Monday 24 July 2023

Tomohon Extreme Market has stopped selling cat and dog meat. It is hell on earth for animals

NEWS AND VIEWS: The Tomohon Extreme Market on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi may be the most hellish place on planet Earth for dogs, cats and other animals. It reminds me of other Asian animal wet markets where the animals are brutally killed. In this instance, there were reports that animals were bludgeoned and blowtorched to death. That is, indeed, extreme. It is extreme violence and cruelty of the most heinous and obscene kind. But I will tell you this: it is not that unusual in some Asian countries such as Vietnam, and China.

Members of Humane Society International transport a cage containing dogs from a slaughterhouse in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Friday. (Mohammad Taufan / Associated Press)
Members of Humane Society International transport a cage containing dogs from a slaughterhouse in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Friday.
(Mohammad Taufan / Associated Press)

I hate saying it but I must say it over and over again: the culture in Asia vis-à-vis companion animals can be utterly uncivilised. I must not generalise because there are some really beautiful people in Asian countries who love animals and care for them and rescue them.

But if we do generalise then the general culture is very poor indeed concerning animal welfare and that clearly is the case in the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. This cannot be denied.

That is why the headline news is extremely welcome for people like me and other animal advocates, particularly those animal advocates with a much higher profile than me such as the celebrities Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowell and Ricky Gervais who have signed a letter calling on Indonesian president Joko Widido to ban the cat and dog meat trade in Indonesia.

I don't know the Tomohon Extreme Market except that there is extreme violence at it but I suspect that other animals are slaughtered there or by suppliers. This story is about cats and dogs. What about the other animals.

The mayor of the district concerned has, we are told, decided to ban the selling of cat and dog meat at this marketplace. I don't know how profound a change that will make re: animal welfare because does it mean that all animals will be protected for the future? I don't know. It is a step in the right direction however.

The new policy will make the Tomohon market the first market in Indonesia to stop selling cat and dog meat according to Humane Society International.

A Sky News report on the market in 2020 following the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic found carcasses of dogs, bats, snakes and other animals at the market in unsanitary conditions. That wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

I suspect that the Covid-19 pandemic had something to do with this change in policy because Covid either started in the Wuhan research laboratory or in the Wuhan wet market where similar animal cruelty took place. The Chinese have cleaned up their wet markets they say in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But in China and I would argue in Indonesia, the law is badly enforced. We don't know whether the banning of the sale of cat and dog meat in the Tomohon market is pursuant to a change in legislation or whether it is simply a declaration by the mayor. I should like to know how well this change in policy is going to be enforced.

RELATED: Indonesia - cat supersition. Superstition about the medicinal benefits of cat meat is a reason why they are slaughtered. Mass re-education is desperately needed.

There is a YouTube video on the Internet about the extreme Tomohon market and I'm not going to show it here but I can say that there is a warning against it which says that "this video depicts graphic scenes that are hard to take in. If you feel uncomfortable, please stop watching". That gives you a clue as to how bad it is. And it makes me wonder how Indonesians can behave like this towards animals. They must be completely desensitised to the concept that animals are sentient beings.

The only way you can be this cruel to animals is to regard them as objects and what I mean is inanimate objects such as televisions and armchairs. You cannot believe that they are sentient beings with the capability to feel pain if you treat them this badly and put them through human hell.

There is a picture on the Los Angeles Times website of members of Humane Society International transporting a cage containing dogs from a slaughterhouse at the Tomohon market. It is on this page.

The newspaper also tells me that on Friday, 21 July 2023, the authorities announced an end to the cat and dog meat slaughter at this market. They appear to correct another report by saying that the "permanent end of the slaughter and trade was announced Friday by the regional secretary of the city of Tomohon, Edwin Roring". The Humane Society International said that they would rescue the remaining live dogs and cats from the slaughterhouse suppliers and transport them to sanctuaries.

The authorities believe that if they stop selling cat and dog meat at this market it will reduce "people's interest in consuming dog and cat meat in Tomohon".

You wonder whether that will work. The cat and dog meat is a deep cultural habit. Simply stopping its availability in one marketplace won't stop the habit in my view. And I believe that the reason behind it is not animal welfare but to prevent zoonotic diseases being transmitted from distorted animals to people.

Other welfare groups have called the treatment of the animals at the market brutally cruel and like "walking through hell".

In the letter I refer to above by the celebrities, they stated: "These animals, many of them stolen pets, are subjected to crude and brutal methods of capture, transport and slaughter, and the immense suffering and fear they must endure is heartbreaking and absolutely shocking."

North Sulawesi province is home to more than 2.6 million people. Most of them are Christian in what is a mostly Muslim archipelago nation. That interest me. Clearly, Christianity which in its pure sense would abhor this kind of animal cruelty, is no deterrent to Indonesians committing these extreme acts of cruelty against animals.

Thousands of dogs and cats are slaughtered weekly in North Sulawesi and I'm sure that the closure of the Tomohon market will not stop the brutality across the area. It will simply reduce it.

One person involved with the mass slaughter of cats and dogs for the market said that he is disappointed but will continue to supply the market with pork. The cruelty will continue with different animals. 

As I said, the habits will continue and I'm not that optimistic for the long term but this is good news nonetheless because it is the beginning hopefully of the end of the cat and dog meat market in Indonesia.

It will, though, take a very long time to eradicate it completely. There are also changes afoot in Vietnam along similar lines. I think it is because there's been a lot of pressure from the West through social media against this animal cruelty. These countries want to be perceived by developed countries as civilised societies. You cannot be regarded as civilised if you treat animals that appallingly.

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