In­done­sians’ taste for dog meat is grow­ing, as oth­ers shun it

New Straits Times - - World -

JAKARTA: Par­lin Sitio leaned back from a ta­ble of empty dishes at a restau­rant east of the cap­i­tal with a look of sat­is­fac­tion. He had just en­joyed an or­der of “rica-rica” — dog meat with In­done­sian spices.

“I eat it once a week min­i­mum,” said Sitio, who sells mo­bile phones for a liv­ing.

“The taste is good, and it’s served fresh here. It keeps the body warm and the blood flow­ing.”

In In­done­sia, as in some other coun­tries where dogs are eaten, the in­dus­try op­er­ates largely in the shad­ows, and re­li­able data on con­sump­tion is scarce.

But, restau­rant own­ers, butch­ers, re­searchers and an­i­mal rights ad­vo­cates agree that more dogs are be­ing killed and eaten here.

That makes for a sur­pris­ing con­trast with other Asian coun­tries, like South Korea and China, where the prac­tice has been in­creas­ingly shunned as in­comes have risen, along with pet own­er­ship and con­cern for an­i­mal wel­fare.

Many In­done­sians who are too poor to eat beef, ex­cept on spe­cial oc­ca­sions, can now af­ford dog or cat, said Brad An­thony, a Cana­dian an­i­mal pro­tec­tion re­searcher and an­a­lyst liv­ing in Sin­ga­pore.

“From a prac­ti­cal, agri­cul­tural point of view, breed­ing dogs and cats for meat re­quires far less space and feed re­sources than breed­ing cows, and is, there­fore, cheaper. The eco­nom­ics of it all is likely the pri­mary mo­ti­va­tor for pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion.”

Be­sides af­ford­abil­ity, many who eat dog meat cite what they con­sider to be its spe­cial health ben­e­fits.

The In­done­sian gov­ern­ment does not col­lect data on how many dogs are killed for food or con­sumed each year.

That is be­cause dogs are not clas­si­fied as live­stock, the way cows, pigs and chick­ens are. Be­cause of this, the slaugh­ter, dis­tri­bu­tion, sale and con­sump­tion of dogs are not reg­u­lated.

Some of In­done­sia’s many eth­nic mi­nori­ties — like Batak, who are pri­mar­ily Chris­tian — have eaten dogs for cen­turies.

The Bali An­i­mal Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates that over 70,000 dogs are slaugh­tered and con­sumed on the pop­u­lar re­sort is­land ev­ery year.

“In our in­ves­ti­ga­tions, 60 per cent of the cus­tomers were Ba­li­nese women who felt it was the warm­est and most in­ex­pen­sive form of pro­tein,” said the as­so­ci­a­tion’s founder, Jan­ice Gi­rardi, an Amer­i­can who has lived on Bali for decades.

“They be­lieve eat­ing black dogs cures asthma, and other dis­eases.”

Karin Franken, a man­ager for the Jakarta An­i­mal Aid Net­work, which is try­ing to col­lect na­tion­wide data on the sub­ject, said its re­search in­di­cates that 215 dogs are con­sumed daily in the city of Yo­gyakarta and “at least dou­ble or triple that much” in the cap­i­tal.

She said other re­gions in Java serve as sup­ply chains, with stray dogs rounded up or pets snatched off the streets for slaugh­ter.

“They trade all over the coun­try. In Yo­gyakarta, a dish of dog meat and rice is only 8,000 ru­piah (RM2.60)”.

In the cap­i­tal, Ju­niatur Sili­tonga, whose fam­ily has been in the busi­ness since 1975, says he slaugh­ters about 20 dogs in an av­er­age week. He sells the meat to Batak food stalls in his neigh­bour­hood and to some Korean restau­rants around town.

He said he bought live dogs from sup­pli­ers in Java for about $15 (RM66) each and sells the meat for about $2 a pound.

“It’s cheaper than beef. Eat­ing dog meat is a tra­di­tion among lo­cal tribes, and they are mostly Chris­tian.”

In­done­sia has a law against cru­elty to an­i­mals, but it ap­plies only to live­stock, not dogs, cats or wild an­i­mals.

Franken said an­i­mal wel­fare ac­tivists here have all but given up cam­paign­ing against the trade on cru­elty grounds, be­cause “no one cares”.

She said in­stead, they fo­cus on the po­ten­tial for the un­reg­u­lated trade to spread ra­bies — a per­sis­tent prob­lem in Bali and else­where — as strays and other dogs were trans­ported from one re­gion to an­other.

Sili­tonga is un­de­terred by fear of ra­bies, say­ing he has been bit­ten dozens of times.

He is not with­out af­fec­tion for dogs. He keeps one named Luna as a pet.

“She’s not for eat­ing,” he said. NYT

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