Jakarta. Karanganyar, a district in Surakarta, Central Java, has become the first region in Indonesia to have formally agreed to stop the dog meat trade, making a break with tradition.
Dogs are still consumed in many parts of Indonesia as a special meal, a remnant of pre-Islamic customs in the archipelago.
Islam, the religion of 86 percent of modern Indonesians, considers the meat haram.
In the last decade, activists have also campaigned to end the practice, pointing out that butchers often mistreat the dogs and slay the animal in an inhumane way. Beating dogs to death is considered to produce better tasting meat than slaughter.
The Karanganyar administration, however, was more concerned about human welfare.
"In order to prevent various diseases caused by dog meat, we will close all dog meat stalls in Karanganyar, effective immediately," H. Juliyatmono, the Karanganyar district head, said in a statement.
The district head was attending a hearing with Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ), a member of the Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition, in Karanganyar on Monday when he made the statement.
"Human survival must be the focus of our development. People have to live in harmony with God and fellow living beings, including all animals," Juliyatmono said.
Data from Karanganyar's agriculture and livestock agency show there are 21 dog meat stalls in Karanganyar.
"Each stall slaughters two to three dogs per day," Siti Shofiyah, the head of the agency, said in the statement.
The agency will gather owners of the dog meat shops to inform them about the policy. "We will work it out with them so they can sell other types of food, so we don't kill off their business," Juliyatmono said.
Dog meat consumption violates the 2012 Law on Food which does not consider dogs as a food source. Beating or drowning dogs to death also violates the 2009 and 2014 Law on Animal Welfare.
"The Karanganyar district head's decision should be an example to other regional leaders. Humans should be compassionate in our treatment of other beings," AFJ program manager Angelina Pane said in the statement.
The DMFI coalition will work with the district administration to stop the distribution of dog meat in Karanganyar, including by intercepting illegal delivery of dog meat into the district.
Stealing dogs to be sold for their meat is a serious problem in Indonesia. Recent DMFI record shows that around 13,700 dogs with unknown vaccination history are captured and stolen every month from streets throughout Java.
West Java is considered a "supply center" for dog meat, most of it distributed via Surakarta.
The Dog Meat Free Indonesia campaign has gained support from national and international celebrities including Simon Cowell, Sophia Latjuba, Yeslin Wang, Nadia Mulya, Lawrence Enzela, Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan, who signed a letter to President Joko Widodo calling on him to end the dog and cat meat trade.
A petition with more than one million signatures was also submitted to the government in November last year.
You can join the action by signing a petition here or by writing your concerns to the Indonesian government or embassy in your home country.