The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

Heartbreaking photograph of an unknown kitten begging to be saved in Vietnam

I’ve seen a lot of photos of kitten and cats on the internet whether it be sad, happy, funny or cute photographs.

One of the photos I’ve seen that really got stuck on my head was the photo of a kitten that appears to be in bad condition, asking for help while hugging the man’s boot.

Animal lovers who have seen the photo would ask: “What happened to the kitten”, where is the little creature now”, Did the human save the poor kitty?”

Recently, Christine Liff was able to acquire the answers to these questions regarding the the fate of the unknown kitten begging to be saved in Vietnam.

 Christine Liff said:

I think most of us have seen this picture of the tiny, wet kitten begging to be saved. We have all hoped that the outcome was positive, that either the person taking the picture or the person in the boot had compassion and pity for this poor wee soul. However, after a bit of research I have found out that this was not the case.

These two men left that kitten there to face it’s fate, whatever that may be. I am heartsick and so angry that two grown men were unable to show compassion for such a tiny animal.

Here is the reasoning behind their decision (a litany of rationalization and quite a few insults at Americans).

Graham Lavery:

November 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm


I have received several emails from users of this site about my photo and its posting on your site. This picture has managed to find its way all over the Internet, in some cases with hundreds of thousands of views, and I realize it is a very provocative shot that touches people deeply.

Normally I do not respond to these types of comment threads as they are often degenerative in nature and can get very nasty, one only needs to reference any news site to see how these things generally play out. After reading all the comments here however, and receiving several polite emails I have decided to write a comment.

“First of all, I think it is very important to understand context, and while many request the “story” behind this shot generally to learn the final outcome, it is not that simple and context is critical. I have spent a good bit of time in Vietnam as my wife used to work there a few months each year, and have shot the war in Afghanistan several times, as well as disasters such as the quake zone in Port-au-Prince, Haiti very shortly after that event. When discussing any of these places, or subjects, the context is a most important and often overlooked part of the equation – especially by North Americans.

“This shot, as you seem to have ascertained, was taken in Hoi An, Vietnam during the worst flooding in almost half a century. My wife was there for the worst of it – flooding into the second story of buildings – and the loss of homes, personal property, and life, was pretty significant as you can imagine. It should however be remembered that societies like the Vietnamese have been at this for the better part of 5000 years and have seen it all before, a great many times.

“In my travels all over the world there is a common theme that makes itself known and very obvious to me: we in North America are an extremely young culture and society, with a great deal left to learn. How does this help understand this photo and its story? Well it goes to follow that perspectives on many issues differ from ours, priorities are placed in different areas, and that there are very salient reasons for this.

One such area is animals, and how they are viewed.

Sad kitten begging to be saved in Hoi An, Vietnam hugging man's shoe kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam2

“In Vietnam, the phenomenon of “pet” ownership is a very new development, prior to the American War this was a practically unheard of concept in many areas. Dogs, as a prime example, are a food source much like cattle, sheep, or pigs are here. Since the development of the “pet” concept, there has been an explosion in numbers with a great many feral and stray dogs and cats roaming the country in various states of health, which is becoming a large problem in and of itself.

“Given the general cultural attitude toward animals like cats, the massive property damage during the floods, and the great deal of human hardship that was experienced at the time this photo was captured, it can be seen how a kitten such as this one would pass well under the radar and slip pretty far down the priority lists of most people who were literally striving to survive.

When my very good friend and I came upon this kitten, it was pretty obvious what its fate would be given the described circumstances, a situation that brings with it several ethical questions that have no really simple answer, mainly: “What to do?”

“As essentially tourists in the area who were in Vietnam temporarily (barely two weeks in Charles’s case), the practicalities of helping an animal such as this become a little more cloudy. If you take it in, how do you care for it? Where do you care for it? What do you do when you leave? Does rescuing it jive with the ethics and practices of the local people (it is their country after all)?

“These are tough questions to answer, and I would submit they become exponentially more difficult when you are in combat zones or disaster areas and instead of a kitten the faces staring at you are those of children or women, either in extreme poverty, or wounded… It can rip one’s guts out, I assure you, and there are no easy answers. Given the ability I’m sure I’d have adopted half of Afghanistan by now. Charles is a Paramedic who has traveled the world through his career, so between us we tend to see things similarly in this regard.

The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam3

After a brief discussion, it was decided to let nature take its course and leave the kitten to its own devices, whatever the outcome. Some will agree, some will not, but that was our decision based on our collective experiences of this planet over the years. What became of it ultimately? I can’t answer that with certainty, but I can guess.

In the end we are all faced with choices, some more difficult than others. In photography – particularly in war, or in other difficult circumstances – there are some major ethical implications of even taking a photo: Questions of dignity, intent, and moral imperative. If you do take the shot, do you “put it out there?” I have a hard drives full of photos that will never see the light of day because of this, and countless more that I never took at all given the circumstances.

