Hanoi-based British video creator Gavin Wheeldon has been chronicling his experience in Vietnam since relocating in March. Wheeldon first penned a piece recounting the requisite two week stay of all international arrivals for SoutheastAsia Globe, garnering attention from local and international media outlets. Now, he’s documenting a new subject from a personal perspective: animals rights and the mistreatment of dogs within Vietnam. Bliss Saigon caught up with Gavin to discuss his recent project and why he feels it’s important to shed light on this issue.
Bliss Saigon: What drew you to the topic of animal welfare initially and, more specifically, dogs in Vietnam?
Gavin Wheeldon: Dogs have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and they’ve been sort of a constant source of comfort for me over the years. So I wanted to, above all, explain why I think there should be some more attention put on mistreatment of dogs. And I try to be clear that this is me coming at the issue from a personal perspective and relating what I have seen in Hanoi to my own experiences.
BS: Did anything surprise you as you were making this video?
GW: As I said, I don’t want to make generalizations, but when I was a witness to incidents on the street it did seem like intervening was out of the norm. This made things difficult and a little confusing, but it also showed me that there was a space to raise awareness about the issue. Seeing animal cruelty is really difficult for me, but to address something like this you do have to confront it.
BS: Do you think this issue is getting more attention recently?
GW: In some ways, yes, but it’s a pretty complex situation. The reason I’ve chosen to focus in on animal treatment rather than the dog meat trade is that, obviously, I’m coming from an outside perspective; it would be unfair for me to come in and talk about cultural differences and to make any moral judgements. There are always going to be people trying to enter a new place and say, “I know best,” so I wanted it to be clear that all I’m doing with this video is sharing my relationship to dogs and sharing my viewpoint of how important caring for dogs is — maybe this can change someone’s mind or even make them think in a slightly different way about.
BS: What has the response been like?
GW: As I was making it, I did realize that those who mistreat dogs in the open are just a small group, and the response has sort of reinforced that. So while I think it’s important to give that view, I don’t want to diminish the fact that dogs are still widely beloved. I tried to take differing viewpoints into consideration when making it, and hopefully people who watch it will do the same.
You can stream Gavin’s video, Animal Cruelty Toward dogs in Hanoi: The Divide, on Youtube. HERE
Visit Gavin’s Youtube channel HERE