Officials in the city of Hanoi, Vietnam, have announced plans to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat in the city, stating that the practice will be outlawed from central city districts by 2021.

The announcement tied in with a statement from the Hanoi People’s Committee, which encourages Hanoi residents to stop the cruel practice, reasoning that it is creating a negative perception of the city among international tourists.

In conjunction with these public announcements, Hanoi officials are undertaking a public education campaign, highlighting the dangers of consuming dog and cat meat — notably, the risk of contracting diseases such as rabies and leptospirosis. The campaign also appeals to people on an ethical level, asking them to “see value in treating animals humanely.”

Vietnam is the second-largest consumer of dog meat in the world after China, slaughtering roughly five million dogs every year. Although they’re not the biggest consumer, Vietnam does have the highest percentage of dog-eaters; a shocking 80 percent of Vietnamese say they regularly eat dog.

As with many countries in Asia, eating dog or cat meat is associated with good luck and improved health, as well as increasing sexual performance.

Demand is growing so rapidly that dog-breeding farms can’t keep up. Many of the dogs destined for consumption in Vietnam are stolen directly from owners or grabbed from the streets. Before being butchered, these terrified animals are often tortured for hours, packed into tiny cages and forced to watch other dogs brutalized and chopped up before suffering the same fate. Like many cultures, the Vietnamese believe that a dog that has been tortured for hours before being skinned alive creates a more tender, tastier meat.

“Many of us have seen heartbreaking photos that show the Yulin dog market in China, but the dog meat market in Vietnam is just as bad if not worse,” says Kike Yuen, project executive of the World Dog Alliance (WDA). “Like China, dog markets there get their supplies from the theft of pets, which are often crammed into small cages and delivered to restaurants. There are even restaurant chains operating like McDonald’s; it’s just unbelievable.”

The WDA estimates that half a million dogs every year are being smuggled from Thailand to Vietnam every year to satisfy the demand.

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