‘It’s a sin’: Cambodia’s brutal and shadowy dog meat trade

‘It’s a sin’: Cambodia’s brutal and shadowy dog meat trade
An estimated two to three million dogs are slaughtered annually in Cambodia, according to the NGO Four Paws. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2019

‘It’s a sin’: Cambodia’s brutal and shadowy dog meat trade

‘It’s a sin’: Cambodia’s brutal and shadowy dog meat trade
  • A cheap source of protein, dog meat is still eaten in several Asian countries from China and South Korea to Vietnam
  • An estimated two to three million dogs are slaughtered annually in Cambodia, according to the NGO Four Paws

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: Cambodian dog meat traders drown, strangle and stab thousands of canines a day in a shadowy but sprawling business that traumatizes workers and exposes them to deadly health risks like rabies.
Khieu Chan bursts into tears when describing a job that haunts him as he goes to sleep: he kills up to six dogs a day, slicing their throats.
“Please forgive me. “If I don’t kill you, I can’t feed my family,” the 41-year-old tells the 10 dogs awaiting their fate in a cage.
A cheap source of protein, dog meat is still eaten in several Asian countries from China and South Korea to Vietnam and non-Muslim communities in Indonesia.
Animal welfare activists say consumption has declined as the region’s middle class has grown — more people own pets, and there’s greater stigma associated with eating dog.
But the brutal trade has flown under the radar in Cambodia where new research shows a thriving business involving roving dog catchers, unlicensed slaughterhouses and many restaurants in cities selling so-called “special meat.”
An estimated two to three million dogs are slaughtered annually in Cambodia, according to the NGO Four Paws, which identified more than 100 dog meats restaurants in the capital Phnom Penh and about 20 in the temple town of Siem Reap.
“It has this massive trade,” says Katherine Polak, a Thailand-based veterinarian who works with the NGO, which recently presented findings to the government.
Officials were “shocked” by the magnitude, she claims.
Motorbike riders criss-cross northern Cambodia trading pots, pans and cookware for unwanted dogs, loading them into a heavy rectangular cage on the back seat and making deliveries to middlemen.
Live specimens fetch $2 to $3 per kilo, incentivizing suppliers to collect as many as possible.
Researchers say the dog meat trade is a public health crisis because it carries potentially infected animals all over the country.
Cambodia has one of the highest incidence rates of rabies in the world and most cases are from dog bites.
The trade also undermines local canine immunization efforts by removing and killing vaccinated dogs.
Unsanitary slaughterhouses have no safety regulations as they aren’t overseen by the government, and workers wear no protective gear.
“I got bitten by a dog but I did not get vaccinated because when I returned it was late at night,” Pring That said in a village in Siem Reap as he cooked dog meat stew with fermented fish paste.
Instead, the 33-year-old cleaned the wound with soap and lemon.
Industrial-scale slaughterhouses in developing countries put some distance between workers and animals.
But the Cambodian dog trade is hands on.
After receiving delivery, shirtless men poke dogs with sticks into holding cages.
They are then hung, strangled with rope, clubbed over the head or drowned in a pit filled with fetid water.
Just after sunrise in a village in Siem Reap, one worker pulled a dog out of a cage and hung it on the branch of a tree near drying laundry.
After gasping for breath for several minutes, it stopped moving.
It was then placed in boiling water to remove fur and chopped into parts.
“On a good day, I kill 10 dogs or 12 dogs,” says former soldier Hun Hoy.
“I also feel pity for them, but I have to strangle them,” the 59-year-old adds.
Suppliers can earn from $750 to $1,000 in a country where wages in garment factories are under $200.
Productivity is crucial.
“It’s faster to hit them,” explains Dara, 30, a collector, trader and butcher.
“I know it’s a sin,” he adds.
Drowning is the preferred method of slaughter a few hours away in Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces.
“By putting them in the cage and drowning them in a pit, we don’t have to hear their cries,” said one woman.
Meat and parts are sold onto restaurants, where they are a popular with day laborers as a barbecued snack or a $1.25 soup.
The psychological trauma to bring cheap meat to the table is immense and those who find a better job take it.
Next to his dog cage in Takeo, Khieu Chan spoke about meeting Four Paws during their investigation of the trade.
In an unconventional twist, they gave him land for farming if he would close his restaurant.
One recent afternoon he helped the NGO gingerly take the sickly dogs out of the cage placed under a tree.
But before they were removed and sent to Phnom Penh for treatment, he knelt by the bars to say goodbye.
He says: “Now you have freedom. You are spared from death.”


No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’
Updated 20 January 2021

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’

No-go for Joe Exotic: Donald Trump’s pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’
  • Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison
OKLAHOMA CITY: One name missing in President Donald Trump’s flurry of pardons is “Tiger King” Joe Exotic.
His team was so confident in a pardon that they’d readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn’t on the list announced Wednesday morning.
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed.
Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019.
In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns.
Maldonado-Passage’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.
The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”