Dogs and cats beaten and burned often still alive. Tomohon Extreme Market in Indonesia has always been hell on earth for pets. There, on the island of Sulawesi, in dirty streets lacking any form of hygienic rule, animals are brutally killed to then be sold for their meat.
Now all this will end: this market will be the first in the country to give up the trade in dog and cat meat. This was announced by the mayor of the city, Edwin Roring: “We hope that Tomohon is totally free from the trade in dog and cat meat: we believe that the way to reduce people’s interest in this consumption is to stop selling it in the markets”. The mayor urged people to consume animal food sources that are more hygienic and that cannot transmit rabies, such as pork, beef and chicken. He also promised to deploy law enforcement officers in the markets to ensure that there is no more trade of this type. Dogs and cats still alive will be entrusted to animal welfare associations.
Humane Society International (HSI) and Indonesian activist groups operating under the banner of “Dog Meat Free Indonesia” have been campaigning for years to end the trade in live dogs and cats for human consumption as the rabies virus could spread to people during slaughter or contact with infected meat. Videos shot by activists at two markets in North Sulawesi province in 2018 showed dogs crammed into cages as workers pulled out other desperate dogs who were hit on the head with a wooden stick. Often still alive, the victims were then burned to remove the fur before being slaughtered and sold.
The Tomohon Extreme Market was so popular that it was advertised as one of 12 must-see tourist attractions (ranked seventh to be exact) on TripAdvisor as a destination that also sells cat meat and carcasses of wildlife and endangered species such as bats, snakes and other reptiles. Only in 2018 was it then canceled from the list.
International actors and celebrities in 2018 called on President Joko Widodo to close the markets, saying that if Indonesia joined other Asian nations that have already banned the trade, it would be “globally celebrated” and end a tarnish on the country’s reputation. Actress Cameron Diaz, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, talent spotter Simon Cowell, comedian Ricky Gervais, Indonesian pop singer Anggun and musician Moby are among more than 90 celebrities listed in the letter.
“These animals, many of them stolen pets, are subjected to crude and brutal methods of capture, transport and slaughter, and the immense suffering and fear they have to endure is excruciating and absolutely shocking,” the letter reads, prompting Indonesia’s central government to issue a regulation stating that dog meat is not food and therefore local governments should take action to ban its trade.
Eating cat and dog meat with special spices is a hereditary tradition for most people in the province, and traders did not welcome the mayor’s decision. “I’m disappointed, but what else can I do? I have to comply with government regulations,” said Melki Pongo, the slaughterhouse owner who has been supplying tons of dog and cat meat to the city’s markets for more than 30 years. He said he will replace them with pork.
Central Java’s Karanganyar district was the first to enact a formal ban in 2019, followed by other regions in 2020 and 2021. Most recently, authorities in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, announced in March that they had banned the trade in cat and dog meat. But the cat and dog markets were in Sulawesi.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, may not seem like a likely hub for dog-meat cuisine since nearly 90 percent of the country’s 270 million people are followers of Islam, which views dog products as haram, or forbidden, in the same way as pork. Most Muslims don’t touch a dog, much less eat one. But the archipelagic nation is also home to many other faiths, some of which consider dog meat a traditional delicacy or believe it has healthful properties.
According to Dog Meat Free Indonesia, as many as 7% of Indonesians eat dog meat, mainly in the provinces of North Sulawesi, North Sumatra and East Nusa Tenggara, where the majority of the population identifies as Christian.
About 30 million dogs are killed each year in China, South Korea and many other Asian countries, said Lola Webber, director of HSI’s campaign to end dog meat. Many countries and territories across Asia, such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia have already banned the dog meat trade and the consumption of dogs.