North Sulawesi Governor accused of hypocrisy as Manado set to host World Rabies Day events whilst brutal dog meat trade allowed to thrive.

North Sulawesi Governor accused of hypocrisy as Manado set to host World Rabies Day events whilst brutal dog meat trade allowed to thrive.

Added on Wednesday, 26 September 2018
Statement signed by 83 charities says Asia’s brutal dog meat trade encourages the spread of rabies, a disease that kills 70,000 people a year in Asia alone, mostly children.

JAKARTA (26th September) – Nearly 100 animal charities from across the world, including Humane Society International, Change for Animals Foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, Four Paws and Animals Asia, have called for stronger action by governments to tackle the significant threat of rabies posed by the brutal and often illegal dog and cat meat trades, that results in the trade and slaughter of an estimated 30 million dogs and cats each year across Asia for the meat trade.

An estimated 50,000 – 70,000 people die of rabies globally every year, with approximately 90 percent of case reported from Asia, and the campaigners including the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition, the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, China’s Capital Animal Welfare Association and the Taiwan SPCA, warn that the global goal to end human rabies deaths by 2030 will be impossible to achieve without a robustly enforced ban on the dog meat trade.

The organisations, representing groups from across Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Cambodia, Singapore, Taiwan as well as Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, are highlighting the significant role that the dog meat trade can play in spreading the lethal rabies virus throughout Asia, across countries, islands and provinces and into densely-populated cities. The World Health Organisation and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control have both acknowledged the link between the spread of rabies and the dog meat trade which sees large numbers of dogs of unknown disease status moved vast distances. The trade operates in breach of rabies control recommendations by all leading human and animal health experts including FAO, OIE, WHO and PAHO [1], as well as national disease control and animal welfare laws and regulations.

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There is considerable evidence spanning decades from throughout Asia of the link between the dog meat trade and rabies transmission. Studies from Vietnam [2], China [3] and Indonesia [4] have proven that rabies-positive dogs and carcasses often appear in markets and slaughterhouses – as high as 16.4 percent in Vietnam [5] – and the movement of different strains of the rabies virus in dogs being traded for human consumption has also been tracked. There have also been a number of human rabies deaths directly linked to slaughtering, butchering, handling and even consumption of meat from infected dogs. For example in Vietnam a 2007 rabies outbreak saw 30 percent of human deaths linked to exposure during the slaughter and butchery of dogs [6]. And in the same year, research conducted in markets in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province demonstrated that between 7.8 and 10.6 percent of dogs being sold for human consumption were infected with rabies [7].

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States commented in an email to a Dog Meat-Free Indonesia campaigner: “There are reports that dog-meat markets have a higher rate of rabies than the general dog population, as people often sell dogs to the markets when they act sick; some of these sick dogs have rabies.… Furthermore, there are at least three published reports of humans acquiring rabies from activities associated with the dog meat market, emphasizing that the risk is very real.”

The U.S. House of Representatives voted this month to ban the trade of dog and cat meat in the United States.

In Indonesia, although the central government made a public pledge in August this year to ban the dog and cat meat trades, the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition is still waiting for Ministers to act on the pledge, and says that some provincial governments are utterly failing to take the rabies risk or extreme animal cruelty seriously at all. In July this year, a DMFI investigation revealed a rabies-positive dog carcass for sale at Tomohon extreme market in North Sulawesi, the latest in a number of similar cases across Indonesia. In 2007, research conducted in markets in North Sulawesi (Manado, Airmadidi and Langowan) showed that between 7.8% and 10.6% of dogs being sold for human consumption were infected with rabies.

Lola Webber from Change for Animals Foundation, says: “It is estimated that just 7 percent of Indonesia’s population consume dog meat, but the trade continues to jeopardise the health and safety of the entire nation. It is no coincidence that the provinces and regencies with the greatest demand for dog meat are also those with the highest prevalence of rabies, with devastating societal, economic and animal welfare impacts. Attempts to maintain rabies-free statuses of cities and provinces, and to control and eliminate rabies where rabies is still present, will fail without addressing the trade in dogs for human consumption.”

North Sulawesi Province continues to have some of the highest numbers of human deaths attributed to rabies in Indonesia, with a majority of those cases in Minahasa Regency, just south of Manado in North Sulawesi. There are more than 200 “traditional markets” throughout North Sulawesi, slaughtering tens of thousands of dogs and cats each week, with dogs being imported from other provinces of Sulawesi island into densely-populated areas, including the provincial capital of Manado.

As Manado is set to host World Rabies Day events this month, the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition says it smacks of utter hypocrisy given the city’s disastrously pivotal role in sustaining the dog meat trade, and the reluctance shown by the Governor of North Sulawesi to tackle the trade.

Karin Franken from Jakarta Animal Aid Network says: “It is not an option for the provincial and central governments to not address this urgent issue that jeopardises Indonesia’s rabies-free aspirations and those cities that have worked tirelessly to secure their rabies-free status, including the capital city of Jakarta. If Manado truly wants to take tackling rabies seriously and to host World Rabies Day events, the province’s extreme dog and cat meat trades cannot be ignored.”

The DMFI’s campaign for ban in Indonesia has received high-profile support from global and Indonesian celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Islan, Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres, all calling for urgent action to protect animals and people.

