The trade is largely supplied by stolen pets, strays or unwanted dogs sold to passing motorcyclists for aluminium pots and pans.
Captured creatures spend their days in small and rusty iron cages waiting for their gruesome deaths.
Workers at unlicensed slaughterhouses are exposed to deadly health risks like rabies and say they are being traumatised by the day-to-day killings.Ken Chan, who slices the throats of up to six dogs a day, burst into tears as he described how his job haunts him as he goes to sleep.
Speaking to several dogs awaiting their fate in a cage, he said: ‘Please forgive me. I don’t kill you, I can’t feed my family.’Global animal welfare organisation Four Paws saved 10 animals from imminent death when they got a slaughterhouse in Takeo Province closed down on October 27.
Two of the dogs there had been kept in a holding cage by the owner as good luck charms since they were puppies.
For two years they watched helplessly as their cage mates were brutally killed, chopped up, cooked and sold as bar snacks.
The facility killed an estimated 2,000 dogs every year and sold dried black dog penises for men to wear for good luck.
Four Paws initially met with the owner of the slaughterhouse who said he was desperate to get out of the business.
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He asked the organisation for help finding an alternative livelihood and, after months of discussions, he developed a business plan to farm rice and vegetables.
A field was purchased and vowed never to get involved with the dog meat trade again.
Four Paws took the ten rescued dogs to its local partner ‘Animal Rescue Cambodia’ for immediate medical treatment.
There the dogs will be cared for until loving new homes are found for them.Veterinarian and head of Four Paws stray animal care in Southeast Asia Katherine Polak said: ‘We are so relieved to put an end to an operation which caused the needless suffering of so many animals.
‘The rescued dogs were in heartbreaking conditions. The two dogs that sat in the tiny cage for more than two years could barely walk due to severe muscle atrophy of their legs.’Four Paws is calling for an outright ban of the dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia.
A petition fetching 120,000 signatures in under a month says families are ‘torn apart’ by the industry.But the trade is still thriving, with dog meat eaten in several Asian countries from China and South Korea to Vietnam and Indonesia’s non-Muslim communities.
Activists say demand has declined partly due to the region’s growing middle class, who are more likely to own pets and see eating dog as taboo.
But the brutal trade has flown under the radar in Cambodia where roving dog catchers bring animals to slaughterhouses and restaurants serving ‘special meat’.
Motorbike riders criss-cross the north of the country trading pots, pans and cookware for unwanted dogs, loading them into a heavy rectangular cage on a back seat and making deliveries to middlemen.At a village in Siem Reap, former soldier Hun Hoy pulled a dog out of a cage and hung it on tree branch near drying laundry.
After gasping for breath for several minutes it stopped moving.
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The animal was then placed in boiling water to remove its fur and chopped into part.
Hun, 59, said: ‘On a good day, I kill 10 dogs or 12 dogs. I also feel pity for them but I have to strangle them.’
A woman at another slaughterhouse said: ‘By putting them in the cage and drowning them in a pit we don’t have to hear their cries’.
There is no specific law prohibiting the dog meat trade in Cambodia, but legislation exists which if enforced could curtail it significantly.Four Paws say a live dog fetches between 1.80 Euros (£1.54) and 2.70 Euros (£2.31) per kilo.
But a kilo of raw meat is sold for up to 3.60 Euros (£3.08), making it a profitable business.Individual dog meat dishes often cost less than one Euro and are sold in more than 110 restaurants in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh alone, according to Four Paws.
The majority of consumers are men, who tend to eat the meat as a bar snack with alcohol.
Women in Cambodia tend to eat dog at home for medicinal reasons.But the trade still remains controversial among Khmer people despite trade being so prolific.
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of human rabies in the world partly due to a lack of dog vaccination programmes.
The dog meat trade removes vaccinated animals from communities and transports those who are infected with the disease into cities, putting consumers, traders and butchers at risk.
As he cooked dog meat stew with fermented fish paste in a village in Siem Reap, Pring, 33, said: ‘I got bitten by a dog but I did not get vaccinated because when I returned it was late at night.’
Instead he cleaned his wound with soap and lemon.
Dr Polak said: ‘Inherent to the trades are extreme cruelty to animals and illegal activities, including pet theft, in addition to the very real threat of rabies transmission to communities and tourists.
‘This, coupled with the unsanitary conditions found at restaurants and slaughterhouses, means that people are being exposed to potentially deadly diseases.
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‘If Cambodia is serious about eradicating human rabies, the dog meat trade simply cannot be ignored.’