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Cablegate: "We Eat Everything On Four Legs Except the Table":

VZCZCXRO3817
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHHI #1763/01 2820815
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090815Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6482
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3784
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001763

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI EAGR VM
SUBJECT: "WE EAT EVERYTHING ON FOUR LEGS EXCEPT THE TABLE":
VIETNAM'S CONSUMPTION OF WILD ANIMAL PRODUCTS


HANOI 00001763 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: Domestic consumption and regional exports of wild
animal products threaten Vietnam's once-abundant wildlife.
Vietnamese craving for wild meat and animal-based traditional
medicines seemingly trump conservation concerns. Lack of high-level
political will hamstring Government of Vietnam (GVN) enforcement of
wildlife protection laws, but increasingly strong NGO-funded public
education campaigns, and a bureaucratic framework of protection
that's already in place, could help turn the tide. All agree that
changing the behavior of Vietnamese consumers is key. Wildlife
advocates highlight some successes and continue their efforts to
protect endangered animals. End Summary.

Illegal Wildlife Trade Continues to Boom
----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Vietnam is home to roughly 10 percent of the world's
species, several of which are only found in Vietnam. However, many
protected animals end up illegally trafficked for human consumption.
GVN and NGO experts agree that wildlife populations continue to
dwindle rapidly due to illegal trade and consumption. One local NGO
estimates 3,000 tons of wildlife are traded in Vietnam every year in
transactions valued at roughly USD 66.5 million annually, though
other analysts claim the figures actually are much higher. Some
experts believe that approximately half of illegally traded animals
in Vietnam are exported to China and other ASEAN countries. Scott
Roberton, program coordinator for the Vietnam Hunting & Wildlife
Trade Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, notes that
Vietnam is extremely well-integrated into the global wildlife trade
and serves as a transfer point for animals smuggled from elsewhere
in Asia to China and beyond. However, domestic demand takes an
increasing proportion of the total. GVN animal protection
authorities acknowledge that demand continues to increase, even as
supply seemingly decreases. Excess demand boosts prices, which
create additional incentives for wildlife trafficking. Little is
known about wildlife smuggling networks, but the Forest Protection
Department (FPD), tasked with tracking illegal wildlife, believes
the networks are well-organized and involve large sums of money.
Anecdotal evidence links some smugglers to cross-border drug and
counterfeit trading.

Vietnam's Version of PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals
--------------------------------------------- ------

3. (SBU) Vietnamese typically use wild animal products for food,
traditional medicines and ornamental goods, with government
officials among the largest consumers of wildlife products.
Vietnamese take pride in their culinary adventurousness, and a
recent survey by environmental NGO TRAFFIC Southeast Asia showed
that nearly half of Hanoi residents use wild animal products, mostly
for food and in medicines. Malayan sun bears, pangolins, turtles,
snakes, lizards, macaques, langurs, leopard cast, tigers,
porcupines, wild pigs, civets, birds, and deer are among the many
protected or endangered animals recently found bound for Vietnamese
tables or tonics. Many Vietnamese restaurants feature wild meats
and wines, even though Vietnamese law prohibits such sales. Demand
for traditional medicines using ingredients derived from wildlife
and for exotic pets increases as Vietnam gets wealthier. TRAFFIC
Vietnam Coordinator Sulma Warne noted that western medicines, such
as Viagra, have not replaced the demand for traditional medicines,
which many Vietnamese see as status symbols and indications of
prosperity regardless of efficacy.

Increased Awareness Not Translated Into Changed Attitudes
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (U) Growing environmental awareness has had little effect on
wildlife consumption habits. Increasing prosperity, better access
to information, public advocacy campaigns by conservation NGOs, and
the impacts of industrialization have led some Vietnamese to demand
action on environmental issues, such as pollution. Additionally,
TRAFFIC found that many Vietnamese generally believed in protecting
wildlife. However, few people knew of specific laws on wildlife
protection and many were unaware of the status of some of the most
heavily consumed animals. Vietnamese also fail to see any link
between wild animal products and diseases, despite the recent
outbreaks of avian flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
(SARS).

Vietnam Has Necessary Laws to Protect Wildlife
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (U) Wildlife conservation NGOs, such as TRAFFIC and Education
for Nature Vietnam (ENV), acknowledge that the GVN has passed
important laws and regulations to protect wild animals. Vietnam

HANOI 00001763 002.2 OF 003


became a member of CITES in 1994 and domestic law requires permits
to import and export threatened wildlife. FPD's Vietnam
Conservation Fund Manager Mr. Do Quang Tung highlights broad GVN
conservation strategies exist within the National Action Plan to
Strengthen Control of Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora 2010 (adopted in
2004), the Protective Area Management Strategy 2010 and the
Biodiversity Action Plan 2020 (just approved by GVN in May 2007).
On March 30, 2006, the GVN issued Decree No. 32 to tighten control
over management of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
This decree limits transport without a license and forbids
exploitation of endangered flora, illegal hunting, raising,
slaughtering, transporting, advertising, exporting, and importing
precious and endangered forest animals. Article 190 of the Penal
Code of Vietnam punishes those involved in the illegal wildlife
trade with up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to 50 million
dong (approximately USD 3,000). A new inter-agency circular (No.
19), was issued on March 8, 2007 by MARD outlining how to apply the
Criminal Code to violations of forest protection and management
laws.

