4 March 2021 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS closed an infamous dog slaughterhouse in Skun, Cambodia on 4 March and rescued the 16 remaining dogs held there. The slaughterhouse was considered a key supplier of dog meat in the region. Since opening the facility in 1995, the owner claimed to have drowned up to 200 dogs per day and supplied raw meat to dog meat restaurants in and around Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh. FOUR PAWS took the rescued dogs to their local partner and is now preparing them for adoption. In Cambodia, an estimated three million dogs, many of which are stolen pets, are killed for their meat every year. FOUR PAWS warns not only of rampant animal cruelty, but also of the risks to public health.
As part of its investigations into the dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS became aware of the slaughterhouse in the city of Skun last year. The local team visited with the owner several times over the last year, after he reached out for assistance to get out of the trade.
"The slaughterhouse was by far one of the most shocking facilities our team had ever visited. When we discovered the two elevated, cement water tanks, it was immediately clear to us that this slaughterhouse was designed for mass killing. Over the past 25 years, more than one million dogs have been drowned at the facility. The practice of drowning dogs causes immense pain and suffering and fails to conform to any international standards of humane euthanasia. The 16 dogs we found on-site were the last survivors of this horrific, antiquated practice, that has no place in modern society,”
reports Dr Katherine Polak, veterinarian and Head of FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia.
The former owner of the slaughterhouse has contractually assured FOUR PAWS and the local government that he will never again be involved in the dog meat trade. FOUR PAWS is facilitating his livelihood conversion from slaughterhouse to a general goods shop and construction business.
A total of 77 dogs rescued in a fortnight
The now 16 rescued dogs join the 61 dogs FOUR PAWS took into its care on 21 February. The Siem Reap Provincial Department of Agriculture found the animals crammed into six small cages in a minibus travelling through the province, en route to slaughterhouses hours away. Although the trade in dog meat has officially been banned in Siem Reap since July 2020, it was the first time that dogs had been confiscated by the government in Cambodia. Together with its local partners “Animal Rescue Cambodia” in Phnom Penh and “Paw Patrol Cambodia” in Siem Reap, FOUR PAWS is providing medical care and preparing the 77 dogs for adoption. FOUR PAWS has discovered several high-volume slaughterhouses and hundreds of dog meat restaurants across Cambodia, most of them located in Phnom Penh. “The first intervention by local authorities, the dog meat ban in Siem Reap as well as the closure of yet another slaughterhouse sends a strong message that the dog meat trade must come to an end,” says Polak.
The dangers of the dog and cat meat trade
Research by FOUR PAWS not only shows that the dog and cat meat trade involves immense animal cruelty, but also highlights the risks to public health. In Asia, around 30 million dogs and cats – stray animals as well as pets – are stolen and killed for their meat. The unhygienic and brutal conditions during transport, holding and slaughter provide the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic viruses. The dogs and cats are often slaughtered and sold alongside wild animals at live animal markets. “The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the risks associated with the live animal trade. Rabies and cholera are just two of the diseases that have been directly linked with the dog and cat meat trade. Dogs and cats can serve as a significant reservoir for the emergence and spread of zoonotic pathogens. It therefore cannot be ruled out that the next pandemic could originate from the dog and cat meat trade, and now is the time to act to end the trade,” says Dr Karanvir Kukreja, veterinarian and Head of FOUR PAWS Companion Animal Public Campaigns Southeast Asia.
Over one million people worldwide have taken a stand against the dog and cat meat trade
To put a sustainable end to the dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign on an international and national level in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Over one million people worldwide have already signed the petition to end the cruel trade. Through educational work and cooperation with the responsible authorities and tourism associations, the aim is to persuade governments to introduce strict animal welfare laws banning the brutal trade. In addition, FOUR PAWS supports local animal welfare organisations and communities with humane and sustainable dog and cat population management programmes. FOUR PAWS is also part of the animal welfare coalitions DMFI (Dog Meat Free Indonesia) and ACPA (Asia Canine Protection Alliance), which lobby against the trade in Southeast Asia.