Don’t let travel leave a bitter taste
Frogs in France. Tick. Grilled cockroaches in Thailand. Done. Guinea-pig in Peru. Just like rabbit. Well what about dog in Vietnam? No doubt we’ve all photographed the menu boards, gasped at the tales of inadvertent consumption, and possibly put our fork into unorthodox ‘delicacies’, but how far should our gastronomic limits be pushed? Intrepid’s Taz Liffman explains how the responsible traveller can avoid local food leaving a bitter taste…
“When it comes to opportunities for new sensations, experience and adventure, travel has few rivals. While overseas, the symptoms of FOMObia – that is the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ – typically become more acute and pronounced as time and again we’re encouraged to be open to new ideas and try new things; to transcend the norm; enliven the senses; test the boundaries; awaken the taste buds. But when it comes to gastronomic novelty, would we be pushing these so readily if we knew the realities they entailed? What would we really missing out on?
In parts of the world – China, Korea and Vietnam in particular – eating dog has been part of traditional culture for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Thought to stem in some cases from a lack of protein in times of famine, the meat still meets high demand on account of supposed health and aphrodisiacal benefits, tradition and superstition. To many people, there is indeed no inherent reason why dogs shouldn’t be spared the dinner table over cattle, lamb or pigs. And appreciating that different cultures attribute different values to their animals, Intrepid doesn’t seek to impose our values on other cultures – but we do believe it our responsibility to educate Intrepid travellers on the less salubrious side of the custom.
Dogs and puppies are typically farmed and transported in appalling conditions, then slaughtered by brutal means – often by hanging, electrocution, or being beaten to death. Vietnam’s growing economy of recent years and the concomitant increase in disposable income has seen to the meat being able to fetch higher prices. With little police enforcement tasked to the issue, lucrative ‘dog-snatching’ rings have sprung up, with family pets often being targeted.
Then there are too the associated health risks for humans to consider. Several cholera outbreaks in Vietnam over recent years have been attributed to the consumption of dog meat, and there are reports of farmers injecting their produce with steroids. Furthermore, Vietnam doesn’t have in place the health regulation standard or a body responsible for overseeing the processing of dog meat for human consumption.
Due to the absence of these health regulations (which do exist for cattle, chicken and pigs), Intrepid leaders are trained never to order dog meat for their groups unless they have requested it specifically, meaning that you won’t end up an inadvertent consumer. We respect that it is ultimately the choice of our travellers what you choose to eat, but is it worth pushing the limits for tourist bragging rights? Perhaps some novelty food quests are better left unsated?”
Responsible travel tips – helping you make choices
Intrepid’s responsible travel policies ensure that our activities respect and benefit local people and the environment. We’re pleased to share this information so you can make informed decisions about your own travels.
* photo by Betty Prange – Intrepid Photography Competition