The campaign to end the dog meat trade in Thailand and beyond - [ABOVE IMAGE CREDIT/COPYRIGHT JOHN KEEBLE]

Shadow Trade shows a glimpse of the situation faced by Soi Dog Foundation in 2013 when the fight to end the trade in Thailand was at its highest.

The Soi Dog Foundation, (who commissioned ‘Shadow Trade’) is a Thailand based charity whose aim is to humanely reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats through spaying and neutering, and to better the lives and living conditions of the stray dogs and feral cats of Asia. In addition to this important work The Soi Dog Foundation have focused their attention on the plight of the dogs caught up in the illegal dog meat trade. Over the last 30 years millions of dogs have been killed and eaten in Thailand or smuggled across the border from Thailand to Vietnam and Laos. Pet dogs are often victims because they are more domesticated and trusting than stray dogs, making them easier to catch and healthier. Snatched in the shadows, the smugglers cram eight to ten dogs into cages so small that the dog’s spines are often broken and exposed limbs and heads crushed by other cages stacked tightly on top of or next to them.

The dogs can face as many as six days in cages in 35 degree plus heat without food or water. The experience is so ruthless, traumatic and painful that many die in transit; either from injury, suffocation or simply from the heat. In 2011 an estimated 500,000 live dogs per year were being imported into Vietnam, a figure more than confirmed by traders at the primary holding village in Vietnam where the dogs were first taken. At this village, dogs that survive the journey to Vietnam are generally brutally force-fed by having rice pumped into their stomachs to increase their weight and value and in some cases litres of water are often forced into them to increase their blood levels for blood soup.  In Vietnam many suffer a slow and painful death as it is mistakenly believed that the pain inflicted by torture will increase their adrenalin levels and therefore enhance the flavour of the meat. The good news is that eating dogs is a practice vehemently condemned by most of the Thai population, but in some areas, despite dangerous and unregulated hygiene standards, it is still regarded a delicacy.

Although the trade in dog meat was already illegal the existing laws were based on rabies transmission and not adequately enforced, the penalties were not a sufficient deterrent for the traders.  This is why Soi Dog Foundation’s work is so important. Soi Dog, with other animal welfare groups, called for the Thai Parliament to enact strong animal welfare laws. After years of campaigning Thailand introduced its first animal welfare law in December 2014, which makes the eating of dogs and cats and the methods of transporting described above illegal. 

In 2013 the Asian Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) which compromises of the Soi Dog Foundation; Change for Animals Foundation; The Humane Society International and Animals Asia was formed. The alliance’s first intention was to combine resources to stop the dog meat trade. At conferences held with the Vietnamese, Thai, Laos and Cambodian governments an agreement was reached across 2013 and 2014 to ban the import of live dogs into Vietnam for an initial 5 year period. 

The alliance is now working in Vietnam to put pressure on the government to end the industry there and Soi Dog Foundation continues to work to end the trade in Thailand. However, there is a serious and grave problem in that the Thai Government do not have a budget assigned to care for the rescued dogs. While many thousands of dogs have been seized from smugglers, there are close to zero resources available to care for them. Dogs rescued from the trade had been taken to government livestock shelters which were not equipped nor staffed to provide adequate care for the dogs. Soi Dog Foundation built proper shelters and provides the ongoing funding to care for the dogs.


Soi Dog's primary mission is the wide scale sterilisation of street animals. This being the only effective and humane method of addressing the cause of the needless suffering of strays, that being over population. Soi Dog has sterilised over 80,000 animals in Phuket, Bangkok and other areas of Thailand. Soi Dog also runs a large shelter and clinic in Phuket where dogs and cats are treated and animals who have been victims of cruelty and abuse or cannot survive on the streets are sheltered.

Caring for the thousands of dogs rescued from the dog meat trade is well outside of Soi Dog's normal operating budget and is not sustainable without additional financial support. It costs approximately 1,000,000 Thai Baht (€27,000/£23,000) each month to feed and care for the dogs. Only with your help will these dogs, who have been through so much, receive the care they desperately need and deserve. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your kind, generous and much needed support.

Please visit savedogs to find out more.

Director - Richard Elson. Producer - Ella Todd. Director of Photography - Ben Todd.

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