After years of hard campaigning by animal rights activists, the dog and cat meat trade at the notorious Tomohon market on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island has been shut down. The city of Tomohon made the announcement on July 21.
“The great international public concern about violence against animals has an unfavorable impact on the tourism sector, therefore the Tomohon municipal government is taking the necessary steps,” said Tomohon’s regional secretary Edwin Roring.
However, locals say this deep-rooted tradition will not be stopped so easily. While various Indonesian markets have gradually ended the dog and cat meat trade, there is not yet a full ban on dog and cat meat in the country.
The Brutality of the Tomohon Market
Steeped in tradition and culture, Indonesia's markets have always been vibrant centers of shopping and social activity. But in the shadow of the bustling stalls and amidst the chattering voices, there lies a chilling reality at some of these markets. The Tomohon market in North Sulawesi had become infamous for its deeply disturbing practices concerning animals.
For many years, Tomohon market had been a hub for trading dog and cat meat. To Westerners and even many Indonesians, this practice might sound horrifying. But in parts of Sulawesi, dogs and cats, often kept in cramped, unhygienic conditions, were slaughtered on-site in the market, often using brutal and inhumane methods.
As you stepped into certain sections of the Tomohon market, the sight was gut-wrenching. Dogs and cats, visibly stressed and scared, were crammed into cages, awaiting their grim fate. The killing process, devoid of any mercy or humanity, was often done in full view. This display was not merely about providing food—it served as a macabre spectacle for some buyers.
Dogs are killed for meat in horrifying ways. They may be strangled, force-fed water, burned, or bludgeoned. Incredibly disturbing images are readily available online detailing the extreme levels of abuse that dogs faced at the Tomohon market.
If the new local ban is enforced, this extreme cruelty will no longer take place at the Tomohon market. But the dogs of Indonesia are not out of danger.
Indonesia’s Dog Meat History
In some regions of Indonesia, particularly in North Sulawesi, consuming dog meat is deeply rooted in history. The Minahasans, a Christian group native to the area, have been eating a traditional dish called rintek wuuk (meaning "short furs") for generations.
Rintek wuuk is often served at significant events like weddings, funerals, or church-related gatherings.
We know that dogs are sensitive, emotional, loyal beings who deserve to live free from exploitation and needless abuse. “Tradition” is no excuse for animal abuse!
International Backlash to Dog and Cat Meat
Activists have campaigned for years to bring an end to the brutality. In 2018, over 90 celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Elen Degeneres, Simon Cowell, and more signed a letter to Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo to ban the trade of dog and cat meat.
Part of the letter read: “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 must endure is heartbreaking and absolutely shocking.” The letter prompted the government to respond by issuing a declaration that dog meat is not food, and encouraged local administrations to ban the trade.
More Work Needs to be Done In Indonesia
The end of the dog and cat meat trade at the Tomohon market is a major win for animals. But the work doesn’t stop here.
The Regional Secretary of the city of Tomohon, Edwin Roring, has publicly promised to make sure that the dog and cat meat trade in Tomohon is fully stopped by sending law enforcement to the market. Many dog and cat meat markets in Indonesia have recently been shut down, which shows the country is moving in the right direction.
However, there is no law explicitly banning dog and cat meat across the entire country. This means that some markets will still operate, and private citizens may continue to kill dogs and cats for food.
Help us urge Indonesia’s president to ban the dog meat trade once and for all!
Dog and Cat Meat and Disease
Of course, the most important reason why the dog meat trade must be stopped is to protect the dogs who suffer immensely.
However, the dog meat trade in Tomohon also carries risks to humans. Diseases such as rabies and African swine fever are commonly spread as a result of the dog meat trade.
Some people believe that COVID-19 originated from a meat market in China. The dangerously unsanitary conditions of these kinds of markets allow new deadly diseases to spread.
Zoonotic Diseases and the Risk from Meat Markets: The COVID-19 Wake-up Call
Meat markets, especially those that involve the trade of exotic or wild animals, have come under increased scrutiny in recent years due to their potential role in breeding and spreading zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can transfer from animals to humans. These transfers can occur through various means, such as direct contact, consumption of animal products, or through bites such as mosquitoes.
The Breeding Ground
Markets like Tomohon, where animals are often kept in cramped, unhygienic conditions, create an ideal environment for the spread of diseases. When multiple species, both wild and domestic, are housed in close proximity, the chance of cross-species infection grows exponentially. In these stress-filled environments, animals' immune systems can be compromised, making them more likely to catch infections.
COVID-19: A Stark Reminder
The recent COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder of the dangers these markets can pose. While the exact origin of the virus is still under investigation, early cases were linked to a market in Wuhan, China, where live wild animals were also sold. The market conditions might have facilitated the virus's jump from an animal species – possibly bats or pangolins – to humans.
COVID-19 is not an isolated incident. Other outbreaks, like SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012, have also been linked to animal markets or the consumption of wild animals. These outbreaks underline the crucial need for strict regulations, hygiene standards, and surveillance in markets dealing with animals.
The threat isn't just about a singular disease or market; it's about a system of trade that can have global implications. A local disease can quickly become an international concern in our interconnected world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the immense economic, social, and health impacts a zoonotic disease can have.
To protect our global community's health, it's important to reassess our relationship with animals and the environments in which they are traded. Proactive measures, including improved sanitation, better animal protection, and stringent regulations may be necessary.
Dog and Cat Meat Must be Stopped!
Indonesia has made massive strides towards ending the brutal dog and cat meat trade. But the work isn’t over yet!
It’s time for an outright ban on the dog and cat meat trade in Indonesia!
More Ways to Help: Support Dog Meat Ban in South Korea!
Please sign our petition to support the end of dog meat in South Korea! Over 1.5 million dogs are killed for food every year in South Korea, but the new Special Act could end this practice once and for all.