Historic decision in Indonesia: hellish Tomohon Extreme Market will no longer sell dog and cat meat

Dogs and cats are often beaten and burned alive. Tomohon Extreme Market in Indonesia has always been hell for pets. There, on the island of Sulawesi, animals are brutally slaughtered and then sold for their meat in filthy streets that lack any sanitation regulations.

Now all this will end: this will be the first market in the country to leave the business of dog and cat meat. This was announced by the city’s mayor, Edwin Röring: “We hope that Tomohon is completely free of the dog and cat meat trade: we believe that the way to reduce people’s interest in this consumption is to stop selling it in the markets.” Animal Welfare Association.

Indonesian activist groups working under the banner of the Humane Society International (HSI) and “Dog Meat Free Indonesia” have been campaigning for years to end the trade in live dogs and cats for human consumption because the rabies virus can be transmitted to people during slaughter or through contact with infected meat. Videos shot by activists in two markets in North Sulawesi province in 2018 showed dogs being crammed into cages while workers carried out other desperate dogs who had been attacked on the head with wooden sticks. Often still alive, victims were burned to remove their fur before being slaughtered and sold.

Tomohon Extreme Market was so popular that it was advertised on TripAdvisor as one of 12 must-see tourist attractions (seventh to be exact), as a destination that also sells cat meat and carcasses of wildlife and endangered species such as bats, snakes and other reptiles. After this, it was canceled from the list in 2018 itself.

In 2018 international actors and celebrities called on President Joko Widodo to close the market, saying that if Indonesia joined other Asian countries that have already banned the trade, it would be “celebrated globally” and end up tarnishing the country’s reputation. Actress Cameron Diaz, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, talent scout Simon Cowell, comedian Ricky Gervais, Indonesian pop singer Anggun and musician Moby are among the more than 90 celebrities listed in the letter.

“These animals, many of whom are stolen pets, are subjected to uncivilized and cruel methods of capture, transport and slaughter, and the extreme suffering and fear they suffer is excruciating and absolutely shocking,” the letter reads, calling on Indonesia’s central government to issue a regulation 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 merchants did not welcome the mayor’s decision. “I am disappointed, but what else can I do? I have to follow government regulations,” said Melki Pongo, owner of the slaughterhouse that has supplied tons of dog and cat meat to the city’s markets for more than 30 years. He said he would replace these with pork.

Central Java’s Karanganyar district was the first district to introduce a formal ban in 2019, followed by other areas in 2020 and 2021. Most recently, authorities in the Indonesian capital Jakarta announced in March that they had banned the trade of cat and dog meat. But cat and dog markets were in Sulawesi.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, may not seem like an unlikely hotbed for dog-meat cuisine because nearly 90 percent of the country’s 270 million people are adherents of Islam, which considers dog products haram, or forbidden, in the same way as pork. Most Muslims do not touch dogs, let alone eat them. But the archipelago nation is also home to several other religions, some of which consider dog meat a traditional dish or believe it has healthful properties.

According to Dog Meat Free Indonesia, about 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 identify as Christian.

About 30 million dogs are killed each year in China, South Korea and many other Asian countries, said Lola Weber, director of HSI’s campaign to end dog meat. Several 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.

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