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Featured Article - 23 October 2018

Going Dog Meat-Free in Indonesia to Help End Rabies

Throughout Asia, tens of millions of dogs are killed for human consumption in a brutal trade rife with criminality and animal cruelty. In Indonesia, millions of dogs are captured, stolen, and transported throughout the nation every year to supply the demand for dog meat.  Many are stolen family pets or are illegally snatched from the streets and rural communities. There is considerable evidence spanning decades from throughout Asia of the link between the dog meat trade and rabies transmission. Studies from Vietnam, China and Indonesia have demonstrated the presence of rabies-infected dogs and carcasses in markets and slaughterhouses, some as high as 16.4 percent in Vietnam. The dog meat trade is the only known trade involving the mass and unregulated movement of dogs from different cities, provinces, and islands. Such lack in dog movement control has been attributed as a risk factor for rabies spread in endemic areas and incursion in previously free countries or regions.

The Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition (DMFI) consisting of FOUR PAWS International, Change for Animals Foundation, Humane Society International, Jakarta Animal Aid Network, and Animal Friends Jogya is committed to tackling this dangerous trade.

Indonesia’s dog meat trade does not cater to the country’s majority. Public surveys conducted by Jakarta Animal Aid Network indicate that dog meat is consumed by less than 7% of Indonesians. Contrary to common misconception, dog meat is not eaten because it is a cheap protein source; in fact it is no more or less expensive than other meats in Indonesia, although its consumption is often associated with that of alcohol. Given the rampant theft of pets to supply dogs for the trade, public health risk, and extreme cruelty involved, there is an ever-growing opposition to the dog meat trade in Indonesia and globally.

In an effort to convey the danger that dog meat poses, in July, DMFI performed random testing of 8 dogs slaughtered at the live animal markets in the Minahasa regency which revealed the presence of a rabies-infected dog. This is consistent with prior findings in North Sulawesi which demonstrated that between 7.8 and 10.6 per cent of dogs being sold for human consumption at the same live markets were infected with rabies.  What is perhaps even more shocking is the fact that these live markets are touted by local tourist agencies as ‘must see attractions.’ 

Through public awareness campaigning and political lobbying, DMFI’s goal is to secure public and political opposition towards the dog meat trade throughout Indonesia by increasing public awareness, political engagement, and providing on-the-ground practical support as needed. Following reports revealing immense animal suffering, a letter was sent to Indonesian President Joko Widodo which was signed by more than 90 global and Indonesian celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Islan, Jane Goodall and Simon Cowell, calling for urgent action to protect dogs from the trade.

In August 2018, DMFI celebrated a major breakthrough in the campaign involving a national government pledge to ban the trades.  The announcement came at a “National Coordination of Animal Welfare” meeting in Jakarta held on August 1st and 2nd by the Directorate of Veterinary Public and attended by national and regional government representatives. At the close of the meeting, all national participants agreed to issue a ban on the trade of dog and cat meat in Indonesia and to prohibit the issuance of health certification for dog and cat meat for human consumption. 

As a follow-up to this meeting, in October the Central Indonesian government issued an official letter to all provincial governments ordering them to take immediate action to tackle the country’s dog, cat and exotic animal meat trade.  

Despite these recent pledges, action is still yet to be seen to actually stop the trafficking and slaughter of dogs, and DMFI will continue political lobbying until such action is taken. In November, DMFI will be conducting a Global Day for Indonesian Dogs at Indonesian embassies around the world to handover a petition signed by over million supporters calling for action against the trade.
For more information on the Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition, please visit Dog Meat Free Indonesia

Author: Dr. Katherine Polak, FOUR PAWS International


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