By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 7, 2008
The bad news is the kids lose their pets. The good news is there’s hamster stew for dinner.
Vietnam, a nation with a history of mixed policies on rodents and pets is at it again.
Vietnam agriculture ministry official Nguyen Thanh Son said that starting this Monday, any person in Vietnam possessing a hamster will face a stiff 30 million dong (1,875 dollar) fine.
Why such concern?
Well, it is the Year of the Rat. That caused a tidal wave of hamster sales in Vietnam to honor the new year. But the love of the fluffy and playful creatures turned into a craze. The cost of a hamster rose to between $40 and $50 (US). And, as is the custom in Asia, a huge underground in hamster smuggling sprang up.
China smuggled in hamsters. Thailand smuggled in hamsters. And hamster control officers at the borders were overwhelmed. Hamsters without papers were nabbed and checked for disease. Although no diseases have been identified or linked to the fun-filled rodents, the Communists state run agricultural ministry got suspicious.
“We have been burned by rodents before,” said Trang Tung from the agricultural ministry by phone from Hanoi. “In 1975 and 1976, while we had a border war brewing with China, we thought China would flood Vietnam with disease bearing rats to both contaminate the people and eat all our crops.”
Rat commandos. Rodent warfare.
The fear never played out.
“But we put a bounty on all rats and offered a reward for formers who brought in the most rats,” Mr. Tung told Peace and Freedom.
“Dead or alive?” we asked.
“Oh dead only, of course,” said Tung.
During that same time frame the Communist government banned all pets as an extravagance of the Yankee Dogs (Americans). In fact, dogs were banned as pets. They were only allowed if they were cultivated for food.
Rats and dogs are both eaten widely in Asia.
But this year, the fluffy hamster was all about fun — not food. The hamster crazy spawned online hamster forums and real-life hamster clubs.
One hamster owner, using the online name Kun89, informed fellow aficionados in an online forum: “Hamsters like to play acrobatic games. If they do not have enough toys to play with, they will suffer from stress and die.”
And, beacuse Saturday is International Women’s Day, Vietnamese husbands and boyfriends, eager to find lovable gifts for their pretty Vietnamese girls, were trading in hamsters by the million.
Something had to be done, said the communist government — never a big fan of fun.
“Rats and dogs are great eating,” said Truc (she refused to give her last name) from Saigon. “
“My family like them both grilled.”
“So the government just encourage us to get rid of hamsters? NO PROBLEM!”