Last year over 1.1 million Australians visited Bali, but few were aware there was an established dog meat trade (DMT) on the island. While local NGOs had long known of the brutal trade, and indeed did a lot of good work to try to end it, the practice was growing under the nose of Bali authorities and tourists alike.
Animals Australia became involved early this year after one of its investigators, who was holidaying in Bali with his family, became suspicious about a satay vendor on a major tourist beach and investigated.
What he found was shocking, and formed the basis of the award-winning 7.30 Report on the DMT that was aired on the ABC in June this year. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/investigation-uncovers-evidence-of-dog-meat-being/8632544
For the first time, there was irrefutable evidence that the dog meat trade was alive and well and that it included:
Food fraud (dog meat sold to tourists as goat or chicken meat);
Food ignorance (most tourists had no idea the letters RW meant dog meat was on the menu!);
Food safety issues (dogs being poisoned with what appeared to be cyanide for the DMT, and dogs killed and butchered for DMT under filthy conditions);
Rabies eradication issues (dogs being moved around Bali contrary to rabies laws; dog catchers and butchers exposed to a high risk of dog bites and contamination from brains and saliva from potentially rabies-infected dogs); and
High-level animal cruelty (besides poisoning, dogs for the DMT were being bludgeoned, hanged with wire, or having their throats cut; some dogs were bound and gagged for days before slaughter and left without food or water, and the routine way of transporting live dogs is trussed in sacks on motorbikes).
When Lyn White, Director of Strategy at Animals Australia (AA), called me in March this year to see if I would be Veterinary Director of Animals International (the global arm of AA) and work on the ground in Bali to help end the DMT, I jumped at the opportunity.
My role involves liaising with Government and other key stakeholders, such as the One Health Collaborating Centre (OHCC) at Udayana University (UNUD) in Bali. We were very fortunate to secure a Forum in July with OHCC and the Government, which saw almost unanimous support for recommendations to go to the Governor of Bali to end the DMT on food safety, rabies eradication, animal welfare, tourism and cultural grounds. While we found evidence that some Balinese had adopted the habit of eating dog meat, the vast majority of Hindus, who comprise nearly 90 % of the population, are strongly against dog meat eating on the basis it is not a Hindu practice. Dog meat eating appears to have been brought to Bali in the past by Christian ethnic minorities from Flores, Manado and Medan .The minority Muslim population on Bali does not eat dog meat.
Very shortly after this Forum, the Governor responded to the Recommendations to end the DMT by issuing a Circular Letter to government agencies to effect this. While this was a huge step forward, there is much work to be undertaken to ensure the implementation of the ban. This has been slower than we had hoped but we are confident there is a strong will by the Government to close the DMT.
Animals International funded the Forum and is in close communication with the Government. It is envisaged that ‘public order’ and ‘civil service’ police, along with officers from the Bali Livestock Services, will survey dog meat trade outlets and issue closure notices. We are also involved in ensuring education programs will be undertaken, including at schools.
Bali is not a rich place, despite tourism. Many Balinese do not have access to health care and school is not free. Animal welfare is a traditional part of Hindu philosophy but the daily realities for many animals is in stark contrast. There is simply not enough money in many family budgets to care for the many dogs and cats on the island, and the threat of rabies has brought about a fear, especially of dogs. Since 2008, when a rabid dog from Flores entered Bali by boat, over 150 Balinese have died from rabies-and this is likely to be an underestimate. Unfortunately, the traditionally close role of dogs and people in Bali was damaged and the Government culled many dogs using strychnine. Fortunately, there is now recognition that vaccination of dogs against rabies is a far more effective way to eradicate the disease, along with humane population management (sterilisation).
I was also recently appointed as an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Murdoch University. In this role I am actively promoting ties between Murdoch University and UNUD to effect mutually beneficial outcomes in food safety, rabies eradication, and animal welfare.
There is a huge need for mentoring of vets on Bali, and there are opportunities for Australian vets to undertake pro bono work sterilising and vaccinating dogs and cats (with government permission). If any Sentient members are keen to assist please contact me at email@example.com