I have just completed my most recent projects and definitely one of the hardest I have ever shot. Not only was it hard emotionally but logistically also. The story is all about Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade. With thousands of miles of porous borders, Thailand is continuously fighting illicit international trade. The border with Laos is over 1700km long and over half of that is the natural boundary of the River Mekong. Most know about the fight against the drug or endangered wildlife trade. But few know that it is fighting another battle against a different type of animal trade – that of domesticated dogs.
Currently NGO’s, local officials and the Thai Mekong River navy, as well as a handful of concerned citizens, are fighting a continuous battle against the illegal dog meat trade. Stolen and bought dogs are collected throughout the country, and brought together in remote areas of Northeast Thailand. Here, deep in forest hideaways, the dogs are stuffed in to metal cages, before being illegally shipped across the Mekong in the middle of the night, to Laos where they make their way overland, sometimes thousands at a time, up to the dog meat restaurants of Northern Vietnam.
In April 2013 alone, almost 2000 dogs were rescued having been caught before shipped to Laos. The culprits often flee the scene or are given lenient fines of a tiny US$30 for trying to smuggle hundreds of dogs. How many dogs get past the officials and across the border per year is unknown but believed to be tens of thousands.
The epicentre of Thailand’s dog meat is a small town called Ta Rae. Home to a large population of Vietnamese Catholics who arrived here during the US war and never returned. Little evidence of the trade can be seen on the streets but it is where the masterminds live, controlling the entire trade. Buying a dog in Thailand can cost as little as US$8 yet are sold in Vietnam for up to US$100, making it an extremely profitable trade and one very hard to stop.
My work follows the trade route from its source, Ta Rae in Sakhon Nakhon Province and the rescued dogs in Nakhon Phanom, across the Mekong in to Laos and finally to the slaughter houses of Hanoi. It is difficult how to deal with this issue. Vietnamese have eaten dogs for thousands of years and don’t have the same connection to them as other nations. To them they are simply animals for consumption as cows or pigs are. But one thing that does need to happen is the improved welfare of the actual dogs themselves and how they are treated. There are dealt with horrendously and if they are still alive by the time they reach Hanoi they are already in very bad condition both physically and psychologically.
I hope this collection of images gives people an insight in to this terrible trade.
A dog slaughter house in Hanoi.
After 700 dogs were rescued in NE Thailand and brought to Nakhon Phanom Dog Shelter, the animals that didn’t make it are removed.
The rescue of 700 dogs having been taken to a dog shelter in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand.
Crammed in to cages and loaded on to a pick-up. These were the lucky ones rescued in NE Thailand.
A dog slaughter house in Hanoi.
A dog meat restaurant in Hanoi.
More images can be seen on www.lukeduggleby.com. All images are copyright Luke Duggleby 2013. All Rights Reserved.