VietNamNet Bridge – A seminar on animal welfare in HCM City pressed the call for better treatment of animals in Vietnam, but the attitude of the public, and local authorities, towards the treatment of animals was a major obstacle, despite the damage it does to the country's international reputation.



Volunteers from Animals Asia taking care of a bear which is rescued from a bear farm in Vietnam



The two-day seminar, which opened September 26 and was convened by the Yeu Dong Vat (Animal Love) Vietnam organization in collaboration with the HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry, attracted the participation of more than 60 animal experts and activists from international and local animal protection organizations.

Le Duc Chinh, coordinator of the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) Vietnam, told the seminar more than five million dogs are killed for meat every year in Vietnam.

"I was heart-broken when I saw dogs being slaughtered at a restaurant in Hanoi," Chinh said. "And sadly this is happening everyday in Vietnam."

Chinh said that the ACPA was cooperating with some organisations and agencies to curb the trafficking of dogs from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia to Vietnam, and the large consumption of dog meat in the local market.

"Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Combodia have signed a deal to tightly control the trading of dogs among the four countries," Chinh said. "That is a big progess."

Vi Thao Nguyen, founder of Yeu Dong Vat, told the seminar that thousands of abandoned dogs and cats had been rescued over the past five years in Vientam and pet rescue groups had been established throughout the country.

"We've helped many dogs and cats find their new homes with loving owners, Nguyen said. "However, we're facing many difficulties including financial problems and people's lacking awareness of animal welfare."

The seminar heard of the five principles of animal welfare, including non-starvation, no mental and physical pain, health welfare, no nervousness, and the freedom to express instincts.

“The definition of animal welfare is still strange and vague in Vietnam,” Nguyen said. “Through this seminar, I want to make the public understand that any animal, any creature, needs basic welfare. Even if it is raised for food, it doesn’t deserve to suffer unnecessary pain.”

Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director of AnimalsAsia, which runs an internationally supported campaign to save bears from bile farms, resulting in the ban of such activity by the Vietnam government and the decision by traditional medicine practitioners to stop the use of bear bile, said there are no specific regulations on wild animal welfare.

AnimalsAsia has rescued scores of bears from inhumane treatment and set up sanctuaries where they can live out happy lives, often in direct opposition with local authorities and bile framers who defied government orders. The group is active on FaceBook and the Internet, and has cast a public spotlight on Vietnam's attitudes to animals to great effect.

"I find that local authorities still have problems when dealing with the smuggling of wild animals," Tuan said. "I hope our rescue work will be easier when the Veterinary Law takes affect in 2016."