Thailand is to introduce a new law governing the transport and slaughter of dogs for meat, in a bid to halt the spread of disease and fend off criticism from animal rights campaigners.

After years of unregulated trade, the new law will require licences for the transport and slaughter of the animals, Department of Livestock Development chief Yukol Limlamthong told Reuters.

“The new law won’t ban the trade, but control the spread of diseases,” he said. “We would prefer people saw dogs as cute animals rather than a type of consumable meat.”

Yukol added that the legislation is expected to be introduced in the next few months and would only require approval from a cabinet minister, not parliament.

Dog meat, often considered a delicacy in Thailand, mostly comes from domestic pets kept in villages. Animal rights campaigners estimate that at least 500 dogs are slaughtered each week for meat and other purposes.