Warning: this post does not contain any graphic images of violence towards animals, but the descriptions of the dog meat trade may be shocking and upsetting to read.
Shocking new video evidence from filthy slaughterhouses in the Central Javan capital city of Surakarta, more popularly known as “Solo,” shows dogs being beaten and strung upside down to bleed out whilst still conscious, in full view of other terrified bound and caged dogs who await their turn. The horrific footage, recorded by the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition, has prompted renewed calls for urgent action by the campaigners and their celebrity ambassadors.
The renewed calls for action come after the release of DMFI’s damning evidence showing that the brutal slaughter of thousands of dogs each month is continuing to take place in Solo despite the Central Government’s Ministry of Agriculture having issued a Directive in September calling on provincial governments to take action to tackle the dog and cat meat trades, which was globally-applauded. Speaking at the National Coordination of Animal Welfare meeting in Jakarta in August 2018, Director of Veterinary Public Health Mr. Syamsul Ma’arif, DVM, M.Si, described the treatment of the dogs and cats as “torture for animals.”
DMFI’s latest investigations and report reveal that an estimated 13,700 dogs of unknown disease and vaccination status continue to be captured and stolen each month from the streets of cities throughout Java, Indonesia’s most populous island and home to over 50% of the nation’s nearly 270 million people, with West Java acting as a “supply hub,” from which dogs are imported into Solo’s densely-populated city center. Here the dogs are brutally slaughtered and sold in one of the city’s 82 restaurants that openly advertise the meat.
Lola Webber from Change For Animals Foundation said, “Dogs are captured from the streets and stolen from people’s homes to be taken on long journeys – often lasting for days – tightly packed in pick-up trucks or in burlap sacks, their mouths bound shut so they can hardly breathe. They are then taken to filthy slaughterhouses where they watch others being slaughtered as they wait their turn, trembling in fear. The look in their eyes is haunting, the blood-spattered walls unforgettable.”
DMFI’s latest investigations suggest that Solo is an epicenter for much of the trade that operates on this central island, on a par with North Sulawesi, one of the focus provinces of DMFI investigations that resulted last year in a petition signed by over one million people worldwide and a letter to the President signed by over 90 global celebrities, including Simon Cowell, Sophia Latjuba, Yeslin Wang, Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan, all calling for urgent action.
British actor, animal rights activist and DMFI Ambassador Peter Egan, who visited Indonesia’s dog and cat meat markets last month, still struggles to understand how the trades can continue unpunished. “The dogs and cats caught up in these egregious trades are my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night. Dogs serve mankind loyally and deserve to be treated with compassion and respect.”
The treatment of animals filmed by DMFI is not only extremely brutal, but also flouts public health and safety regulations designed to protect citizens from deadly rabies transmission and the spread of other zoonotic diseases. DMFI’s investigations have shown that the trade routinely relies on illegal, profit-driven and dangerous activities, including the trans-provincial long-distance trade in dogs, yet these acts seemingly go unpunished by authorities.
Campaigners warn that whilst dog meat is consumed by some for its perceived health properties, the reality is that the trade in and slaughtering of dogs poses a significant and grave risk of rabies transmission, and not only to consumers. It is estimated that just 7% of the entire population of Indonesia consumes dog meat, yet data spanning decades suggests that it is no coincidence that the provinces and regencies with the greatest demand for dog meat are also those with the highest prevalence of rabies, which has devastating societal, economic and animal welfare impacts.
Dr. M. Nurul Irfan, Lecturer at Syariah University, stated in response to the DMFI‘s Solo investigations, which included interviews with a number of Muslim dog meat traders, “Eating and selling of dogs is haram [forbidden by Islamic law] and strictly forbidden. Muslims who think otherwise should be corrected immediately because we don’t want others to also start thinking it’s okay.”
In a country where rabies remains endemic in all but 8 of its 34 provinces, and with 12 human fatalities already reported within just the first two months of 2019, campaigners warn that it is only a matter of time before more people die of this disease. The Indonesian government’s Ministry of Health has pledged to eliminate rabies by 2020, and eliminating the dog and cat meat trade is an important and necessary step to reaching this goal.
Jill Robinson, Animals Asia Founder, said, “It is time to finally wake up to the true cost of the dog meat trade. It is a public health emergency directly responsible for thousands of deaths every year due to the spread of rabies. No meal is worth so many innocent lives.”
“We know that rabies control and elimination efforts are futile without addressing the dog meat trade, which is the only trade known to encourage the mass unregulated movement of dogs of unknown disease and vaccination status, facilitating the spread of the disease and disrupting any attempts to reach the required canine vaccination coverage required to ultimately eliminate the disease from the dog population,” warned Dr. Katherine Polak from the organization FOUR PAWS.
The latest exposé has also renewed celebrity outrage and commitment to support calls for action.
Sophia Latjuba, actress and DMFI Ambassador, stated, “It is devastatingly sad to think of the thousands of dogs and cats who are losing their lives in the most terrifying ways every day. As a nation who values compassion, humanity and respect for all, we must extend these principles to animals, who are often the most vulnerable members of our society. If we truly value peace and kindness for all, we must align our actions with our words and call for a Dog Meat Free Indonesia!”
As an ever-growing number of countries and territories in the region and around the world take action to tackle the illegal dog and cat meat trades, global public and political communities are becoming increasingly intolerant to the trades. With the recent Indonesian presidential elections having taken place on April 17, campaigners hope now is the time for the government to prioritize this issue on grounds of public health and safety as well as animal welfare and fulfill its pledge to take action to tackle the trade.
Watch the full Solo investigations documentary here. Warning: this video contains shocking footage of animal cruelty and abuse.
Please take action today for Indonesia’s dogs and cats: sign and share the petition calling for the closure of dog and cat meat markets, and write to the Indonesian Embassy in your home country to voice your opposition to the trades.
Featured image: a dog suffering in Indonesia’s dog meat trade. This image and all images in this story via Change For Animals Foundation.