Vietnamese government officials say they have a plan to eliminate the slaughter and trade of dog meat in Hanoi by 2021.

Shortly after issuing a statement last week urging citizens to stop killing and eating dogs, director of Hanoi’s Department of Health Nguyen Ngoc Son said the authorities had drawn up a plan to “slowly phase out the killing and trading of dog meat” in the capital. He said restaurants serving dog meat would cease to exist by 2021, Southeast Asia Globe reported.

The campaign launched last week warned citizens that consumption of pet meat such as cats and dogs could cause epidemics by spreading diseases such as rabies and leptospirosis.

The city’s reputation is a focal point, as many foreigners have complained that the practice of eating dogs is appalling.

Officials also asked locals to see the value in treating animals humanely.

John Dalley, founder of the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand, applauded the decision made by Hanoi and said he hoped to see similar legislation across Southeast Asia. Dalley said Hanoi was slowly modernizing into a 21st-century city and the archaic practice of eating dog meat should be discarded.

The decision remains polarized among Vietnamese citizens. While many younger people appear to welcome the new law, older citizens often defend dog meat consumption and argue that it is a tradition that should not be criminalized.

Vietnam is the world’s second-largest consumer of dog meat after China. About 5 million dogs are slaughtered every year, and an estimated 20,000 dogs are stolen from their owners every month in the country’s southern areas.

An illicit trade in stray dogs caught or ‘purchased’ in the Northeast of Thailand, then trafficked across the Mekong and Laos into Vietnam, also has existed for many years.

Read: Hanoi asks its residents to stop eating dog meat

Read: Indonesia bans dog, cat meat trade to improve tourism image