“This photo has been taken off my website and Flickr without my permission and used all over the world now, and I am fine with that as I think it is critical for people to engage with life in whatever form. I see the members of this site have been affected by it in one way or another, and I am happy to see some thoughtful responses to it.

“I hope that helps answer your questions. -Graham Lavery

starving kitten grabbing soldier's boots kitten begging to be saved in vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam The Fate Of The Kitten Begging To Be Saved In Vietnam

What about you…What would you do if you’re in their shoes?  Tell us your thoughts below…

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  • Kairen Jamieson

    Well, that rationalization does not justify leaving a life no matter the country. Nor does it take anything more than human morals to show empathy and compassion over “hard decisions” of leaving an animal to its’ fate. What these photographers have done is simply tried to ease their own conscious and have people not judge them.
    As new as pet ownership is in Asia especially China there are also organizations that help small animals and have contact numbers, two weeks would have been more than enough time to track one down and deliver the kitten.
    These men are simply trying to justify their lack of humanity with a reasoning that is simple tripe!

  • lilanimaluvr

    Don’t be so sure. I for one looked up every customer of his I could find and asked them not to use this POS ever again. And I bet I am not the only one. Call it what you will, I call it karma. And I will continue to do this every chance I get to the heartless creep.

    • redmond49

      Good for you!!!

  • Linda Schmid

    I would’ve at least picked it up and comforted it, weather it was in it’s last moments of life or not, or at least given it some food & water, POOR, poor thing!!………… tears

  • Nancy Braunig

    I wouldn’t have just left it. I would have tried to give it a chance. I don’t think I could live with myself.


    he had the time to take this picture… why not bend over & feed this cat? Pet this cat.

  • Danny Benjamin Bahar

    i would do whatever it takes to save this kitten`s life

  • Danny Benjamin Bahar

    most north americans are spoiled and heartless.

  • Bethany

    I love that the response this photographer gives merely clouds an entirely simplistic act of human kindness with selfish politics and pretentiously scripted global ‘context’. That picture provides the only context we need; it’s a little living creature that has every bit of capacity to feel helpless, desperate, miserable and vulnerable. It’s voiceless and those little claws clutching at a stranger with the capacity to kill it with one kick should break any person’s heart, with a soul. I don’t care about historical, political, cultural and anthropocentric context my friend. I don’t care about the practical difficulties in helping this kitten. I care that without seemingly menial acts of pure, senseless, irrational crazy kindness, we are not human. We’re stony-eyed, cold-blooded deadpan beasts.

  • Animal Lover

    I’d have taken the kitten ignore this poor sweet baby is criminal, in my opinion. Totally heartless.

  • Scott M Sykes

    There is NO EXCUSE for allowing an animal to suffer for anything. I barely have enough money to pay my bills and put food on my own table but yet every two weeks I take the time and energy to purchase food for the 8 cats that were “LEFT” outside to fend for themselves. I also feed between 8 to 10 cats that come by in my apartment complex. When you start justifying your cruelty to animals it is just a short step to justifying your cruelty to humans. I hope that when these two “men” (really men? more like pathetic excuses for humans) are older and feeble that they are left to “nature”!

  • Jamie Coughlin

    Just excuses for “I didn’t want to bother”. I’ve read too many stories of people in foreign countries, in horrible conditions, going out of their way to help animals (and people) in trouble. I know it can be done, these men just didn’t want to bother to do it because it WOULD have been a bother.

  • Eduard Farcas

    I took the cat without no remorse…I don’t understand their point of view about their sick vietnamese civilisation about eat cats and dogs…it is not relevant…this is a soul dude, a soul, not a toy….it is the same importnat that saving a man….we all are souls…not simple meat on a table…

  • mamaji

    my real question remains at large… can there be love without proper action?…

  • shawnna

    This is very depressing, you dont just let a helpless and hurting animal suffer. you do anything you can to protect and save them.

