Every year, millions of dogs are brutally captured and transported throughout Indonesia for the dog meat trade. Many are stolen family pets or animals snatched from city streets and from rural communities. They are crammed into cages and sacks so tightly that they can’t move, with their mouths bound shut so they can hardly breathe, and driven on excruciatingly long journeys on bikes or overcrowded trucks to supply markets, slaughterhouses and restaurants. Many die from suffocation, dehydration or heatstroke before they reach their final destination. For those who survive, their grim fate is to watch others being brutally killed as they await their turn to die. Their anguish and terror are unimaginable.
Four organizations have come together to form the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia campaign to stop this cruelty. Together with Change For Animals Foundation, Jakarta Animal Aid Network, and Animal Friends Jogja, Humane Society International is committed to fighting Indonesia’s terrible dog meat trade.
Our investigation has revealed not only immense animal suffering, but also the serious threat posed to human health. The dog meat trade encourages the movement of huge numbers of dogs of unknown disease status between regencies (and islands). The World Health Organization has explicitly highlighted the dog meat trade as a contributing factor to the spread in Indonesia of rabies. So, while only a minority of Indonesian residents (an estimated 7 per cent) ever actually consume dog meat, the trade threatens the safety of the whole country.
Who eats dog meat?
Most people in Indonesia don’t eat dogs. In some areas, including Menado and Flores, dog meat is considered a traditional type of food, and is most popular amongst Batak and Catholic populations. Its consumption is often linked to certain festivities including Thanksgiving, and family celebrations such as weddings and baptisms.
As in many other parts of Asia, dog meat is also consumed in the mistaken belief that it has health properties, such as curing skin problems or dengue fever, as a general boost for the immune system, or to improve male stamina. Contrary to common misconception, dog meat is not eaten because it is a cheap protein source, and in fact it is no more or less expensive than other meats.
Many countries and territories across Asia—such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia—have already banned the dog meat trade and/or consumption of dogs, in recognition of the cruelty and health risks that are involved. Demand for dog meat is declining and opposition to the dog meat trade has become increasingly vocal throughout the region including in Indonesia, particularly amongst younger generations, due to the exponential growth in pet ownership and associated concerns for animal welfare.
Call for a ban
There are no regulations in Indonesian law specifically related to the capture of, trade in, slaughtering of or consumption of dogs. However, there are a number of already-existing regulations and laws regarding consumer safety, violence in public, transportation of livestock, animal abuse and theft of animals, as well as farm animal welfare and animal quarantine, that if properly and strictly applied could dramatically curtail if not stop the dog meat trade as we know it.
Regulating the trade itself while allowing it to continue would not, however, resolve the inherent and systematic animal cruelty involved, and would also fail to alleviate all the risks posed to human health. Regulation has not stopped the daily abuse of hundreds of millions of ‘conventional’ livestock species who are factory farmed in appalling conditions around the world. Regulation would not afford the dogs better lives; it would only serve to legitimize an intrinsically inhumane and dangerous business.
Therefore, as part of the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition, we are campaigning for an outright ban on the dog meat trade. Add your voice by taking action now.
Signs of progress
In July 2017, Bali’s Governor Made Mangku Pastika issued an official letter ordering a crackdown on the dog meat trade on this Indonesian island, following a harrowing investigation. The governor issued the letter on the basis of animal cruelty, the risk to public health and to the island’s reputation as a tourist destination—all factors that apply equally to the rest of Indonesia. The Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition believes that strong actions must be extended to the whole of Indonesia in order to shut down the brutally cruel, unsanitary and unsafe dog meat trade. Speak out and donate now to help dogs and other animals in need.