AN estimated 30 million dogs are slaughtered for meat across Asia each year, as campaigns calling for an end to the trade continue to fall on deaf ears.
The slaughter and sale of dog meat still mean big business in countries like China, South Korea and Vietnam, with no end in sight as demand remains robust in these economies. Indonesia, however, is about to buck the trend.
Moved by disease and animal abuse concerns, its government this week agreed to a total ban on the trade.
On Tuesday, Syamsu Ma’arif, director of veterinary public health at the agriculture ministry, said the government was drafting a regulation to ban the trade of meat derived from pets and exotic animals in a bid to promote animal welfare and prevent the spread of diseases like rabies.
“(Dog meat) is not food, according to our food law,” he said recently, as quoted by Reuters.
He added the government was still gathering material to back the proposed law.
The agreement also comes two weeks before the country hosts the 18th Asian Games, after anti-dog meat campaigners from the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia (DMFI) campaign warned that the trade could affect three million tourists who could be exposed to the deadly rabies virus contracted from the illicit dog and cat meat trade.
According to the DMFI, the announcement came at a “National Coordination of Animal Welfare” meeting in Jakarta held on Aug 1 and 2 by the Directorate of Veterinary Public, which was attended by national and regional government representatives.
DMFI said 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.
Who eats dog in Indonesia?
An Asian Correspondent article in December last year pointed out that only 7 percent of Indonesia’s 261 million population eats dog meat, and while the Muslim majority regard the meat as ‘haram’ (forbidden) to eat, consumption by various other cultural groups is considered traditional cuisine.
The consumption is largely driven by the belief that dog meat carries special health benefits, including making men stronger or more sexually proficient.
Dog meat stalls in Solo, Central Java are a common sight, where traders promote their products as being traditional Javanese jamu medicine.
The agriculture ministry, citing research in 2015, said about 730,000 dogs for consumption enter Jakarta from West Java annually.
To compare, Vietnam consumes five million dogs every year, the Asia Canine Protection Alliance says, while China is estimated to consume about 10 million dogs a year.
China’s Yulin festival has been described as a lightning rod for criticism, where many of the dogs are believed to have been pets stolen from their owners.
The reputation of Indonesia’s tourism industry has also taken a blow last year after investigations exposed the hidden dog meat trade in Bali.
An expose revealed that tourists were being duped into eating dog meat falsely touted as chicken satay.
Major breakthrough and hopes for Asia
Campaigners with the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition have called the government-proposed ban a “major breakthrough”.
Lola Webber, Director at Change For Animals Foundation, said the extreme cruelty of Indonesia’s dog and cat meat trades is intolerable under both Indonesia and international animal welfare standards. She said the government is right to be concerned about the impacts of these trades on its international reputation.
“With our growing awareness of animal sentience comes a greater responsibility to protect animals from cruelty,” she said in a statement.
“Customs evolve and the nationwide movement from within Indonesia calling for an end to these trades is proof that Indonesia is ready to banish the dog meat trade to the history books of shame and illegality. This latest announcement will be celebrated globally!”
Bobby Fernando of Animal Friends Jogja said: “This is such a victory for Indonesia and the Indonesian government has given us hope and motivation to collaborate with the government. We are one step closer to a dog and cat meat-free Indonesia!”
“We hope that this bold step will send a strong message to other countries across Asia, such as China, South Korea, India and Vietnam where 30 million dogs and 10 million cats suffer unimaginable cruelty for the meat trade, many of them stolen pets.”