In February 2020, Shenzhen legislators proposed a bill to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat. In April, the bill was drafted into law, going into effect from May 1, 2020. Animal rights activists could not have been happier that governments were finally listening to their pleas. As Shenzhen set a precedent by becoming the first city in Mainland China to ban wildlife consumption, the animal welfare groups hoped that other countries involved in dog meat trade would follow suit. Now Siem Reap becomes the first city in Cambodia to ban its dog meat trade, and below is an insight into the brutal industry that has resulted in the deaths of millions of dogs.
Making a living off dog meat
Khieu Chan felt it was wrong to kill the helpless animals, but he had no choice. Therefore as published by the Bangkok Post, the man confessed that he slices the throats of up to six digs every day and the images haunt him at night. However, he tries to soothe his conscience as he approaches the caged animals telling them that he has to kill them lest his family sleeps hungry. The guilt often gnaws at him, and he even apologizes to the helpless animals.
While Khieu may be among the few people who have a conscious when killing dogs, others do not give it a second thought. In Cambodia, at least three million dogs end up on people’s plates. The lucrative trade targets stolen or stray dogs, but some businessmen are, in fact, so desperate to have dogs to sell that they would rather trade their cooking ware for the four-legged creatures. One eatery, Restaurant 999, is also in the business to make profits. It offers three specials on its menu whose main ingredient is dog meat: flame-grilled dog, dog meat sour soup served with red ants, and coconut dog curry. Each plate goes for $2 while a whole roasted dog will have you parting with $5, and such delicacies attract customers from all walks of life, be they casual laborers or the rich driving their expensive vehicles.
However, regardless of their status, wealthy customers do not mind sitting in the deplorable restaurants, neither do the tourists who want to expose their palates to new dishes. Men also prefer a snack to enjoy with their friends as they sip their beer. Since dog meat is relatively cheaper with some dishes going for as low as $1.25, they pick it as their most preferable bar snack. Thanks to such loyal customers, large scale dog meat suppliers can make between $750 and $1,000 every month.
Why dog meat consumption is rampant in Cambodia
In most countries, America included, dog sales and adoptions have increased in this pandemic because people need comfort, and our furry friends have proven to be the source. However, in Cambodia and Vietnam, dogs have been turned into a delicacy. The citizens believe the meat will prevent the flu. Dog and cat meat has warming properties that enable the flu-like symptoms to disappear; hence according to Cambodianess,even doctors advise the patients to consume it.
On the other hand, women with their need to have perfect bodies have also been advised to eat dog meat because it helps cure scars. Consequently, most eat, especially after childbirth, to get rid of any surgical scars. Besides, some claim that eating dog meat for seven days will strengthen a weak back; hence, it makes sense for women to prioritize dog meat over any other after undergoing labor. The meat has been said to cure rashes in children, while men wear dried black penises obtained from dead dogs for good luck. It is therefore, a milestone for Siem Reap to do away with the slaughtering of dogs, considering such staunch beliefs.
Why Siem Reap banned the dog meat trade
Dog meat trade has seen at least 7,000 dogs die every month in the whole of Cambodia. However, one animal rights group, FOUR PAWS, based in South Africa, has been investigating the industry and actively campaigning against brutal slaughters since 2018. Matt Backhouse, a Briton who spearheaded the investigations into what goes on in the Cambodia dog meat trade, discovered many locations where the barbaric acts are committed. The investigations led to Aaron Gekoski, an environmental photojournalist, to capture gruesome photos and raise awareness. To Aaron, it was a scene from hell as he watched dogs defecting and biting the cages till their teeth fell out since they knew what awaited them. He still is haunted by the images of the toughest assignment he has ever had to complete.
Fortunately, the nightmares the persistence to stop the trade is bearing fruits since their investigation into Siem Reap’s dog meat trade has been taken seriously by the government. In their expose, Four Paws revealed that from the 21 restaurants they visited the Siem Reap area, 2,900 dogs had ended up on people’s plates while thousands more are transported to different regions within the country. What makes it even sadder is that people visit the Angkor Wat temple, which is Cambodia’s most famous tourist attraction, and do not bother with the suffering of the animals.
The animal rights group aims to protect the animals and people since they are at high risk of contracting diseases like rabies. Their strategy of educating the public and cooperating with governments in the South East Asia region is working because other cities such as Zhuhai in China and Nagaland in India have heeded their advice. In Cambodia, one Veterinarian, Dr. Katherine Polak, hopes that other cities will also adhere to the call for the end of the brutality. As published by The Star, those who do not follow the new law will face a maximum imprisonment of five years and a fine falling between $1,200 and $12,200.