6 August 2020 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS closed a dog slaughterhouse in the Kampong Thom Province in Cambodia on 5th August and rescued all 15 animals on-site. This is the second successful closure after FOUR PAWS shut down a large dog meat supplier in late 2019. The closure comes on the heels of a landmark ban on dog meat, the first of its kind in Cambodia, by the Siem Reap government. An estimated three million dogs, including stolen pets, are slaughtered for their meat in Cambodia every year. FOUR PAWS is calling for an outright ban of the barbaric dog and cat meat trade in Cambodia nationwide and all of Southeast Asia given its threat to animal welfare and public health.
The now-closed slaughterhouse killed up to 3,000 dogs every year, most trafficked from Siem Reap, and serves as the largest dog meat supplier in the area. Due to its strategic location between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, the closure will severely impact the supply of dog meat into neighbouring provinces and the capital, hence being effective beyond its immediate area. During the closure, FOUR PAWS rescued all 15 dogs on-site that were awaiting slaughter and transported them to their local partner charity “Animal Rescue Cambodia”. There the dogs received immediate medical treatment and will be cared for until they find loving, adoptive homes.
“There is incredible momentum throughout Cambodia to end the dog meat trade and we are relieved to see this facility closed for good. We have not just changed the lives of the dogs rescued, but also the tens of thousands of dogs that will be spared a horrific death for their meat. We have also been able to successfully work with the owner of the facility, who did not want to be involved in the trade any longer. But the work does not just end with the closure. The coming weeks to months will be critical in providing ongoing medical treatment to the rescued dogs, in addition to the love and care required to help them recover from this traumatic experience,”
says Dr Katherine Polak, Head of FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia and veterinarian.
From dog butchers to grocery shop owners
During initial investigations, FOUR PAWS met with the owners of the dog slaughterhouse in Kampong Thom, who expressed remorse over killing dogs and desperation to get out of the trade. Given the recent announcement of a dog meat ban in Siem Reap Province, there is even more impetus now in Cambodia for those involved in the trade to get out. In order to help the owners transition out of the trade, FOUR PAWS is facilitating an alternative livelihood involving the construction and operation of a small grocery shop to ensure the owners are able to sustainably transition out of the dog meat trade. The owners of the slaughterhouse have also pledged a lifetime commitment to never be involved in the dog meat trade again. In addition to rescuing all dogs kept on-site, the FOUR PAWS team removed all the cages and slaughtering equipment.
Three million dead dogs in Cambodia per year
Apart from Siem Reap province, which recently banned the dog meat trade, there is no specific law in Cambodia prohibiting the trade. However, legislation exists and if enforced, could significantly curtail the trade. FOUR PAWS investigations have revealed severe animal welfare issues in all stages of the trade, from capture to slaughter. The trade is of considerable magnitude, involving upwards of three million dogs every year, many of which are snatched off the streets. In Cambodia, most dogs are killed using drowning pits, hanging or stabbing. The dog meat trade is a profit driven industry, with a live dog fetching between £1.60 - £2.40 Euros per kilo, while a kilo of raw meat is sold for up to £3.15 Euros. Individual dog meat dishes cost less than 90p. In the capital city of Phnom Penh alone, FOUR PAWS has documented more than 110 dog meat restaurants. Men make up the majority of consumers who tend to eat the meat as a bar snack with friends, accompanied by alcohol. Female consumers, on the other hand, tend to eat dog meat at home, and for purported medicinal reasons. While the trade is prolific, dog meat consumption remains a controversial practice among Khmer people.
FOUR PAWS’ fight against the dog and cat meat trade
In Cambodia, FOUR PAWS partners with local charity Animal Rescue Cambodia to improve companion animal welfare in the country, in addition to having a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) – a Cambodian government agency – to end the dog meat trade. To put a sustainable end to the brutal dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign on an international and national level in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. “Through educational work and cooperation with the responsible authorities, local communities and the tourism industry, FOUR PAWS’ goal is for Governments in Southeast Asia to introduce, strengthen and enforce animal protection laws, which will bring an end to the capture, slaughter and consumption of dogs and cats. This will not only protect animals – but people as well from public health risks. The recent COVID-19 pandemic brings into stark reality the dangers of the live animal trade. The conditions seen at Wuhan, the likely origin of COVID-19, – animals kept in cramped and brutal conditions, unsanitary practices, mixing of sick animals – are also seen in the Cambodian dog meat trade, all leading to an ideal environment for the emergence of new viruses”, says Dr Karanvir Kukreja, Project Manager for FOUR PAWS’ Ending the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Campaign.
Furthermore, FOUR PAWS supports local animal welfare organisations and communities with humane and sustainable stray animal care programmes. FOUR PAWS is also part of the animal welfare coalitions Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI) and the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA), which lobby against the trade in Southeast Asia, as well as the Asia for Animals Coalition, which works to improve the welfare of animals across Asia.
The support for an end to this cruel trade has gained global traction with FOUR PAWS petition receiving over 830,000 signatures since it launched late last year, including thousands of signatures from Cambodian citizens calling for an end to the trade: