits none of these criteria. And if we were to try and develop humane systems for dog farming and slaughter, how would that be done? A primarily carnivorous, historically predatory species, kept in large numbers, unhandleable and aggressive. The slaughter of such dogs is necessarily brutal.
Intercepted by the Thai border patrol, the arrival of the rescued dogs swelled the total number of dogs at the Nakon Phanom shelter to 3,049 – in a shelter designed for only 400. Immediate concerns were the triage and treatment of so many dogs, the provion of adequate food and water, and the prevention of infectious disease which would sweep through the overcrowded, dirty pens like wildfire.