After snap of snake slices for sale shocks social media, Indonesian supermarket pulls python meat

Photo: Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) / Facebook
Photo: Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) / Facebook

Earlier this year, many were shocked by a python that ate a person in Indonesia. Last weekend, many were shocked to find out that people eat pythons in Indonesia, too, leading to calls for a boycott of the grocery store chain found to be selling snake meat in one of its stores.

The above photo, which shows slices of ular patola (python) meat being sold at a Transmart supermarket went viral over the weekend and were shared by numerous animal welfare groups, including the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN). In their widely-shared post, JAAN called for a boycott of the grocery store chain.

Many of the comments on social media condemned the supermarket, expressing both disgust and anger. However, many also wanted to know where the photo was taken and specifically if the store was located in the North Sulawesi capital of Manado.

Manadonese cuisine is famous for many things, including being incredibly spicy, but it is also controversial for utilizing a wide variety of ‘exotic’ meats, including bat, boar, field rat, cat, dog and, yes, snake in its cooking. The traditional marketplaces in the nearby mountain town of Tomohon and Tondano are especially infamous for selling these meats.

It was later confirmed that the Transmart in the viral photograph was indeed located in North Manado, and, consequently, some defended the supermarket for selling a product that is culturally acceptable where it is located, arguing that people have as much right to eat snake meat as other meats that certain groups find unacceptable, such as pork.

Others argued back that pythons were protected under Indonesian law because their systematic removal from their natural habitat could endanger their ecosystem.

It is not clear what species of python was being sold, but some specific species such as the Burmese python are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and thus entitled to protection under Indonesian conservation laws.

In response to the controversy and boycott calls, Transmart Manado manager Hendra Simbolon told Tribunnews yesterday that he would be pulling all python meat products from his store. He said it was unfortunate because python was commonly sold in Manado and wasn’t sure why Transmart was targetted since other supermarkets in the city sold it as well. He said he would wait for upper management’s decision regarding exactly when to end snake meat sales.

Correction: This article previously identified Transmart as a subsidiary of French retailer Carrefour SA. Transmart is actually owned by CT Corp, which, through PT Trans Retail, purchased Carrefour SA’s stake in PT Carrefour Indonesia in 2012. We apologize for the error.

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