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'Extreme' Indonesian market to stop sale of dog and cat meat

July 22, 2023

A notorious Indonesian animal market will no longer trade dog and cat meat after years of pressure from animal rights groups. Activists have described the treatment of animals as "brutally cruel."

Dogs are seen inside a cage from a slaughter house in Tomohon
The practice of eating dogs is relatively common in parts of IndonesiaImage: Muhammad Taufan/AP/picture alliance

The Tomohon Extreme Market has become the first such market in Indonesia to go dog and cat meat-free.

The market's six remaining dog and cat meat traders signed an agreement to stop their sales on Friday, and the mayor of Tomohon issued a statute to ban the trade.

"We believe the way to reduce people's interest in consuming dog and cat meat in Tomohon is to stop selling it in markets." the regional secretary of the city of Tomohon, Edwin Roring, said.

He urged people to opt for clean, rabies-free animal-based foods such as pork, beef, and chicken.

'Brutally cruel' animal trade

The move followed months of campaigning and lobbying by Humane Society International (HSI) and the local Animal Friends Manado Indonesia (AFMI) groups.

The animal welfare groups called the treatment of the animals at the markets "brutally cruel" and like "walking through hell."

They hope to see the ban extended to the rest of Indonesia where an estimated one million dogs and cats are killed for human consumption every year.

Members of anti-animal cruelty group Humane Society International, (HSI) transport a cage containing dogs from a slaughter house in Tomohon
Activists rescued all the remaining live dogs and cats from the suppliers' slaughterhousesImage: Muhammad Taufan/AP/picture alliance

Campaigners said the trade causes immense animal suffering and poses serious threats to human health by spreading diseases such as rabies, anthrax, and leptospirosis.

The footage captured by the activists at two markets in North Sulawesi province shows workers pulling howling animals out and bludgeoning their heads with wooden batons.

The animals were hanged, and their fur was blowtorched off while they were still alive.

Traditional attitudes slowly changing

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, and Islam considers and views dog products as haram, or forbidden, in the same way as pork.

Still, as much as 7% of Indonesians eat dog and cat meat, according to Dog Meat Free Indonesia. This is practiced mainly in North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, where most of the population identifies as Christian.

The decision by dog and cat meat traders in Tomohon to stop selling means the supply would now be cut off at the source. 

Elvianus Pongoh, one of the sellers at Tomohon for 25 years, said the time was right to end the trade.

"I have probably slaughtered thousands of dogs. Every now and then I would see the fear in their eyes... as I came for them, and it made me feel bad," he said. "I know this ban is best for the animals and also best to protect the public."

lo/dj (AFP, AP, dpa)