Indonesian celebrities Sophia Latjuba, Yeslin Wang, Nadia Mulya and Lawrence Enzela joined campaigners from the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition gathered November 5th in Jakarta, Indonesia to officially submit a petition to the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health calling for an end to the country’s brutal dog and cat meat trades. Over one million signatures were collected from around the world, to represent the more than one million dogs and hundreds of thousands of cats who are brutally killed each year in Indonesia for human consumption.
The DMFI is a coalition of national and international animal protection organisations comprising Change For Animals Foundation, Humane Society International, Animals Asia, Four Paws, Animal Friends Jogja and Jakarta Animal Aid Network, who have spent years documenting the brutality of the trade and campaigned tirelessly for its end on grounds of both animal cruelty and risks to public health and safety.
The petition hand-in follows a series of DMFI investigations exposing the heart-breaking horrors of the trade. DMFI has filmed dogs being stolen from the streets and people’s homes, bound and gagged by traders, thrown into the back of trucks, and bludgeoned over the head in markets and slaughterhouses, and countless dogs and cats being blow-torched whilst still alive. Although dog and cat meat are only eaten by a small minority of people in Indonesia, the trades affect whole communities, who are often terrorized by dangerous dog and cat thieves. Furthermore, published data spanning decades and research conducted by the coalition have both documented the alarming fact that the dog meat trade increases the risk of spreading the deadly rabies virus, and that rabies-infected dogs are being sold in markets for human consumption, despite grave warnings from human and animal health experts.
In August this year, national and regional government officials agreed to issue a ban on the trade in dog and cat meat in Indonesia, and this was followed in October with a letter from the national government calling on provincial governments to take action. DMFI campaigners have welcomed these moves, but say the need to turn pledges into action on the ground is urgent, as tens of thousands of dogs and cats continue to be stolen and brutalized for the trade every week.
Lola Webber, CFAF co-founder and Head of the DMFI coalition, said, “Every one of our over one million petition signatures represents one of the millions of dogs and cats whose lives have been lost each year to Indonesia’s brutal and dangerous meat trades. The suffering of the animals caught up in the trades can no longer go ignored, and in their honor, and for those for whom change has not come too late, we stand united in our commitment to support the realization of a dog and cat meat free Indonesia, for the sake of animals and people alike.”
“With hundreds of markets and slaughterhouses selling dogs and cats for meat throughout Indonesia, the scale of the problem is potentially catastrophic for Indonesia’s attempts to eliminate rabies, and gravely jeopardizes the health and safety of its citizens and animals. Indonesia is a country of world-renowned natural beauty, but its international reputation is marred by the ugly brutality of its dog and cat meat trade. The government has pledged action, and we, the Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition are ready to assist in implementing an effective and impactful action plan,” added Karin Franken, DMFI representative.
At the hand-in event, representatives from the Ministries of Health and Agriculture affirmed their commitment to working with the Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition to achieve their shared aims of ending the dog and cat meat trades and safeguarding public health and safety. Mr. Galopong Sianturi from the Ministry of Health agreed that the whilst dog meat is consumed by less than 7% of the population, it threatens the health and safety of the entire nation, through the transmission of rabies, and that it is an unhealthy source of meat despite claims of its medicinal properties by proponents of the trade.
Mr. Sianturi went on to state that “the Ministry of Health will strongly support a program to end the dog and cat meat trades if the Ministry of Agriculture initiates the required animal protection regulations.”
Dr. Sugiarto of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Vector and Carrying Disease Animals, warned that “the transportation of dogs for human consumption is very risky and contributes to the spread of rabies, which could lead to an outbreak.”
The DMFI campaign has garnered the support of more than 90 Indonesian and global celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Elizabeth Hurley, Sophia Latjuba, Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan, who earlier this year signed a letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo calling for action to be taken to end to the trade.
Sophia Latjuba, who attended the petition hand-in, hopes to see the government implement a full ban quickly. She said, “This is not a debate about culture or ‘custom’, this is an issue of animal cruelty and human health. The trade we are seeing in Indonesia is profit-driven and is not motivated by any desire to maintain a culture. The cruelty is unforgivable, and I stand alongside the Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition in calls for urgent action to be taken.”
Similar petition hand-ins took place over the following week at Indonesian embassies in London, UK; Sydney, Australia; and Washington DC, in the United States.
For more information about the campaign, and to add your signature to the petition, visit the Dog Meat Free Indonesia website here.
Featured image: One of the many dogs in the dog meat trade in a holding cage before being slaughtered. This image and all images in this story via Change For Animals Foundation.