Hanoi officials urged residents on Tuesday to stop eating dog meat, saying the popular dish tarnishes the city's image and runs the risk of spreading rabies.
Hanoi Deputy Mayor Nguyen Van Suu said on Tuesday that sacrificing and consuming dog and cat meat upsets foreigners and "negatively impacts the image of a civilized and modern capital."
Suu instructed local governments to raise awareness about the risk of rabies by raising dog and cat meat.
Hanoi authorities on Tuesday urged residents to stop eating dog meat, saying the popular dish tarnishes the city's image and runs the risk of spreading rabies.
The measure is part of a national program to eradicate rabies by 2021.
Roasted, boiled or steamed dog meat can be found in food markets and stores throughout the capital, famous for its tasty street food, and meat is traditionally eaten with rice or beer wine.
But the Hanoi People's Committee on Tuesday warned residents to stop eating canine meat to prevent the spread of rabies and other animal-borne diseases.
He also urged them to stop eating cat meat, often dubbed as "little tiger" on Vietnamese menus, which is less popular than the dog, but which is still available in rural areas.
The practice of killing animals is often cruel and the city government hopes that it can be eliminated gradually, he said in a statement.
He said it was a matter of preserving Hanoi's reputation as a "civilized and modern capital" among foreigners, many of whom consider taboo eating meat from animals that are commonly considered pets.
"The trade, death and use of dog and cat meat has provoked a negative reaction from tourists and expatriates living in Hanoi," the statement said.
There are about 493,000 dogs and cats in the city, the vast majority of which are kept as domesticated pets, and about 1,000 stores open to sell animal meat.
Hanoi Deputy Mayor Nguyen Van Suu said on Tuesday that sacrificing and consuming dog and cat meat upsets foreigners
Three people died of rabies in Hanoi since the beginning of this year and two others were confirmed infected with the disease, according to official figures.
The capital of Vietnam is recognized worldwide for its street food, and its culinary staples, such as pho soup noodles and sandwiches pate banh mi, have reached menus all over the world, from Paris to Pittsburgh.
The city of Hanoi is also a playground for the most adventurous diners who can taste fried frog meat, fertilized duck embryo or Hotpot turtle meat.
Dog meat is traditionally eaten with rice wine or beer in Hanoi and can be found throughout the city and is often called "small tiger."
However, not everyone agrees with the decision.
Nguyen Thi Minh, who has run a dog meat restaurant in Hanoi for more than 20 years, said there is no risk of anger because his restaurant selects healthy dogs and the meat is well cooked.
"People eat dog meat and there's no problem," he said.
"I serve clients from South Korea, the United States and other countries."
Authorities say there are 493,000 dogs and cats in Hanoi, of which more than 10 percent are raised for commercial purposes.