This story features photos of animal abuse that some readers may find disturbing.
When Tigre, the beloved family dog of Aya Diandara Salvator went missing in 2012, she suspected the worst. After two days of futile searching, Aya learned the shocking news from a local cab driver—her beloved pet had been taken by two men on a motorcycle.
According to the cab driver, who witnessed the kidnapping unfold in her hometown of Bekasi, West Java, one of the men drove the bike while the other dragged Tigre away with a lasso around his neck. No stranger to such tales, Aya immediately knew that she was never going to see her beloved dog again.
“My heart broke into ashes knowing the fact my baby has gone to be slaughtered and eaten,” Aya told VICE World News. “Since then, I live with guilt and wish I can turn back time to save my good boy Tigre.”
This method of kidnapping is consistent with reports about the modus operandi of poachers across the country, who pick dogs off the streets for the dog meat market. There are many others who, like Aya, have lost their beloved canines to Indonesia’s dog meat trade.
But last week, in a landmark case, a dog meat trader was sentenced in an Indonesian court for violating animal health and safety laws—the first time authorities have prosecuted dog meat traders in the country. The unnamed 48-year-old man was sentenced to 10 months in jail and ordered to pay a 150 million rupiah ($10,600) fine on Oct. 18 after being found transporting 78 dogs—many sporting collars—in the back of a truck in May.
The conviction has been heralded as a big win for animal activists in the country.
“This first-ever prosecution of dog meat traders sends a strong message to the dog meat traders that this brutal trade is illegal and won’t be tolerated in Indonesia,” Lola Webber, the campaign director for End Dog Meat at the Humane Society International, told VICE World News.
Of the 78 dogs found in the truck, more than 10 perished from the ordeal. When dogs are kidnapped for their meat, the harrowing journey that ensues usually sees dogs succumbing to heatstroke, dehydration, and injury. Had the vehicle not been intercepted by the police, the surviving dogs would likely have ended up at a slaughterhouse.
While dog meat is widely considered as unclean and forbidden in the Muslim-majority country, it is considered a delicacy in regions such as Minahasa in North Sulawesi and Medan in North Sumatra. While the vast majority of Indonesians do not consume dog meat, the trade persists in certain local markets out of practicality and traditional beliefs. For example, some people consume dog meat for its affordability and alleged medicinal benefits, especially against dengue fever and asthma.
Amid concerns of rabies, animal cruelty, and the country’s international reputation, Indonesian authorities had in 2018 pledged to ban the consumption and sale of dog meat. Since then, provincial laws banning dog meat trade have been gradually introduced. However, Webber noted that in areas where the ban exists, enforcement is “rare” and the trade remains “largely unchallenged.”
Groups like the animal rights coalition Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI)—which includes Humane Society International—continue to campaign for a nationwide ban on the practice.
“The dog meat trade results in immeasurable animal cruelty and generates national and international condemnation,” said Webber. “Our role is to continue to increase awareness of, and opposition towards, the trade that jeopardizes the health and safety of the entire nation, whilst benefiting only a few.”
After the tragic loss of Tigre, Aya was inspired to play an active role in anti-dog meat campaigns. She joined the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, another organization under the DMFI, as a campaign coordinator and creative director.
While it has been almost a decade since he was kidnapped, Tigre is now immortalized in the DMFI logo as, in Aya’s words, a “good boy tribute.”
“With love, [prayers], faith, and action we pledge to end this bloody cruelty,” said Aya. “So there's no more victims like my good boy Tigre.”
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