An Australian investigation exposing the particulars of Bali’s dark, brutal dog meat trade prompted a summit on the topic, the first of its kind, this week at the island’s Sanur Paradise Hotel.
The meeting came about after an undercover reporter infiltrated the underground dog meat trade on the island, demonstrating last month how holiday-goers in Bali are unwittingly eating dog meat as well as the cruelty in the capturing and slaughtering of dogs for meat—not to mention the health risks posed, as some of them are killed using cyanide.
Following the startling report, Bali Province put a team on the ground to investigate. While they found little, the damage had already been done to Bali’s reputation among international tourists.
The Australian investigation made international headlines, and an online petition from Animals Australia, urging Bali’s governor to totally ban the dog meat trade, has nearly 170,000 signatures to date from concerned netizens around the globe.
So, with the issue in the spotlight, something clearly had to be done in Bali, where tourism is the biggest money-making industry.
At Tuesday’s summit, facilitated by Bali’s Udayana University, health professionals, tourism agencies, community members, business leaders, and government officials discussed how to put an end to the island’s dog meat trade.
“In response to the current issue about the consumption of dog meat in Bali, where tourism is affected, we from the One Health One Collaboration Center (OHCC) of Udayana University, are looking for opinions from all stakeholders,” OHCC coordinator Nyoman Sri Budayanti said at the meeting’s opening.
The summit was hailed as a “breakthrough” by Animals Australia Investigations Director Lyn White, who said it marks the first time that these groups will be meeting at the table to address the issue together.
“We don’t underestimate the challenges still ahead, but this political movement is the strongest signal yet that an end to the dog meat trade in Bali could soon be possible,” White wrote to Animals Australia supporters in an email obtained by Coconuts Bali.
From the meeting, seven key policy recommendations to Bali Province’s governor were made — among the biggest is issuing a perarem, or a customary regulation in Bali, prohibiting the consumption of dog meat.
Another main point addressed was the fact that dogs currently occupy a legal gray area in Indonesia. While the sale and consumption of dog meat is not illegal in the country, it is also largely unregulated as dogs do not fall under laws governing livestock and biological food sources.
However, in Law No. 18 of 2009, Amendment No. 4 of 2014, the law dictates that animal slaughter should be done as humanely as possible, without causing illness, fear, or torture, explained Dr. Ira Firgorita, director general of the Animal Husbandry and Animal Health Department of the Ministry of Agriculture. That’s why poisoning dogs and bludgeoning them to death would be a violation of the law.
Here’s the full list of recommendations, or at least key observations for approaching the issue from a policy standpoint, brought up for the provincial government, as published by Tribun Bali:
1) In line with the traditional Balinese philosophy Tri Hita Karana, humans are expected to have a good relationship with the environment and all its contents, which includes dogs. (The philosophy is central to Balinese culture and roughly translates to “three causes of well-being.” Those three are harmony among people, harmony with nature, and harmony with God.)
2) The act of eating dog meat is not a habit and is not part of the Balinese culture, as the Balinese believe that dogs have an important role in life.
3) Dog meat does not fall into a food category (in legal terms), because dogs are not a product of farming—livestock—or forestry.
4) The practice of the dog meat trade has the potential to spread zoonotic diseases [those that can be transmitted from animals to human beings], especially rabies.
5) Legal regulation (perarem) needs to be clearly established to firmly prevent the sale of dog meat.
6) Continuing education is required about the issue.
7) Coordination and collaboration among relevant institutions is necessary in handling the issue of the dog meat trade in Bali.