  • Rosanne

    you know, if i was in a place like africa where there are so many hungry people and was standing in a place where there were hungry, destitute people as far as the eye could see, i wouldn’t say,” what’s the point in trying to feed anyone? I can’t feed everyone.” i would at least try to help the people that i could. sorry, mr. lavery, in spite of all of your reasoning, i would have still tried. look at some of the olympic athletes who went to sochi russia for the games and found stray dogs. in spite of the obstacles and local indifference to the plight, some of them still tried to bring them to a different place for adoptions. i realize that in spite of all of the chaos and tradgedy in the country at the time due to the flooding, animal preservation is quite low on the priority scale (and often falls into the place of being food sources for people). on the other hand, when people make it point to try, they raise other people’s awareness about other forms life on earth and their importance in the grand scheme of living on this planet with other sentient beings. i’m not a religious person, but i do believe that there is power greater than us–we all have contact with that source everytime we simply breathe. the question is, are we in touch with it? perhaps, when we run into people and animals in any situation and we are in a position to render aid, we ought to try anyway, because at the end of the day, when we all get to that time when we die and if we are fortunate enough, are able to review our lives, it’s not about how much junk we bought and accumulated, or the titles of (false) importance we accrued, it’s about how we helped other beings on this earth (human and animal) while we were here. people may critisize this response as naive, but i’ve worked in law enforcement for 17yrs and have seen lots of cruelty done to people and animals alike, and it seems that indifference (whether in the form of intended cruelty or not) never takes a day off, so i would like to suggest that the rest of us don’t take a day off either trying to make this earth a better place to live, no matter where it happens to take place or when. the opportunity to raise your spiritual conciousness never ceases.

  • Helen Blake

    You had the opportunity to reach out and help a living being …and chose not to ….you ‘re not forgiven …I don’t care how you explain it away.

  • Ann

    No excuses cruel arses why take Photos and spread it on the computer , and then whinge people wrote bad comments , you deserved it ,grow up, sick of people being cruel to animals .

  • derp

    fuck u for not saving it

  • Daniel Zoller

    It is pretty amazing how many people here equate an animal with human life. I love my 4 legged friend but if it came between saving my dog and a total stranger from drowning I would save the human 1st. Does that make me a bad person for realizing that there is a difference between humans and animals. Time and time again the do gooders step in and try to save everyone and everything from mother nature. This often makes the problem worse in the long run. Nature has been at this a lot longer than our species has been walking upright and will continue to do so long after we are gone.

  • Verna Austen

    “blah blah blah 234 paragraphs , I didn’t do $%*&”
    self rightous ahole

  • Obadiah

    I hope someday this asshole is begging to be rescued…

  • Archer

    When presented with such a choice, one can do three things; cluck the tongue that such a thing has happened and do nothing, step in and help, or pretend that you are outside of the situation. The first two choices at least acknowledge that one is a participant in every event around oneself, and the third choice is a self-delusion that one is exempt from consequence.

    You walked away from a creature in need. You may not think that it matters, but it does—that which we do unto the least of others on this earth, we do unto ourselves, man or beast. That fact is true regardless of where one lives, be it North America or Vietnam. Explaining a decision by asserting that criticism is misdirected
    because of “context” isn’t just cruel in this instance…it’s evil. Such a lengthy, divertive
    explanation is a dead giveaway that you doubt your own choice.

  • Nicola

    That man must have a heart of stone. Mine feels very heavy right now ….

  • Desie Mendenhall

    Ok this will be the last time I waste any more time on this story. Those of you screaming about the photographer not doing anything for this kitten are just tooting your own horns about “what” you would do. The fact is most of you would do nothing because there are guidelines you would have to follow. Plus while you’re doing all this moaning and groaning, there are kittens and puppies right in your own towns that need saving. You can call me heartless and wish a similar fate on me all you want but how many of you can claim that all 7 of your fur babies are rescued from shelters? I can. I feel for the animals in other countries but I choose to try and do my part in MY country.

  • Gill Redfearn

    The States is the easiest country in the world to send animals to.

  • Gill Redfearn

    No he didn’t ignore it. He took its photo and probably sold it and hoped to make his name on it.

  • Maria Kanuk

    Graham Lavery, you seem to like fame, do not mind taking pictures of the most hopeless creatures just like that of a poor kitten and then leave it to its own devices, knowing it will not survive. It crossed your way for a reason and it WAS in your hand to help it but you chose not to! It shows your heart is a stone. Those silly excuses does not justify his ignorance, he did not even try. If there are millions starving, why should he save a little tiny kitten???? This is his logic

  • Moejj

    What are my thoughts? I’ll refrain, because I have nothing nice to say for that BS froo froo excuse. I would have helped that little Kitty begging for help. PERIOD. That’s me. That’s what I do. I volunteer at a no kill Kitty Refuge in Pittsboro, NC – I help anywhere, everywhere I can, animal and human alike.

  • Lisa moore

    And he walks away …a young nursing kitten lies at your feet ..clinging to the first thing it’s sees after a disaster took him away from his mama … You walk away.. Yet you took the time to take its photo capturing the fear in his eyes… You walk away…did you stop to think that maybe this kitten could have been the one thing that could have brought joy to a family who just lost everything ….. You will never know because walked away.
    Your decision to take a photo of a kittten that just went through a traumatic situation needed your help…it was the perfect picture and you could have been our hero but you chose to walk away …you have made it clear that your photography is to capture photos of death “some photos will never see the light of day” I guess in a sense you captured your picture of death in that kittens eyes ..

