Siem Reap expats are up in arms following reports that a missing pet dog may have ended up butchered in a local shop specialising in selling dog meat.
Many expats keep dogs as pets, and when they go missing it is some people’s worst fear that their pooches will end up in a cooking pot.
When Josette Vanneur’s beloved black dog Romeo disappeared late last month, she was chilled by this very thought.
Animal-lover Vannuer, who set up the charitable organisation Siem Reap Pagoda Cats, said Romeo was snatched by some guys on a moto and she had to “gather all her courage” to go to a local ‘special meat’ restaurant near Wat Athvea to look for him.
“There is a special meat restaurant five minutes from my home and I immediately went there,” she said. “It was the first time I’d been but I assembled all my courage to go through it, and walked up to the outdoor kitchen.
“The vision was horrific, with a young guy butchering a black and white dog. I almost fainted before getting into an uncontrollable rage.”
She said she was told that the butchered dog ‘comes from Thailand’ and she established that her dog hadn’t been processed there.
“Romeo was given as a two month old puppy to my family in July 2011 and soon became my favorite. I even trained him, with bananas as rewards. I am so sad now,” she said, still hoping that her dog didn’t end up butchered.
Insider knows of at least two shops in town selling dog meat and also serving it cooked as a restaurant meal – one on the road to Phnom Krom that Josette Vanneur visited, and another in funky Sok San Road.
When Insider spoke to the owners of the Special Meat Riverside restaurant and butchers on the road to Phnom Krom, they refused to reveal anything about their dog trade.
But when Insider decided to buy some dog meat, the owners were happy to talk.
“Dog meat is so delicious and tastes better than chicken and beef”, said an elder woman who is the mother of the restaurant owner.
She declined to give her name, but said the shop has to buy at least two dogs every day to service customers who have a penchant for ‘special meat’.
“We normally buy two dogs per day in the rainy reason, but in cold season we buy more,” she said.
She said these dogs are brought from Banteay Meanchey province by a villager there, and sold to the butcher for around 8,000 riel ($2) per kilogram.
“Dog meat has now become so expensive,” she added, “Even though we give them the best price, sometimes they still cannot find dogs for us. We rarely get dog here in Siem Reap, because no one wants to sell.”
She said that her daughter pays between 80,000 to 100,000 riel ($20-$25) for a dog and sells for 5,000 riel ($1.25) for a small plate with fresh vegetables, herbs, and the inner stem of the banana tree cut into small pieces, along with prahok sauce.
It is mostly Khmer people who go to this restaurant to eat dog meat.
“Everyone knows that eating dog is common in Vietnam and China, but here, they don’t do it openly as people have different opinions. Some people love dogs as a lovely pet, some love it as a special food” she said.
It takes her daughter nearly a whole morning to cook a dog, she explained.
“We have to boil the dog for many hours, then deep fry it and finally grill it until it becomes dry. We cook it with our special ingredients.”
She said her daughter’s restaurant will be full in the cold season from December until February, adding that “Dog meat increases the heat inside our body, so during cold season people will come here to eat it.”
Many construction workers enjoy a plate of dog meat after they finish work.
Chan Ny, 25, a construction worker, said eating dog meat is good for his health.
“After working hard all day, I have to recharge my power by eating dog. It makes me healthy, ” he said. “The taste of dog meat is really good, but some people just feel disgusted and dare not eat it.”
From a westerner’s point of view, of course, the consumption of “man’s best friend” is difficult to accept.