Cambodia’s tourist hotspot Siem Reap bans dog meat trade

Dogs are seen inside a cage at a slaughterhouse in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 25, 2019, photo: Reuters/Four Paws

The Cambodian Siem Reap province popular with tourists has banned the trade and slaughtering of dogs for meat. Around three million dogs a year are slaughtered for meat in Cambodia.

According to the animal welfare group Four Paws, Siem Reap has been identified as a dog meat hotspot responsible for large-scale sourcing and trafficking of dogs.

Authorities announced the ban late Tuesday, with the provincial agricultural department saying the dog meat trade has descended into anarchy in recent years.

Siem Reap province, home to the ancient Angkor Wat ruins, is the first place to issue such a ban in Cambodia. Every year, more than 2 million tourists visit the area.

“Dog meat has been a lot more popular following the arrivals of foreigners, especially among the (South) Koreans,” Tea Kimsoth, director of the provincial Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries department, told Reuters. “They like it, that’s why it led to restaurants serving it, so now we ban it.” He described the trade as ‘alarming’.

The ban says dogs should not be slaughtered because they are loyal pets capable of protecting homes and farms and of assisting the military. The maximum penalty for dealing in dogs for slaughter as food will be five years in prison, while fines range from 7-50 million Cambodian riels ($1,700 to $12,200), AFP reports. How the ban will be enforced remains to be seen.

Katherine Polak, head of Four Paws Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia, called the ban historical and reflective of public sentiment.

“The historic decision by the Siem Reap government to ban the stealing, trading and killing of dogs is a huge milestone for animal welfare in Cambodia. We hope that Siem Reap will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow suit to protect the lives of millions of dogs,” she said.

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