Jul 3rd

    Looking for a dog shelter in Hanoi is like looking for a bacon rescue centre in London. Seeing a dog in the streets of Hanoi is not far different from seeing a pig walking down Oxford Street: you wonder how long before it will be in someone’s stomach. No one wants to help dead-meat.

    Nevertheless, I’ve decided I’m going back to rescue those dogs I saw in the cell at the restaurant just over 24 hours ago (blog time is a bit delayed). A long trip back to the jungle but I hope to bring them here to dog-meat city for a new life.

    Clearly, things are stacked against me.

    1)They might be dead already. There’s no telling how long dogs are kept before being ordered for a snack.

    2) Frustratingly, I cannot get through the pangolin centre to tell them to head to the restaurant to stop them being killed. I will pay of course. I have left eight messages but I must remind myself how strange this will appear – it is like a Laos person coming to London and demanding to go to Burger King to save a really cute cow.

    3) I have no idea where to take these dogs – can they get a proper life? Is there a rescue centre good enough?

    4) I have to find transport for three dogs on the brink of death. London taxis don’t take pigs. I doubt the taxis take dogs over here.

    But as good as the Vietnamese are at eating dog they are equally good at providing service. My hotel staff are so keen to please they would probably pop the whitehead on my forehead if asked. So when I ask for a taxi to take me back to the Cuc Phoung National Park…

    ‘Yes, how long you stay please in our beautiful park?’

    ‘Five minutes.’


    ‘Then I come back. With dogs. That people want to eat. I rescue them’

    Only a slight pause, then. ‘Yes, sir, no problem’

    Foreigners must appear …so foreign. It is not long before they find a facebook cat rescue group.


    Some sad news

    I call up the cat rescue. A woman is practically in tears at the idea of a dog being killed. This is a welcome surprise. I agree to take a taxi to meet her immediately. Just as I leave I get through to Phoung and urge him – right now – to go and stop the dogs being killed. Things are moving fast.

    But thirty minutes later, after I drive off into the Hanoi madness (the taxi going against the motorbike traffic like a boat struggling upstream) I get a text

    ‘I am Hung, Phoung’s assistant, I go to Nho quan for see three dogs (we see yesterday) like you asked and so I sorry, but when I go there I ask salesman but he says ‘kill’ all’. Sorry for this’

    My heart sinks.

    Another one of the millions of dogs out here has bitten the dust. I feel awful but in a strange way relieved – the stillness of death seems nothing like the pain of the path leading up to it. But the guilt sets in. I should have done something sooner…

    The cat rescue centre - very surreal to find this in Hanoi, Vietnam

    Cat rescue home

    I arrive, deflated, at the cat-rescue woman’s house. On a small bustling street the house is open fronted like a vast café spilling out on to the street with many young people – average aged 21 – sitting inside drinking milkshake and scanning the internet on large-faced mobiles. On the floor are tiny cats playing with electric mice and paper butteryflies and on the wall are pink-framed pictures of cats. I have entered a surreal Asian cat fantasy bar: I imagine that at any minute dancing girls and swirls of pink and candy floss will appear.


    Cat pictures on the pink walls of the cat rescue centre. So someone loves animals around here....

    Cat pictures on the pink walls of the cat rescue centre. So someone loves animals around here….

    I bought 4 and wore them around Hanoi. Yes, I looked like an idiot but who cares.

    I bought 4 and wore them around Hanoi. Yes, I looked like an idiot but who cares.

    I drag my sorrow inside, take my shoes off and then, from a young woman, I buy four badges that say ‘I LOVE DOGS’ on them

    This is the new wave of animal lovers coming through and it’s good to see. I meet my contact, a young and eager Hanoi girl. I tell her about the dogs being killed – she was sad but not surprised

    ‘They kill them very soon after capture. We don’t rescue dogs from the dog meat trade – we are not allowed to use the money we raise on that because the killers will jiust go back and get more dogs’

    That made me feel better – but not much.

    ‘Why do so many people eat dogs then? If some of you love animals’

    ‘Actually many people they love their dogs. My father too!He brush his dog every day, he feed it good food he stroke it. Then he go out and eat dogs in restaurant’

    I was surprised. But later, after having a conversation with Ann, she made me realse there is nothing strange about this at all. Many farmers love their animals and still eat meat. This man is making a distinction between dog-as-pet and dog-as-food. This is no more abitrary than our own distinction between dog as pet and pig as food. Both are drawing a compassionate line in the sand, one within a species, one across a species, which are as divisive and ultimately, meaningless as each other. (we draw the same boundaries within our own species on a daily basis: we love our families, we care far less about strangers. Perhaps her father is more honest about the limits of his compassion then us dog lovers???)


    A difficult river to cross.

    This journey into compassion feels at times like walking across a river on floating planks. I’m looking for solid ground but at any moment I might sink under the weight of my own inconsistencies. What is right, what is wrong?

    Over there on the far bank seems to be a land with answers but which I am not sure I want to reach. A land of veganism where I must let ants come into my house and where I will beaten with cold slabs of tofu. A place where I have to be open to a lifetime of the pain of species all over the planet….a place where I have to accept that those people I love – and those that I do not – are somewhat blind to the mass torture of innocents on a scale which, numerically at least, is without precedent.

    Does anyone know how to build a bridge??I’d like to maybe go back and forth a little.

    I’d like to apologise to those of you that have offered money to save these dogs. Maybe next time. I’d also like to thank those of you who have donated to the puppies. They have new names: GIPPER (meaning ‘happy’ in Korean) and DAISY or LUCKY depending on sex. Thank you!

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    1. Oooh no! How sad 🙁
      Martin, don’t blame yourself, they probably killed them straight away when you left. It is tough still…
      Please keep strong an going!

    2. Oh dear but how wonderful that there is such a thing as a cat rescue centre. I know you wanted to save the dogs but realistically could they have been rehomed, doubt there are many dog behaviour therapists in that part of the world. Still keep hoping and keep trying, good luck.

    3. Martin, at least you cared enough to try and help them! You’re doing an amazing thing just being out there! X

    4. thank you so much

    5. All your posts make me cry but I feel such a hypocrite as I eat meat.How am I any different to the man who brushes his dog every day and then eats dog?

    6. It is better to ask this question and have no answer to it, than not to ask it at all. It is better to feel bad than to not feel anything. Most people don’t even want to think about it. It takes time but I am sure you will reach your own answer…keep going and keep thinking. Follow your heart.

    7. I’ve been veggie three weeks now since reading your blog.

    8. Wow!! THat’s incredible to hear. Really??? Did I make that difference to you? Incredible. You made my day on a very sad day (you’ll read about this later).

    9. Good Morning Martin…very very sad to hear about those dogs…your heart and will were certainly there….and I thank you sincerely for attempting to help…sadly…sometimes this is all we can do.

    10. thanks you . Very hard.

    11. Hi Martin,
      I’m going to work in Hanoi for a year starting in December. The first thing I’ll do is to start looking for ways to rescue dogs and cats. I’ve alresdy had a go at this in Nepal and made a difference in one area.
      There’s bound to be an intrepid bunch of westerners running a street dog/cat project!

    12. Wonderful Elizabeth! The world neeeds people like you. A drop of compassion goes a long way. Please keep in touch with your work. Good luck!

    13. Hi, any idea if the cat rescue centre could help a pet dog? There is a dog near my house which is kept in a box allday every day. I want to get him out!

    14. Hi Clair

      whereabouts are you based? Please email me on martinusborne{at}mac.com

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