CHI MEAKH, Cambodia — Animal rights activists in Cambodia have gained a small victory in their effort to end the trade in dog meat, convincing a canine slaughterhouse in one village to abandon the business.
Buth Pith and his wife Khath Hach this week shut down the small abattoir they operated for about seven years after animal protection groups agreed to provide them an alternate living by building a small convenience store for them.
Animal activists are taking the 15 dogs that were caged at the slaughterhouse to an animal shelter in Phnom Penh for rehabilitation, after which they will be offered for adoption, in Cambodia or abroad.
The closure Wednesday, Aug. 5, in Kampong Thom province follows a bigger victory in the northwestern province of Siem Reap, a popular tourist destination, which in July outlawed the buying, selling and butchering of dogs for food.
But animal lovers still have a long way to go. Dog is part of the cuisine in neighboring Vietnam. Eating dog meat was traditionally shunned in Cambodia, considered by an older generation to bring bad luck. In recent years, however, it has become popular.
An estimated 2 million to 3 million dogs are killed annually in Cambodia for their meat, according a recent report by the groups Four Paws International, based in Austria, and Animal Rescue Cambodia.
They say that not only is killing the dogs inhumane, but eating them is a health risk that can spread rabies and hurts the tourist industry.
Katherine Polak, Four Paws’ head of stray animal care for Southeast Asia, told The Associated Press the Cambodian government at both the national and provincial level takes an interest in the dog meat issue because they “do not view this as Cambodian culture. They view this as a Vietnamese import in terms of culinary preference and ... dogs play a critical role in national peacekeeping, in mine detection.”
Buth Pith, the 38-year-old dog butcher in Chi Meakh, explained why he entered the trade.
“Before I was a seller of freshwater fish, but when I saw other villagers slaughtering dogs and earning a better income, I switched my job to start butchering dogs instead,” he said.
He has no idea how many dogs he has killed, but said he usually butchered five to eight a day.
His wife Khath Hach, 37, said she never was comfortable with the business but it was necessary to support their family, including two children.