The dog meat trade has been banned in the Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap – the centre of the country’s industry that slaughters three million canines each year.
Animal rights campaigners have hailed the ban as a victory, and described the area as the ‘lynchpin’ of the dog meat industry.
Dog meat is seen as a cheap source of protein and is eaten in several Asian countries, including Cambodia, with sprawling dog meat stalls and markets commonplace in Siem Reap.
Activists say more than 7,000 dogs end up in the province’s slaughterhouses each month where they are drowned before being sold at stalls.
But on Tuesday Siem Reap authorities announced the ban, as the provincial agricultural department described how the dog meat trade has descended into ‘anarchy’ in recent years.
‘It has caused the infection of rabies and other diseases from one region to another, which affects the public health,’ said the statement.
‘The catching, buying, selling and slaughtering of dogs… will be punished severely.’
The maximum penalty for dealing in dogs for slaughter as food is five years in prison, while fines range from 7-50 million riel ($1,700 to $12,200).
Authorities have not yet revealed how the ban will be enforced, with Cambodia having long struggled with lax policing.
Animal rights group Four Paws had identified the Siem Reap province as a hub for the trade and campaigned for its ban.
Activists hailed the decision as a ‘lynchpin for the Cambodian dog meat trade’.
‘We hope that Siem Reap will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow suit,’ said veterinarian Dr. Katherine Polak.
Their investigation last year found that the northern province served as a gateway for the trade, with roving dog catchers stealing animals and selling them to more than 20 dog meat restaurants in the tourist city.
Individual dog meat dishes were found to cost less than one euro, with men making up the majority of consumers who eat the meat as a bar snack.
Thousands are also transported each month to different parts of the country, including the capital Phnom Penh, where there are still more than 100 restaurants.
On Wednesday, a streetside vendor in the capital continued to advertise dog meat on his menu, hawking barbecue dishes from $2.50 to $10 a kilogram.
Siem Reap draws the bulk of the kingdom’s six million tourists, with nearly half travelling over from China.
The province draws tourists from all over, who flock to see the famed Angkor Wat temple complex, the largest religious monument in the world.