Indonesia’s Dog Meat Trade Booms Despite Welfare Concerns | Business and economy

Medan, Indonesia – For civil servant Silas Sihombing, the reasons for eating dog meat couldn’t be simpler.

“Today I’m eating dog because I’m hungry,” Sihombing told Al Jazeera between bites of grilled dog meat at Lau Dimbo Simalem restaurant in Medan, North Sumatra.

“And look, it makes me sweat. The dog will, the meat makes you hot.

Dog meat restaurants can be found all over Medan, where the indigenous Batak people are known for their taste for protein.

It is estimated that around 7% of Indonesians eat dog meat, according to Dog Meat Free Indonesia, a group that campaigns against the dog meat trade.

Although 87% of Indonesia’s 270 million people are Muslims and consider dog products haram, or forbidden, in the same way as pork, about 9% of the population is Christian.

Dog meat is most commonly eaten in predominantly Christian parts of the country, such as North Sumatra, North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, where only 9% of the population is Muslim.

While animal rights groups oppose the trade on the grounds that it promotes cruelty and poses public health risks such as rabies outbreaks, many Indonesians consider eating dog meat n are no different from eating chicken or beef and balk at the suggestion that it should be banned.

Restaurant Lau Dimbo Simalem in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Lau Dimbo Simalem restaurant sells grilled dog, dog soup and dog curry [Courtesy of Aisyah Llewellyn]

Dicky Senda, a writer and food activist based in Mollo, East Nusa Tenggara, said the dog meat trade had boomed in the province in recent years, as evidenced by the proliferation of stalls selling cooked canines with aromatic spice blends.

“According to our research, the Mollo did not traditionally eat dogs,” Senda told Al Jazeera.

“Dogs are important animals in the Mollo culture who are considered friends and relatives. This is why the dog paw print is a common pattern in the woven fabric of the Mollo people. As a community of farmers and hunters, dogs are considered useful animals.

“I’m not sure exactly when it started, but now eating dogs has become more and more popular.”

The popularity of dog restaurants in East Nusa Tenggara has grown to the point where dog meat traders have struggled with supply and demand, Senda said.

This in turn fueled a trend of unscrupulous scouts poisoning dogs on the streets with food containing potassium, which renders the animals unconscious but does not affect the meat.

“I’ve lost five or six dogs over the past few years this way,” Senda said.

Two dogs in captivity.
Animal rights activists say Indonesia’s dog meat trade is inhumane [Courtesy of Aisyah Llewellyn]

As a result of these practices, which have been reported across the country, Dog Meat Free Indonesia has for years lobbied the government to ban dog meat, and a number of local governments have made the sale of meat illegal. of dogs in their vicinity.

Last year, a Central Java dog meat trader became the first person to be prosecuted for his role in the trade. The trader was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined $10,000 after more than 70 dogs were found packed into a truck to be transported to dog meat cafes and restaurants.

On July 6, a letter signed by the Mayor of Medan, Bobby Nasution, stating that the sale or trade of dog meat was prohibited was made public.

Following an outcry, a spokesperson for the town hall clarified that the letter did not ban the consumption of dog meat but was only a “suggestion”.

Back in Medan, Sihombing, who has eaten dog since he was a child, sees no reason to ban the meat, which he considers delicious, not least because it is generally low in fat.

According to the canine connoisseur, the rump of the animal is the tastiest part.

“You can’t kill tigers or elephants because they’re endangered and it’s hard to breed more, but there are plenty of dogs. When they whelp they usually have large litters of pups,” he said.

“What is the legal reason you shouldn’t be allowed to kill and eat a dog if you can kill and eat other animals?

Silas Sihombing sitting in a dog restaurant.
Indonesian civil servant Silas Sihombing has been eating dog meat since childhood [Courtesy of Aisyah Llewellyn]

Maria Tarigan, the owner of Lau Dimbo Simalem, said that while not all Batak eat dogs, many prefer the meat for its purported medicinal purposes, which include unproven claims that it can cure disease.

“Dog meat is supposed to be good for typhus and dengue and it’s even good if you have COVID,” Tarigan said. “I am proof of that. I was sick with COVID and then I drank dog soup and it made me better.

At the height of the pandemic, the restaurant did a roaring trade in dog soup, Tarigan said, as customers flocked there and ordered bags of it for sick parents recovering in hospital.

But owning a dog meat restaurant also comes with specific challenges.

Tarigan said her application to register as a business with GoFood, a popular online food delivery app in Indonesia, was denied, although she was able to list her restaurant on GoShop, the shopping section of application, as a compromise.

Tarigan said she suspects she was unable to register because her restaurant only serves dog meat dishes and nothing else.

“We have 20 agents that we source dogs from,” she said. “They call me and tell me when they have dogs in stock. We get our dogs from different places. If a dog has puppies, owners can sell unwanted puppies to us.

Tarigan said his restaurant typically kills three or four dogs a day to keep up with demand, culling 21 dogs each week.

“If I had a dog and something happened to it, of course I would cry, especially if it had been with me every day and wagged its tail when I came home,” Tarigan said.

“If he was by my side all day, of course I would be attached to him, but really, what’s the difference with eating another animal?”

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