Trade in dog and cat meat banned at infamous Indonesian market

Keisyah Aprilia
Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Trade in dog and cat meat banned at infamous Indonesian market A team member with the Humane Society International rescue group carries an emaciated dog saved from a slaughterhouse in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 21, 2023.
[Taufan Bustan/BenarNews]

Updated at 8:11 a.m. ET on 2023-07-23

In a victory for animal lovers worldwide, officials on Friday banned the trade in dog and cat meat at an infamous Indonesian market where butchers openly bludgeoned and burned the animals alive with a blow-torch. 

The ban in the Tomohon market in North Sulawesi province is among the first in a country where 1 million dogs and cats are slaughtered every year, although most Indonesians, who are Muslim, don’t eat dog meat. 

Eating dog and cat meat is a tradition of the ancestors of the Minahasa people, the largest ethnic group in North Sulawesi, but Tomohon officials said they hoped to educate residents about animal cruelty and the health risks associated with eating such meat, including rabies. 

“We hope that Tomohon can be completely free from the trade of dogs and cats,” said Edwin Roring, the secretary of Tomohon city. 

“Because the way to reduce the interest in consuming dogs and cats in Tomohon is to start by stopping their sales in the market.”

Roring said anyone who violated the ban would face legal sanctions, and that the local authorities would provide alternative livelihoods for former traders of dog and cat meat.

A 2021 opinion poll revealed that 93% of Indonesians support a national ban on dog meat, and that only 4.5% had ever eaten such meat. And yet more than 20,000 dogs and cats are slaughtered every week.

In North Sulawesi, activists say dogs and cats are snatched from the streets and from families, stuffed into crates with their mouths bound shut, transported in appalling conditions and then kept caged in filthy markets.

They are then killed in the most brutal ways, often in front of children who accompany their parents to the market. For instance, butchers take blowtorches to the dogs and cats, while they are alive, to remove hair from their skin, according to Humane Society International, which on Friday rescued 25 dogs and three cats from the Tomohon slaughterhouses.

A rescue team from Humane Society International moves dogs it saved from a slaughterhouse onto a truck to be taken to a dog shelter in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 21, 2023.[Taufan Bustan/BenarNews]

Humane Society International (HSI) and Animal Friends Manado Indonesia (AFMI), organizations that have campaigned for years to end the dog and cat meat trade in Indonesia, said it also posed a serious risk to human health.

Dogs and cats carry rabies and other infectious diseases, they said.

“North Sulawesi is an epicenter of Indonesia’s cruel and dangerous dog and cat meat trade; the cruelty is obscene and the public health risks from open slaughter and contaminated meat are unparalleled,” said Lola Webber, Humane Society's director of campaigns, in a statement.

The group, a founding member of the coalition Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI), said it hoped this ban would increase pressure on the government to take more seriously the “enormous public health risk” posed by the dog and cat meat trades nationally. 

“We hope that one day there will be no more people in Tomohon eating dogs and cats,” said Frank Delano Manus, an AFMI activist. 

“There is resistance, because people believe eating dogs and cats is an important tradition of the Minahasa people that is hard to get rid of,” he said.

Another global animal welfare organization, Four Paws, called for a national ban on the dog and cat meat trade. Karanvir Kukreja, Southeast Asia campaigner for Four Paws, said the Tomohon ban could not have come soon enough. 

“The work of DMFI over the past five years has relentlessly exposed that Tomohon Extreme Market was one of the worst animal welfare cases we have seen when it comes to the dog and cat meat trade,” Kukreja said in a statement. 

Four Paws said it has collected two million signatures calling for an end to the trade in dog and cat meat across Southeast Asia. 

Indonesia is one of several countries in Asia where some people still consume dog and cat meat. 

It is estimated that 30 million dogs and cats, including stolen pets, are killed for the meat trade every year in Asia, including an estimated 10 million dogs in Southeast Asia alone, Four Paws said.

Dog meat a bestseller

Animal traders in Tomohon were unhappy with the ban.

“What can we do? It’s already a rule from the government, so we have to follow it,” Melki Pongo, one of the traders, told BenarNews.

He said he had been supplying dogs and cats to markets in North Sulawesi for almost 30 years without any problems. 

But since videos of dogs and cats being killed in horrific ways at the Tomohon market went viral online, there had been many calls to stop selling dogs and cats, he said. 

Pongo was referring to videos released in 2018 by campaigners against animal cruelty, which exposed Tomohon market’s cruel practices and led to worldwide outrage, including from global personalities.

He said that 90% of the dogs and cats he sold came from neighboring provinces in Sulawesi provinces and Borneo (Kalimantan), which are predominantly Muslim, except North Sulawesi, which is mainly Christian. Muslims are forbidden from consuming dog and cat meat.

A team member with the Humane Society International Rescue group comforts a dog saved from a slaughterhouse in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 21, 2023. [Taufan Bustan/BenarNews]

Pongo said he bought an animal for 50,000 to 100,000 rupiah (about U.S. $3.50 to $7), and sold it for about 700,000 rupiah (about $49) in North Sulawesi.

Now, he said he would concentrate on selling pigs.

“I will quit selling dogs completely. I pray that God will bless me with more luck,” he said.

Another trader, Junly Hesda Kapo, said dog meat was a bestseller in Tomohon market. 

“Usually, suppliers brought 150 animals to the market, and they were sold out in hours,” he said.

Kapo, who also eats dog meat, said he and his family had no problems from it. 

“The meat is delicious, like free-range chicken, especially if it is cooked as rica-rica,” he said, referring to a spicy dish with chili, shallots, garlic and other spices. 

Kapo added that all traders would follow the government’s rule. 

“Consumption may also drop naturally if there are no more sales of dogs and cats,” he said.

This report has been updated to include comments from the Human Society International group.


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Jul 25, 2023 11:10 PM

Humane Society International Rescue group is doing a great job exposing this appallingly cruel trade and rescuing these poor dogs and cats from horrific abuse.