In Cambodia, Tourists Buy and Shoot Cows with Rocket Launchers

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In third world countries such as Cambodia, animal rights are often cast aside. Naturally, the lives of oppressed people and their struggle for food, water, and other essentials come first. As a result, individuals in these countries are often able to commit gross atrocities against animals.

In modern Western culture, there is much debate over animal rights. Vegans and vegetarians disagree with those who believe it is morally okay to kill an animal for food. However, most would agree that it is wrong to kill an animal without purpose. Such an action is wasteful, at least in the eyes of the West.

In Cambodia, though, the attitude is a little bit different. Over the past few years, rumors have surfaced on various blogs and informal reports that it was possible to shoot a cow in Cambodia with a rocket launcher. Some even stated that they were offered an animal target by default when shooting. Though it was, until recently, difficult to verify this, a recent Netflix documentary has opened the door to this atrocity.

In the show, Dark Touristhost David Farrier tours the world, searching for everything ‘mad, macabre and morbid” he can find. In an episode about South Asia, he visits a war-torn Myanmar and a resurrection in Indonesia. But before this, Farrier wants to see if the old Cambodian myth is true.

Arriving at a shooting range, the workers present him with a number of different weapons to choose from. After shooting at non-living targets, Farrier asks for the prize cow, and sure enough, he gets it. Though he chooses, out of common morality, not to shoot the animal, it is clear that this chilling practice is a reality in the small South Asian country.

Cambodia and its Lack of Cultural Justification

In Western culture, shooting a chained animal is inhumane. Yet, the interesting thing is, based on many aspects of Cambodian culture, one may expect it to be even more so on that side of the world.

In Cambodia, the vast majority of people are Buddhist. In fact, 95% practice Theravada Buddhism, the much stricter and more conservative of the two main branches. When Buddhists die, they believe that based on their actions in life, they will be reincarnated as another life form, often times an animal. Thus, they believe that the soul within a human may be exactly the same soul within an animal, but at a different point in its existence.

As a result, one may think that Cambodia would place a higher importance on the life of animals. Though they often use animals for important sacrifices to their spirits, this is understandably an honor killing.

The recreation of blasting chained cows, however, appears antithetical in a culture where the dominant religion is often vegetarian. Theravada monks, in fact, were only permitted to eat pork, chicken, and fish, and only if the monk knew the animal was not killed specifically for them. Still others are vegetarian entirely.

Thus, it appears that rather than a religiously sanctioned activity, this tourist activity is not representative of mainline Cambodian culture. Nonetheless, it still occurs with relative frequency in the formerly war-torn nation.

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