A Vietnamese restaurant that is believed to have killed up to 300 cats each month to make a popular food dish has closed its doors, and the 20 cats freed in the aftermath aren't the only ones who are grateful.
The establishment in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam, had been open for five years before its owner, Pham Quoc Doanh, tore down its "cat meat" sign, "symbolizing his exit from the cat meat trade," Humane Society International said.
Doanh said his regret for killing the animals and knowing that many were likely stolen pets led him to leave the business for good — one in which he says he never wanted to be involved.
The father of two told Metro he became the only cat meat-selling restaurant in the area after the income from selling other food and drinks couldn't cover his family's cost of living. He said he drowned each cat he used, but recently, enough was enough.
"For a while now I have felt a genuine desire to leave the cruel cat meat business and switch to something else as soon as possible," he told HSI. "When I think of all the thousands of cats I've slaughtered and served up here over the years, it's upsetting."
Though the cat meat industry is difficult to track, HSI and Four Paws and Change for Animals Foundation claim more than 1 million cats are killed each year for their meat in Vietnam. They say many of these animals — 87%, according to HSI — were baited and stolen pets, with animal theft becoming an increasing issue in the country.
But a Nielsen opinion poll from October shows 71% of the Vietnamese population is in favor of banning cat meat consumption and trade, with many naming pet theft as the reason why.
To help push for the end of the practice, HSI launched its Models for Change program, which offers financial incentives to cat and dog meat restaurants if they close down and give up their remaining animals.
In Doanh's case, HSI offered him a one-time grant to close his restaurant and open a grocery store instead. And with the agreement, he signed over his remaining 20 cats and kittens, who are now receiving medical care before being placed for local adoption."It makes me happy to know that thanks to HSI, my wife and I can now put the cat meat trade behind us and start afresh, still serving my local community but no longer as part of this brutal and crime-fuelled trade," Doanh said. "I want to see a ban on the dog and cat meat trade in Viet Nam."HSI hopes this is the first of many more people like Doanh who want to get out of the business. So far, they have closed down two slaughterhouse/restaurants that serve dog meat and one that serves cat meat.
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