Cambodian butcher quits dog meat trade, shuts slaughterhouse

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Dogs lay in a cage in a slaughterhouse as they wait for the FOUR PAWS International, rescue them at Chi Meakh village in Kampong Thom province north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. 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. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

CHI MEAKH – 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 had 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 had been caged at the slaughterhouse to an animal shelter in the capital, Phnom Penh, for rehabilitation, after which they will be offered for adoption, either in Cambodia or abroad.

The closure Wednesday in Chi Meakh village 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 famously part of the cuisine in neighboring Vietnam, while 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. The practice also hurt the tourist industry, they say.

Katherine Polak, Four Paws’ head of stray animal care for Southeast Asia, told The Associated Press that 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 Khmer (Cambodian) culture. They view this as a Vietnamese import in terms of culinary preference and ... dogs play a really critical role in national peacekeeping, in mine detection.”