Boo to Brinkley

This article by Joel Brinkley really upset me today.  Whatever I wanted to say to this professor of journalism at Stanford University with a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times was already said by Mike of Along the Mekong.

Having lived in this part of Vietnam for a few years, I can’t help it — what he wrote was offensive.  Most of what he said were half-truths and came from someone who has not really lived in Vietnam to know the absolute truth.

Just my rebuttal on some of his points based on my experience living in Saigon only:

“You don’t have to spend much time in Vietnam before you notice something unusual. You hear no birds singing, see no squirrels scrambling up trees or rats scurrying among the garbage. No dogs out for a walk.

In fact, you see almost no wild or domesticated animals at all. Where’d they all go? You might be surprised to know: Most have been eaten.”

Every morning when I bring my son to the bus stop, my son notices the birds swooping overhead and playing by our park.  Of course there are no squirrels because those are not endemic to Vietnam and as much as I don’t want to say, we have rats near the garbage.  Oh and dogs?  Excuse me but during our evening walks we have to fight for our space because lots of people who live here are walking their dogs too!

What sweeping generalization on domesticated animals being eaten!

“Many anthropologists and historians attribute the difference to the state’s origins. Vietnam was born of China, while India heavily influenced the other countries — two nations with drastically different personalities, even today.

Well, certainly that played a part. But I would argue that because Vietnamese have regularly eaten meat through the ages, adding significant protein to their diet, that also helps explain the state’s aggressive tendencies — and the sharp contrast with its neighbors.”

What meat diet?  If you’ve lived here or even stayed a few days here in Vietnam, you’d know that most Vietnamese live on VEGETABLES!  And eating meat causes aggressive tendencies?    Har har har.

“Right now, the favored dish is dog. In fact, dog meat is particularly prized. It’s considered a specialty because it is said to contain more protein than other meats. For Vietnamese, tradition has it that whenever you have bad luck you should eat dog meat to change your fate. But you shouldn’t eat it at the start of the lunar month, or the reverse will happen. You’ll actually bring on bad luck.”

“In fact, still today, driving down the highway it’s not unusual to see a flatbed truck hauling dogs curled up in little stacked cages, six cages high, eight deep, off to market — similar to the way chickens are transported to slaughterhouses in the west.”

Sorry but this isn’t solely Vietnamese.  This is pretty Asian.  And no, there are groups and people like me who abhors this kind of treatment to dogs.  I’ve lived here for a few years and still have yet to see a flatbed truck hauling dogs curled with little stacked cages.

True Vietnam is not yet “there” but seriously just because you write well doesn’t mean you’re telling the truth about this country.

Boo to Brinkley’s article!

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8 Responses to Boo to Brinkley

  1. yousef65 says:

    I lived in Can Tho City for almost five months last year, I did saw rat meat being sold on the back alleys of Can Tho’s wet market. I’m usually with a colleague who has lived in Vietnam for more than six years, he can speak Vietnamese fluently. At first, I told my colleague that it could be rabbit meat but he swore that those are indeed rat meat (although I do know how rabbit meat really looks like and those were definitely not), I also saw hawkers selling dog meat by the roadside on our daily trips to the industrial area…..There are ‘lau’ restaurants specializing in beef lau, seafood lau, chicken/pork lau, goat meat lau, and yes ‘dog meat’ lau……Same with the Philippines, ‘drinking buddy’ or ‘tagay-tagay’ culture is also prevalent in Vietnam, I assume that dog meat, rat meat and wildlife meat (monitor lizards, snakes, bats etc.) are usually eaten as ‘pulutan’ in drinking sessions.

    • Lyra says:

      Hi Joe regarding the rats, are those sewer rat meat or those from the field? Coz field mice/rats can actually be eaten. Anyway, yup eating such are very Asian and not really just very Vietnam.

      • yousef65 says:

        Most likely rats from the vast rice fields of Can Tho…..But for me it kinda helps when this things are put out in the media from time to time. Filipinos have also been branded as dog-eaters before, and indeed dog meat are usually eaten as ‘pulutan’ before. But very, very rare now, why, because we have become aware of it, of how it offends dog lovers and most specially how we are being perceived in the western media.

  2. Lyra says:

    I agree. It serves as a wake up call. Just hope that writers would research better on the topic.

    • yousef65 says:

      Based on his article, Mr. Brinkley has also been to Vietnam to know and to attest that what he was talking about were all true. His reference to WWF’s report that Vietnam is the world’s greatest wildlife malefactor is also factual:

      Agree on you, serves as a wake-up call…Stress ko lang uli, nakita ko din kasi ang similarities ng mga Vietnamese sa ating mga Pinoy pag-dating sa pag trato sa wildlife, yun bang gagawing ‘pulutan’ kahit anong hayop, tapos ipagmamalaki lang na lasa palang manok…..%%#@$#, Eh di sana manok na lang ang kinain, di ba 🙂

  3. Revathy says:

    His article is too “black or white” in tone, which is probably what upsets those of us who have stayed in Vietnam for a few years. But, there is some truth hidden between his snooty rhetoric. Dogs are eaten here. Rats are eaten here. Bear bile is considered medicinal, as is rhino horn. Pet owners definitely worry that their pet dogs will land up on someone’s table if they are not careful. I have Vietnamese acquaintances who feel weak if they do not eat meat every day. However, all this is part of the culture here, and culture is unique to every country, state or even family. I don’t believe that culture #1 has any right to claim “righteousness” over culture#2 or #3. His article is opinionated, and seems to be an intentional effort to get a reaction from readers.

    Definitely har har to meat eaters being more aggressive than vegetarians. I am vegetarian and take offence to that. 🙂

  4. If there’s anyone would like to agree or happily repeat Joel Brinkley word “Vietnam was born of China”, I would say “he was born of Ape”. Thank you!

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