Warning – this may be a heartbreaking read and not for the faint hearted, but an important and controversial one. This is not written to disrespect the cultures of Southeast Asia but to educate on what happens to dogs that end up in restaurants and what the risks of eating dog meat are and why as a tourist you should avoid it at all costs.
FOUR PAWS recently got in touch with me to ask me to share a piece to raise awareness on the dog meat industry in Southeast Asia and its taken me a few days to digest the information which I found really difficult to read, being someone that has had dogs as pets my whole life. However, I do think it is a really important issue, especially being in the travel industry and knowing that hopefully I can change someones mind not to try dog meat as a tourist when travelling to Southeast Asia and to be aware of the reality of what goes on. So here goes….
In Cambodia, an estimated three million dogs, including stolen pets, are slaughtered for their meat every year.
In a slaughterhouse in the Takeo Province of Cambodia more than 2,000 dogs were killed per year and it was the largest supplier of dog meat in the province.
Dogs are sold to dog suppliers in exchange for aluminium pots and pans. Can you believe that? A life of an animal for a cooking vessel. Dogs are evaluated on size, behaviour, and condition, and then the pots are negotiated accordingly. However, something to understand is that this is how they make ends meet and until they are given an alternative way to make an income, this is sadly why this happens.
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.
As dog collectors fetch dogs throughout the day the dogs are kept in harsh conditions in the sweltering heat until they are eventually sold on to the slaughterhouses, where they face a cruel fate. They are killed here in the most inhumane way and sold on as “special meat” which is cheap. I won’t go into the way they are killed as I personally found it difficult to comprehend.
If you are in Cambodia on travels you may even see these cars with dogs in cages and pots hanging at the back. Now you’ll know why. You may even spot “Delicious Dog Meat” signs in places like Siem Reap. In other parts you may even see roasted dog heads displayed in restaurant windows.
As Westerners, this is a concept hard to get our heads around as dogs are our furry best friends.
So why is dog meat so popular in Southeast Asia? Partly because of a lack education and awareness meaning that the demand for dog meat continues to rise because some people believe that by eating the dog meat they will get stronger, increase their libido, and cure their illnesses. It is also cheap.
Lots of restaurants in Cambodia serve dog meat and if you are travelling around please be aware of whats on your plate and ensure you aren’t being given “special meat” which is actually dog meat.
FOUR PAWS found that in the city of Phnom Penh alone, there were more than 110 dog meat restaurants. The majority of the consumers are men 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.
Why shouldn’t you try this meat? 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. Combined with the meat being served in unsanitary conditions, you are opening up yourself to being exposed to potentially deadly diseases.
If you are tempted to try dog meat whilst on your travels, just know what you are contributing to the minute you pay for it and consume it, and the health risks involved and then question whether it is worth it to add to the horrific torture that dogs go through to meet the demand for the dog meat.
There is some hope though and a good news story as on October 27 2019 FOUR PAWS rescued ten dogs from the slaughterhouse in the Takeo Province. FOUR PAWS had 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.
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,”
Dr Katherine Polak, veterinarian and Head of FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia.
What really was difficult for me to read about was that among the animals rescued were two dogs which the owner had kept in a holding cage as good luck charms since they were puppies.
Every day for more than two years, these two dogs watched their cage mates being brutally killed, chopped up, cooked and sold as bar snacks. What must have been going through their minds?
Hopefully these 10 dogs will be heading to the United States to be adopted and start a brand new life away from the barbaric trade. But there are countless more that aren’t so lucky. This breaks my heart.
I really admire the work FOUR PAWS are doing to try and raise awareness so that animals can be saved from this inhumane fate and also to educate people about the alternative livelihoods that could be available to them so that they don’t participate in the dog meat industry.
There is so much work to be done as in places like Cambodia the demand continues to be high. Until the dog collectors have been educated and are given opportunities to find another line of work they will continue to collect dogs which have been stolen or are stray, and lead them to a horrible fate at a slaughterhouse.
Sign the petition to help 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 at http://bit.ly/fb-dcmt, with almost 309K signatures collected so far, so why not sign today and make a difference.
All photos are credited to FOUR PAWS.