2022 Cambodia – Meat

The closely guarded and secret slaughterhouse for pigs is located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Because of the lack of modern equipment, the animals here are still traditionally killed in a gruesome manner, as are animals in most slaughterhouses in Cambodia. Although international organisations in recent years have repeatedly called for a reform of Cambodia’s virtually non-existent animal welfare laws, slaughtering conditions have remained unchanged. The abattoir workers bludgeon the pigs with heavy metal rods. They then slit the animals’ throats and leave them to bleed to death, sometimes while still conscious. The dying pigs are dragged across the blood-soaked concrete floor before being thrown into a vat of boiling water. Throughout this brutal procedure, live and dead animals remain in the same room; the noises and smells are unimaginable and subject the pigs to maximum levels of stress. 

This method is not without physical and psychological effects on the workers, who are employed on a piecework basis from eleven in the evening until five in the morning. Tellingly, their wages are based on the cruelty of the particular activity they are carrying out. Workers who slit the pigs’ throats receive the highest rate. Livestock production is being driven by a rapidly increasing demand for meat in Cambodia and attractive prospects of profit for employers.

The photo story is part of the series VANISHING CAMBODIA, which photographer Steff Gruber has been working on for a number of years and which examines the social changes taking place in the country.

Genre: Reportage
Camera (digital): Nikon Z9 with Nikkor-Z zoom lens 24-70mm/2.8
ISO: 10’000