Butcher quits dog meat trade in win for activists

Second chance at life: Four Paws International members rescuing dogs at Buth Pith’s abattoir in Chi Meakh village, Kampong Thom province. — AP

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 took the 15 dogs caged at the slaughterhouse to an animal shelter in Phnom Penh for rehabilitation, after which they would be offered for adoption, either in Cambodia or abroad.

The closure in Chi Meakh village in Kampong Thom province on Wednesday followed a bigger victory in the Siem Reap province, 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 neighbouring 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 two to three million dogs are killed annually in Cambodia for their meat, according to

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 and could also hurt the tourist industry.

Four Paws’ head of stray animal care for South-East Asia Katherine Polak said the Cambodian government at both the national and provincial level took 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,” Polak said.

Buth Pith, the 38-year-old dog butcher in Chi Meakh, explained why he entered the trade.

“I was a seller of freshwater fish before, but when I saw other villagers slaughtering dogs and earning a better income, I start butchering dogs instead,” he said.

His wife Khath Hach, 37, said she was never comfortable with the business but felt that it was necessary to support their family. — AP

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