Phnom Penh, 31st October 2019 – Ten dogs saved from imminent death in Cambodia: Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS closed a dog slaughterhouse in the Takeo Province on 27th October and took all animals into its care. Among the animals rescued were two dogs which the owner kept in a holding cage as good luck charms since they were puppies. Every day for more than two years, they watched their cage mates being brutally killed, chopped up, cooked and sold as bar snacks. The fate of these animals is unfortunately not an isolated case. In Cambodia, an estimated three million dogs, including stolen pets, are slaughtered for their meat every year. FOUR PAWS is calling for an outright ban of the barbaric dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia given its threat to animal welfare and public health. In the coming months, the animal welfare organisation plans further investigations, rescue missions and negotiations with the responsible government agencies.
With more than 2,000 dogs killed per year, the slaughterhouse was the largest supplier of dog meat in the province. The facility also sold dried black dog penises, worn by men for good luck, and was largely supplied by stolen pets, strays, or unwanted dogs traded for aluminium pots and pans. The owner kept the dogs in a small rusty, iron cage until he slaughtered them by cutting their throats with a large knife. After closing the slaughterhouse, FOUR PAWS took the ten rescued dogs to their local partner “Animal Rescue Cambodia”. There the dogs received immediate medical treatment and will be cared for until they find loving, adoptive homes. “We are so relieved to put an end to an operation which caused the needless suffering of so many animals. The rescued dogs were in heartbreaking conditions. The two dogs that sat in the tiny cage for more than two years could barely walk due to severe muscle atrophy of their legs,” says Dr Katherine Polak, veterinarian and Head of FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia.
Dog butcher turned rice farmer
During their investigations, FOUR PAWS initially met with the owner of the slaughterhouse who was desperate to get out of the dog meat trade. He asked FOUR PAWS for help with an alternative livelihood and after months of discussions, a business plan was developed involving rice and vegetable cultivation. A rice field was purchased, and the owner pledged a lifetime commitment to never be involved in the dog meat trade again. During the rescue, FOUR PAWS team removed and destroyed all slaughtering equipment and the holding cage on-site.
Three million dead dogs in Cambodia per year
In Cambodia, there is no specific law prohibiting the dog meat trade, however legislation exists which 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 1.80 and 2.70 Euros per kilo, while a kilo of raw meat is sold for up to 3.60 Euros. Individual dog meat dishes cost less than one Euro. 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. Women who eat dog meat, on the other hand, tend to eat dog meat at home, and for medicinal reasons. While the trade is prolific, dog meat consumption remains a controversial practice among Khmer people.
A danger for animals and humans
The incidence of human rabies in the country is one of the highest in the world due to the lack of dog vaccination programs and human dog bites. Every year, the disease kills over 800 people in Cambodia. The dog meat trade is a major contributor given that it removes vaccinated dogs from communities, and transports rabies-infected dogs across the country and into cities, putting consumers, traders, and butchers at risk of infection. “Inherent to the trades are extreme cruelty to animals and illegal activities, including pet theft, in addition to the very real threat of rabies transmission to communities and tourists. This, coupled with the unsanitary conditions found at restaurants and slaughterhouses, means that people are being exposed to potentially deadly diseases. If Cambodia is serious about eradicating human rabies, the dog meat trade simply cannot be ignored,” says Dr Polak.
FOUR PAWS' fight against the dog and cat meat trade
In order to end the dog and cat meat trade in Cambodia and the rest of Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and gain support both within Southeast Asia and internationally. Through educational work and cooperation with the responsible authorities and tourism stakeholders, the goal is to reduce the demand for dog and cat meat and to introduce stricter animal protection laws. In addition, FOUR PAWS supports local animal welfare organisations and communities with humane and sustainable stray animal programmes.
FOUR PAWS has also launched a petition to bring together public sentiment against the trade, with almost 120,000 signatures collected in less than a month.