Limited Enforcement, Limited Effect
-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) GVN enforcement efforts are inconsistent, though ENV and
TRAFFIC note some improvements over the past two years due to NGO
pressure and increasing (but not yet widespread) public
participation. ENV has documented 154 GVN seizures of illegally
traded wildlife since January 2005. However, even with stronger
efforts, authorities apprehend only about 3 percent of illegally
traded animals and many working level officials have little
familiarity with their duties and responsibilities. FPD's Tung
credited better resource management for some successes in preventing
wildlife exploitation, but admitted that the decrease in Vietnam's
natural resources also has led to fewer animals to exploit.

7. (SBU) The FPD, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development, has primary (but not exclusive) responsibility for the
protection of Vietnamese flora and fauna. FPD has 61 provincial
offices and over 10,000 staff members who administer over 100
special use forests throughout the country, including all important
ecosystems. FPD coordinates with many of the other entities with
wildlife protection responsibilities, including local police forces,
the economic and environmental police departments, police Special
Forces, customs officials, and border guards. While FPD
investigates wildlife crimes, it must work with police forces to
make arrests, some of which, including the newly formed
environmental police department, do not view wildlife crimes as
widespread or particularly important. On February 9, 2007, the head
of the national FPD established a new mobile crimes unit responsible
for inspecting, monitoring, and preventing wildlife crimes and
implementing actions to combat corruption relating to the above.
Conservation NGOs find this new unit particularly trustworthy, as it
often acts independently to prevent local authorities from tipping
off smuggling rings. For example, ENV staff claimed that the new
mobile unit led a recent operation in Hanoi that netted the
carcasses of 4 tigers and body parts from 9 bears, without informing
local police forces (which took credit in the Hanoi press) or the
local FPD office.

8. (SBU) Despite some progress, Vietnam's enforcement efforts
cannot succeed without top-level political support. Instead,
conservation NGOs state that the GVN maintains a pro-use policy that
actually encourages the wildlife trade. Many GVN officials believe
that extensive animal farms negate the need to protect wild animals.
ENV cited a recent incident in which high-level officials allowed
the "war hero" owner of 19 tigers smuggled from Cambodia to keep the
tigers in captivity for breeding despite clear violations of CITES
and Vietnamese law. When forest rangers do attempt to enforce the
law, they face many challenges, from a lack of resources and an
insufficient legal framework to deal with offenders to the very real
possibility of being shot in the line of duty. Ambiguous laws
containing many loopholes, when combined with prosecutors unfamiliar
with the statutes, lead to fewer prosecutions. Courts have little
experience with wildlife cases and treat them like ordinary economic
violations, such as theft of a motorbike, resulting in small fines
with little impact. Vietnamese law currently permits the re-sale of
confiscated wildlife -- which occurs in almost half of seizures --
significantly limiting the deterrent impact of such seizures and
keeping the market well stocked with wild animal products. Many
violators have high-level connections, which cause enforcement
authorities to shy away from investigations.

Real Men Don't Need Bear Bile: NGO Campaigns
--------------------------------------------

HANOI 00001763 003.2 OF 003

9. (U) Local and international NGOs continue to educate Vietnamese
about the need to protect wildlife, while advocating for increased
enforcement. ENV created television and newspaper public service
announcements featuring celebrities to promote wildlife protection
and stigmatize consumption of wild animal products. TRAFFIC's
survey of public attitudes towards wildlife consumption will allow
it to better focus its advocacy campaigns and TRAFFIC has assisted
the GVN with CITES implementation and capacity building. ENV
created a wildlife crimes monitoring unit (complete with a 1-800
line for citizens to report potential violations, which has received
over 700 tips in the past two years) that investigates allegations
of illegal wildlife trade and forwards evidence to enforcement
authorities. ENV also provides monthly crime bulletins for
Provincial People's Committees so that the Committees can track
enforcement efforts.

Comment
-------

10. (U) Vietnamese environmentalists worry about a future of silent
forests -- flora with no fauna -- which in a country with such a
huge rich endowment of wildlife, particularly newly discovered
species, would be a tremendous loss. However, Vietnam already has
many of the tools it needs to protect these resources.
Additionally, USAID biodiversity conservation programs support NGOs
such as the World Wildlife Fund and Winrock International to build
GVN environmental protection capacity and strengthen public
awareness at local levels. To get the most from these efforts, we
will continue to urge our GVN contacts to show the necessary
determination to enforce Vietnamese laws and to act forcefully to
deter illegal conduct. We will also support our Washington
counterparts in their efforts to make these points in multilateral
fora. Wildlife hunting will likely remain a leading driver of
biodiversity loss in Vietnam until the consumption of forest-meat
specialties and traditional medicines become politically and
socially intolerable.

ALOISI

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