Category : Life & Style, Food & Drink, Environment, Community
Jakarta. An animal rights collective, known as Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition, together with world-renowned celebrities launched a global campaign to stop the trade in dog meat on Thursday (02/11) at Hotel Gran Mahakam in South Jakarta, in light of recent disturbing findings of animal cruelty in the Southeast Asian country.
The coalition consists of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ), Change for Animals Foundation and Humane Society International. Celebrities taking part in the initiative include British actors Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley and Peter Egan, as well as Indonesian singer Gamaliel Tapiheru and actresses Sophia Latjuba and Chelsea Islan.
The campaign video, titled "I Didn’t Know," shows terrified-looking dogs in sacks and trucks being transported to slaughterhouses. The celebrities have invited viewers to join the campaign and sign an online petition.
"I didn’t know the magnitude. Literally millions of dogs are slaughtered for food in Indonesia every year. It has to be condemned and we have to stop it," Gervais said in the video.
"We have the ability to be their voice and defend them. Though they don’t talk, it doesn’t mean that they want to be killed, especially in a cruel way," Sophia said during the press conference.
Other celebrities, who did not take part in the official video campaign yet are animal activists, also spoke up.
"Dogs are like my children. If something happens to them, I will chase the criminal to court or to hell if I need to," singer Melani Subono said.
Cruelty Beyond Belief
Halting animal cruelty is the main impetus behind the initiative. According to JAAN co-founder Karin Franken, a series of investigations that have been carried out since late 2014 revealed that about a million dogs in Indonesia are brutally killed every year.
The investigations started after an increase in the number of reports of missing dogs and passersby seeing dogs roughly snatched from the streets and private properties.
Several key areas in the meat trade chain include Manado (North Sulawesi), Java, Bali, Sumatra, and Flores (East Nusa Tenggara).
Dogs are usually crammed onto the back of trucks for a long drive with their legs and mouths bound with string.
"I tracked the suppliers up to the slaughterhouses. The dogs were all in terrible fear and some even died en route," AFJ co-founder Angelina Pane, who conducted investigations in Solo (Central Java) and Yogyakarta, said.
She witnessed dogs being beaten to death by their handlers.
National Health Threat
Less than 7 percent of Indonesians eat dog meat, but are still at risk due to the transmission of rabies and other zoonotic diseases due to a lack of reporting on the animals' health before being slaughtered and miserable and unsanitary slaughterhouse conditions.
"One of our investigations shows that dogs from Cianjur [West Java] were butchered and the leftovers were thrown into the gutter," Franken said.
Provinces that have achieved rabies-free statuses, like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, are still vulnerable to the disease since they import dog meat from places like Bali and Cianjur, where there are many reported cases of rabies. The country has set a target of achieving zero rabies cases by 2020.
Progress in Law Enforcement
So far there are no laws banning people from eating and trading dog meat in the country. Because eating dog is already part of some cultures, particularly among non-Muslim Manadonese and Bataknese communities, deeming it illegal is not an easy process.
Existing animal welfare laws are not a reliable measure to stop the barbaric slaughtering because they do not pose severe enough punishments against people who commit animal cruelty. According to Law No. 41/2014, which is the revised version of Law No. 18/2009 on Husbandry and Animal Health, a person who abuses an animal faces only one to six months in prison or a maximum fine of Rp 5,000,000 ($370).
However, AFJ has held meetings with the Solo Legislative Council (DPRD) on the matter.
Focus group discussions have also been held in tandem with the Yogyakarta Provincial Administration to draft a new regulation on the meat trade. The regulation will state that sold meat must comply with a series of principles, abbreviated to "ASUH," which translates to safe, healthy, undamaged and halal.
Since dog meat is commonly considered non-halal by Muslims, the provisional regulation is expected to be a baby step towards ending the trade, though Angelina claimed that religion actually has nothing to do with the dog trade because most of the butchers she met were Muslims.
In Jakarta, JAAN has collaborated with the Fisheries, Agriculture and Food Security Agency (Dinas KPKP) to educate the public by hosting workshops on spaying and neutering pets, vaccination and responsible pet ownership to avoid an increased population of stray or ill dogs.
They are also in talks of introducing pet microchips to help owners track their stolen pets.