The onlookers couldn’t believe what they were seeing: a passing bike loaded with two moving sacks. Their horror then intensified when they realized what the bags contained. Poking out of each was a dog’s head. It was a terrible way to treat a living thing, but the poor pooches faced a worse future if someone didn’t intervene soon.
On September 29, 2017, Facebook users were shocked by a set of pictures that came out of Tangerang, Indonesia. The images in question were of a man on a bike, but he wasn’t the center of attention. Instead, that was focused on the horrific baggage that he was carrying.
Observers noticed that the man carried two bags tied together, the contents of which were heart-rending. Inside each was a live dog with its nose pushed through a makeshift hole. And the bags weren’t the only things restricting the dogs’ movement, either.
That’s because both animals had their snouts bound by straps that restricted their breathing. Not only were they cramped, but they must also have been sweltering. One of them was trying to pant to cool himself down, but his bindings made it nigh-on impossible.
As passers-by watched, the man lifted the sacks and hung them over his bicycle. An onlooker at the scene explained that the man intended to sell the dogs to a restaurant as meat. They would potentially face a grisly end, but unfortunately this is not uncommon.
Indonesia is a beautiful country, but its streets are a nightmarish landscape for stray dogs. Every year, thousands of them are brutally killed to fill market food stalls and restaurant kitchens. And this goes on despite the country having a number of animal cruelty laws.
In fact, there are laws in place to prevent unnecessary cruelty from happening. The problem is that these laws apply specifically to livestock, even that sold as food. As a consequence, there is nothing in place to protect wild or domestic animals.
To further complicate matters, Indonesia has a very active pet meat trade, although it’s poorly regulated. Since it operates mostly under the radar, little data or sales figures are available. Additionally, the animals are often killed in the most shocking of ways.
On March 25, 2017, The New York Times uncovered some of the cruel methods that slaughterhouses use to kill dogs. “Many are strangled and then butchered immediately, on the theory that strangling them makes the meat more tender,” it reported. “Others are put in sacks and beaten to death.”
Nowadays, some countries that have historically eaten dog meat – South Korea, for instance – consider the practice questionable. On the other hand, studies suggest elsewhere its consumption is on the rise. Indonesia is a prime example.
Indonesia has a largely Muslim population, and while dog meat isn’t forbidden on religious grounds, it is seen as unclean. But this hasn’t stopped its popularity increasing in some Muslim-based communities. And as the economy in Indonesia has boomed, so has its pet meat trade.
In fact, The New York Times believes that rising salaries in Indonesia have made dog meat an affordable alternative to beef. Consequently, it’s thought that 70,000 dogs are killed each year on the island of Bali alone. The dogs trussed up on the bike seemed doomed to join them.
Or they would have been, if it wasn’t for some good Samaritans. Horrified by what they’d seen, they approached the man and offered to buy the dogs from him. Presumably, he wasn’t too bothered where his profits came from, as he readily agreed.
Both dogs were sold for a combined price of IDR 500,000 (roughly $36). Once the transaction was done and the terrified animals were free, rescuers took them out of the sacks. All that remained now was to find them sanctuary.
The pooches were subsequently taken in by foster parents until they could find their forever homes. Unsurprisingly, animal lovers found the dogs’ treatment abhorrent. Peter Li, who works for the Humane Society International (HSI), told The Dodo just that.
“It is shocking,” he said on October 24, 2017. “… Dogs [are] a nonhuman species that [have] been a willing helper to humans since time immemorial. These look like dogs shipped for slaughter and consumption. [They are] treated like a piece of wood or rock in Indonesia.”
Luckily, HSI isn’t the only group working towards changing the lives of animals in Indonesia. Other organizations are working hard to help defenseless animals until the country’s cruelty laws are improved. The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) is one such outfit.
BAWA’s Gusti Ngurah Bagus addressed the problem with the Animal Welfare Coalition website. “Every day so many distraught people call us because they have witnessed brutality or other cruelty to animals,” he said. “They believe BAWA is their only hope for action.”
He went on, “Of course, we will continue to rescue animals in distress.” Meanwhile, Peter Li thinks the key to these changes will only come to fruition after a change in the law. “It is important that animal advocates in Indonesia speak up for these voiceless souls,” he said.
Li continued, “It is important that an anti-cruelty legislation is in place. [That, and the] implementation to prevent this cruel treatment to the dogs. The Indonesian government has a responsibility to stop such cruel behavior towards the dogs.”