In the West we are often quick to point fingers at the East when it comes to accusations of animal cruelty. However, western tourists are driving a business in Vietnam that capitalizes on shock-gastronomy and machismo. Snakes suffer a cruel death so that their blood and hearts can be consumed. The popular tourist tradition was made famous in the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. There it’s common for young backpackers to drink snake blood or bile liquor and swallow hearts of various snake species killed and gutted in front of them by their waiter. Many of these videos can be seen on YouTube. The activity is so popular that many of Hanoi’s backpacker hostels offer frequent excursions for customers with snake blood and bile liquor said to enhance virility.
Nguyen Tam Thanh, Animal Welfare Officer for Animals Asia said:
“Many young tourists come to Vietnam and think that this kind of activity is part of Vietnamese culture. This is not part of modern Vietnam and the fact that it survives at all is largely down to the tourist trade.”
Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:
“It does Vietnam a great disservice to have this sold to tourists as Vietnamese culture. In our wider work we are fighting hard to end the use of bear bile farming and the cruelty that comes with it. That campaign is undermined by tourists and tourism organisations paying to consume bile in whatever form. We have some sympathy with practitioners of ancient medicine who we are working with to encourage them to use herbal remedies over bile. We have less sympathy for visitors using snake bile for so called ‘extreme eating’ or travel tales to share with friends. Hopefully the information we are making available will make visitors think twice. What might be sold to them as local culture may actually be organisations cashing in on cruelty."
As part of Animals Asia’s work to put an end to the practice, the international nonprofit is producing a leaflet imploring visitors to Vietnam not to consume snake blood, or snake heart, or participate in other activities that cause snakes to suffer.
For more information visit AnimalsAsia.org