Welcome to Legends of Jakarta, a series in which we highlight the people and organizations working tirelessly to bring positive change to the Indonesian capital and beyond. We also want to encourage readers to donate to and/or volunteer for the causes they hold dear.
In the first installment of this series, we spoke with Lola Webber, international coordinator of Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI), to shed light on what the coalition is all about, the incredible work they’ve already accomplished, and what lies ahead in its long struggle to end the dog meat trade in Indonesia.
The interview below has been edited for clarity.
What is DMFI, and who are the people behind it?
The DMFI coalition comprises both national and international animal protection organizations (Jakarta Animal Aid Network, Humane Society International, Animal Friends Jogja, Four Paws and Animals Asia), representing millions of supporters around the world, and with a shared vision of ending the dog meat trade nationwide.
DMFI was launched in 2017 following nearly 12 months of nationwide investigations into the prevalence of, and motivations for, dog meat consumption, and the collection of evidence of the inherent and extreme cruelty of the trade, markets and slaughtering of an estimated one million dogs each year.
We also identified key dog meat-eating hotspots, such as North Sulawesi and Central Java, as well as “supply” hotspots where many dogs were being sourced from, such as West Java and South Sulawesi. We conducted legal analyses of the trade to identify what laws were being routinely flouted by those involved in the trade.
We have received support from global and Indonesian superstars including Simon Cowell, Sophia Latjuba, Yeslin Wang, Nadia Mulya, Lawrence Enzela, Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan who have joined us in our calls to President Joko Widodo urging for action to be taken to end the country’s dog and cat meat trades. A petition of more than 1 million signatures was also submitted to the government of Indonesia in November 2018.
What are some of DMFI’s biggest recent achievements?
The DMFI has been successful in garnering national and international support for a ban through obtaining evidence of the inherent – and extreme – cruelty and dangers of the trade (such as its role in facilitating the transmission of rabies, for example).
As a result of mounting public opposition, we have secured support from many leaders throughout Indonesia who are opposed to the trade and who recognize that in Indonesia, “dogs are not food.”
In August 2018, at the National Coordination of Animal Welfare meeting in Jakarta, after reviewing DMFI’s investigative footage, the Director of Veterinary Public Health described the treatment of the dogs and cats as “torture for animals” and stated that “dog meat or any animal that is not registered as farm animals, is illegal … Foreign countries find a low standard of animal welfare and cruelty unacceptable and will stop visiting Indonesia, which is bad for tourism.”
Following this, in September 2018, the central government issued a directive to all provincial, regency and city authorities calling on them to take action to discourage dog and cat meat consumption and to implement measures to tackle the trades wherever they occur.
This led to the first regency, Karanganyar in Central Java, to announce a ban on the dog meat trade throughout their jurisdiction in June 2019, offering small financial compensation packages to those reliant on the dog meat trade to assist with their transition to alternative livelihoods.
This had a snowball effect and in 2022, an additional 17 regencies and cities took similar actions, banning the dog and cat meat trades, including provincial capitals Medan (North Sumatra), Surabaya (East Java) and Semarang (Central Java), bringing the total to 21. These are of enormous significance, and result in the saving of tens of thousands of dogs each month!
Animal lovers of Indonesia rejoice, this is a major win. Read more.
August 8, 2018
In November 2021, DMFI conducted a first-of-its-kind interception, in collaboration with law enforcement agents, of a dog meat trader arriving at an illegal slaughterhouse in Sukoharjo, Central Java. We rescued all 54 dogs on the truck that had illegally trafficked these poor dogs all the way from West Java.
Many of the dogs were clearly stolen pets, and with our support, both perpetrators (the trafficker and the slaughterhouse owner) were prosecuted, resulting in jail time and significant penalties/fines. All rescued dogs have since been rehomed in Jakarta and Canada.
In what areas can Indonesian authorities do better to stop the dog meat trade?
Whilst we are finally starting to see actions being taken by local and provincial authorities, we are still seeking stronger deterrents nationwide, particularly in dog meat-trading hot spots, such as Solo city (Surakarta), North Sumatra, West Java and North Sulawesi – which is home to infamous live animal markets such as the Tomohon Extreme Market, where dogs and cats are bludgeoned and blowtorched (often whilst still alive) on public streets.
It is critical that the authorities ensure that the safety and well-being of the more than 94 percent of Indonesians who never consume dog meat and nearly 90 percent of Indonesians who are in support of a ban are prioritized over the interests of the small minority of consumers and those who profit from this trade, which relies on illegal and dangerous activities that jeopardize public health safety.
We know, for example, that the dog meat trade facilitates the transmission of the deadly rabies virus, posing a very grave threat to communities’ health and economies. And we must learn from COVID-19 of the risks these dangerous unregulated trades pose to both human and animal health and welfare.
What are DMFI’s goals in Indonesia, particularly this year?
The DMFI will continue to raise public and political awareness of – and opposition towards – the dog meat trade to encourage the passing and strengthening of laws to end this trade and to safeguard animal welfare.
We know that the majority of dogs used to supply this trade are stolen from the streets and even people’s homes, and we know that the majority of Indonesians are opposed to the trade and never consume dog meat. So if action were to be taken, this trade could end tomorrow!
This year, we will continue to target our efforts in the country’s trading hotspots to ensure real and direct change for the tens of thousands of dogs at risk each month.
Will Indonesia remain the coalition’s main focus, or will you take the fight abroad too?
The DMFI coalition is focused on Indonesia, but our international member organizations work on this issue throughout the region, including South Korea, China, Vietnam and some parts of India.
How can our readers help?
Everyone has a role to play in supporting an end to the dog meat trade by always making their voices heard. Write letters expressing your concerns to those in power to affect change, and please support organizations like the DMFI, which are dedicated to ending these horrors for good.
Our work is entirely funded by the generosity of donors and it truly does save lives and ends the cycle of suffering so that future generations will never have to suffer at the hands of dog meat traders. Adopt. Rescue. Donate. Volunteer. Educate.
Please visit our website and follow us on Instagram for regular updates and calls for action.
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