Why Does the Dog Meat Trade Persist in Indonesia?

The dog meat trade can be found in a wide range of places in a wide range of countries. For instance, it can be found in Indonesia, which is an island country of considerable importance with more than 267 million people. Unfortunately, the true extent of the dog meat trade in Indonesia is unclear, not least because so much of it operates in the shadows rather than out in the open.

Why Does the Dog Meat Trade Still Exist in Indonesia?

For starters, some people might be surprised by the existence of the dog meat trade in Indonesia. After all, the island country’s population is Muslim for the most part, as shown by a 2010 census in which 87.2 percent of Indonesians identified as Muslim. This is relevant because there is a widespread belief in both Shia and Sunni Islam that dogs are unclean, though the matter is much more complicated than that. Something that can be seen in how the Sunni Maliki school draws a distinction between wild dogs and domesticated dogs because the Qur’an permits the use of hunting dogs. In any case, since there are a lot of Muslims who consider dogs to be unclean, interested individuals might have expected that to be a significant barrier to the dog meat trade in Indonesia.

As it turns out, the dog meat trade in Indonesia is said to have started up in the North Sulawesi province, which is more Christian than Muslim for the most part. Supposedly, it was spread by Christian missionaries, whose influence combined with preexisting beliefs to create the belief that the consumption of dog meat is beneficial for human health. As such, even though the dog meat trade in Indonesia is often associated with Christian regions, it happens in Muslim regions as well.

Besides that, there are other reasons for the dog meat trade in Indonesia. For starters, poorer people tend to be more willing to make use of a wider range of food sources. As a result, it is not a coincidence that poorer, more rural regions tend to see more dog eating in Indonesia as well as a wide range of other countries. However, this isn’t set in stone because there is some evidence to suggest that increasing wealth throughout much of Indonesia is driving up rather than driving down the demand for dog meat. Apparently, people have become well-off enough that they can afford to eat meat but not so much so that they can afford to eat beef outside of special occasions. Due to this, said individuals eat more dog meat because dog meat is cheaper, which in turn, can be explained by the reduced resource requirements from raising dogs compared to raising cattle. On top of this, it should be mentioned that there are some parts of Indonesia that have seen serious problems in relatively recent decades. As in, the kind of serious problems that can push significant chunks of the population either to the point of starvation or past it with the result that they develop a taste for animals that they wouldn’t have eaten under normal circumstances. Something that doesn’t just go away once everything goes back to normal.

Will the Dog Meat Trade Ever Come to an End in Indonesia?

There are real forces strengthening the dog meat trade in Indonesia. However, there are real forces weakening the dog meat trade in Indonesia as well. For example, there are plenty of Indonesians who see dogs purely as pets, meaning that they are less than enthused by the consumption of dog meat in their country. Naturally, they exert a fair amount of influence on Indonesian governments, which is further bolstered by foreign support. Likewise, it should be mentioned that Indonesian governments are very concerned about rabies. Something that is more widespread in the island country than a lot of its counterparts, thus making combating it that much more important for them. The dog meat trade is a serious issue in this regard because some of the dogs are sourced from rather dubious sources, which makes it a nightmare for the relevant authorities to manage the infectious disease. Combined, this makes it seem as though the dog meat trade in Indonesia is destined to disappear at some point in time.

However, one cannot just assume that this process will be carried out on its own because there are some very real barriers to its implementation. One, Indonesia has something of a reputation for being difficult to govern. To an extent, this is a matter of institutions. However, it should be mentioned that there are also numerous settlements in the island country that are situated far from central authorities, meaning that enforcing rules and regulations that are unpalatable to them is a serious challenge at best. Two, people tend not to be involved in the dog meat trade because they enjoy it. Instead, a lot of them are stuck because they don’t have a lot of other economic prospects, meaning that they have very understandable reasons to oppose any attempt to end the dog meat trade. In some places, they are numerous enough that this can sway the policy-making of the relevant authorities, which tend to be less than enthused about destroying the livelihoods of sizable segments of their constituents. Theoretically, it is possible for interested parties to overcome this issue by providing those people involved in the dog meat trade with alternative options, but that isn’t the kind of thing that can be implemented in either a fast manner or a cheap manner. Three, while there are plenty of Indonesians who see dogs purely as pets, there are also plenty of Indonesians who don’t see dogs that way. As a result, they aren’t any likelier to oppose the butchery of dogs for the dog meat trade than they are to oppose the butchery of more familiar meat animals for other meat trades. Once again, this is something that can be overcome through persuasion, but once again, this is something that will take further expenditure of time and effort.

Ultimately, it is possible for the dog meat trade in Indonesia to come to a conclusion, but it won’t happen unless animal rights organizations and other interested parties continue to work towards it in a smart and sensible manner.

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