  • Debz

    Heartless son of a b*tch

  • Debz

    Thats no excuse man….NO EXCUSE!!!! Graham Lavery – you were happy to use the picture for your own promotion, but didnt bave the heart to do anything whatsoever for that kitten!? You deserve the negative publicity and consequences thereof!

  • Ravan

    It’s just disgusting! Lack of compassion and not caring! I guess such people lack any compassion or a soul. They have no trouble sleeping at night!

  • Andrea

    I don’t want to jugde anyone, but if you have decided not to help the animal in need, why did you took this sad picture? What is the purpose of this sadness if you don’t want to help? Who gave you that right? When I was in Egypt some 15 years ago, a child was sleeping on the road, near one house, with small amount of food in his hands, and it was terrible to see. Some of the people that we travelling with us, took the camera and shot the picture….I was so angry! Why? To show someone how that child is hungry????? The same is with this small kitten. If you choose not to help, ok, but don’t record someone’s grief if you don’t want to help!!!!!!

  • skiedrow

    I completely understand their logic. I may have taken the kitten home and taken care of it for a few days, but then what? Craigslist it to a good home? Take it to an animal shelter? We are used to our abundance of options in our privileged society. While, it makes me horribly sad this kitten didn’t get a chance and I would have probably irrationally taken it home only to realize I can’t take it back with me, the fact that he and his friend actually thought about their options and made a hard decision is admirable. It was riddled in logic and when it comes to kittens and puppies, no one likes logic. But that doesn’t mean that he’s a horrible person. It’s the fact of life.

  • Jamie Lynn Bolton

    I saw this picture on FB this morning, and I have been thinking about it all day. I’m not sure why this particular image has me so emotional, but I have been moved to tears a dozen times over the course of the day every time I think of it. My opinion is this….I understand that you were in a different country, and that the people there view animals differently. However, YOU ARE NOT from that country, and I would argue that your viewpoint of animal treatment ought to super cede the popular view since YOU were the one interacting with it. I also understand there are many animals in need of help, and that you cannot possibly save them all, but to that I would inject that, in this picture, I only see ONE animal asking for your help. That is what my heart says…..

  • Melly

    They couldn’t do anything for thid poor baby, but they did take a picture of it, that little one though they were going to help.That was more cruel than just leaving it alone. Shame on these guys…….

  • S. Polite

    I’m sorry, but I would have taken this poor kitten, no matter the country. Those men were heartless, despite what he said; just because he was in a foreign country, he would not help. At least he could have found shelter and food for that poor kitten. :-( :’(

  • linda camac

    I would have given anything to have had the opportunity to rescue this precious little soul…..sometimes the Universe presents us with an opportunity for goodness….these two men didn’t recognize this opportunity… karma will show them the mercy that they have shown…..none!

  • clonus


  • tinkertot86

    this makes me sad. its a living creature. he should have a heart. he would save it if it was a small child. why should a kitten be any different?

  • Donna Whitt

    I personally would have saved the kitten. I could not and would not have left it. I would have brought it home with me some how, some way. I would have kept it, loved it, spoiled it, gave it a good, loving home.

  • sharon

    Sir you have done your job to long! the response you’ve given to appease your conscience is pitiful. If I were to see any of you’re “art” I would remember that kitten literally begging for it’s life and not buy a thing of yours. I pray you are never in the same position as that kitten and have some one walk away from you when your life depends upon their kindness and humanity after taking your picture. What you did was selfish and cold hearted. You need to ask God for forgiveness, that animal was placed in your care and you failed both it and God

  • Zee MacMillan

    A question of what to do….pick up the poor thing! How does that just
    not occur to you when you see this? Using this photo for anything less
    than what a careless character this photographer is, is horrendous.

    I’m not at all happy or satisfied by this response from the photographer, I don’t see any justification.

    I can only hope from the bottom of my heart that this beautiful creature is somewhere warm and safe.

  • mel

    It came up to you for help, you WERE able to help it, drying it, giving it some food and drink these things were completely possible for you but instead you turned your back and took pictures. You are indeed cruel and when karma comes your way I do hope she brings you to your knees.

  • Carol Foley

    I think if that was me I would have to help that dear little soul. In all concience I could not walk away and leave that kitten there without help. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. And I can’t believe that anyone could do would have to be vey hard and put yourself in that kittens place, how would you feel? Would you want someone to help you of course you would. I wonder can you sleep at night thinking of that poor little soul, and what you should have done.I think you are a very cruel and heartless man.

  • Da Dom

    Poor cat. Reminds me of a possum that came to me after a night of fighting. A mercy kill was the best I could do for it.