In Vietnam, Hanoi’s Vice Mayor Nguyen Van Suu recently urged residents to stop eating dog meat because consuming the meat could lead to the spread of diseases like rabies and leptospirosis. This move was followed by an announcement that the capital city of Hanoi would be dog meat-free by 2021, but Humane Society International Vietnam director, Tham Thi Hong Phuong, says the country needs actions not just advertising campaigns.

Phuong says: “We estimate that around 20,000 dogs are transported every month from the South to the North of Vietnam for slaughter, creating an easy way for rabies to be spread across the country. It’s encouraging to see the Hanoi authorities publicly acknowledge the risk and commit to banning the trade from central districts in Hanoi by 2021, but if they are serious about tackling rabies, they need to get serious about stamping out the dog meat trade across the whole country.”

In the Kingdom of Cambodia, rabies remains a major public health burden, killing more than 800 people every year. Dr. Katherine Polak from FOUR PAWS explains, “To put it in perspective, the annual incidence of human deaths from rabies in Cambodia is about six per 100,000 citizens. This is comparable to the annual incidence of road deaths in the entire European Union[8] in the mid-2000s. In a country with no national program to address rabies and limited post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), tackling the dog meat trade would be one of the simplest, cheapest, and high-impact interventions the government could take. In neighboring Thailand, we applaud the actions taken by the Thai Department of Livestock to stop the illegal transport of dogs for meat.”

Professor Louis Nel of Global Alliance for Rabies Control says: “We may not be able to easily change culture or habit, but we should ensure compliance with proven animal disease prevention measures and stop the smuggling of dogs, to limit the spread of rabies, an endemic disease across Asia. These traders are driven solely by profit and are disregarding the risks to human and animal health.”

The groups’ open letter concludes: “Based on mounting evidence from throughout Asia and on decades of experience in successful rabies elimination programs from around the world, it is undeniable that the dog meat trade and rabies elimination efforts are incompatible, and that cities and countries around the world will never be able to secure and maintain rabies-free statuses without addressing the trade in dogs for human consumption. We, the global animal protection community, therefore call on the national and regional governments of all countries where the dog meat trade is prevalent to take strong and urgent actions to end the trade in dogs for human consumption and the sale and consumption of such meat and associated products. If we are serious about eradicating human rabies deaths, we have a global responsibility to end the dog and cat meat trades for good.”

North Sulawesi Governor accused of hypocrisy as Manado set to host World Rabies Day events whilst brutal dog meat trade allowed to thrive.

Signatories to the open letter are: 

  1. Ananta Jyoti Dhayn Kendra
  2. Andhra Pradesh Goshalala Federation
  3. Animal Friends Jogja
  4. Animal Friends Manado
  5. Animal Kingdom Foundation
  6. Animal Liberation Sanctuary
  7. Animal Rescue Cambodia
  8. Animal Rights Committee of Georgia
  9. Animal Rights Hawaii
  10. Animal Sanctuary Trust Indonesia
  11. Animals Asia Foundation
  12. Bali Animal Welfare Association
  13. Bharatiya Prani Mitra Sangh, Hyderabad
  14. Blue Cross of Hyderabad
  15. British Hen Welfare Trust
  16. Capital Animal Welfare Association (China)
  17. Change for Animals Foundation
  18. Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth
  19. Community Dog Welfare
  20. Compassion Works International
  21. CPR Environmental Education Centre
  22. Department of Livestock Services - Bangladesh
  23. Djurrättsalliansen (The Animal Rights Alliance)
  24. Dog Meat Free Indonesia
  25. Dogstop
  26. Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan
  27. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation (FIAPO)
  28. FLIGHT
  29. FOUR PAWS International
  30. Free the Bears
  31. Friends of the Orangutans
  32. GAIA (Voice of the Voiceless)
  33. Help Animals India
  34. HERD
  35. Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust
  36. Hollow Logs
  37. Humane Society International
  38. Instituto Pasteur de São Paulo
  39. International Animal & Birds Welfare Society
  40. International Otter Survival Fund
  41. International Primate Protection League
  42. Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN)
  43. Japan Anti-Vivisection Association
  44. JBF (India) Trust
  45. Korea Animal Rights Advocates
  46. Korean Alliance for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  47. Landmark Foundation
  48. Life Conservationist Association
  49. Love Animal House Thailand
  51. Nepal Street Animal Rescue
  52. Nowzad Dogs
  53. Orangutan Aid
  54. PAWS for Compassion
  55. Pecinta Hewan Surabaya
  56. People for Animals, Trivandrum
  57. PETA Asia 亚洲善待动物组织
  58. Philippine Pet Birth Control Foundation, Inc.
  59. Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS Asia)
  60. Pro Natura Foundation
  61. Sahabat Anjing Surakarta
  62. Sahayog Organisation, Andhra Pradesh Goshalala Federation, Hyderabad
  63. Sanctuary for Health & Reconnection to Animals & Nature
  64. Scorpion Foundation Indonesia
  65. Showing Animals Respect and Kindness
  66. Society for the Protection of Animals Ljubimci
  67. Society for Travelers Respecting Animal Welfare (STRAW)
  68. Stray Relief and Animal Welfare
  69. Sun Bear Centre - Kalimantan
  70. Taiwan SPCA台灣防止虐待動物協會
  71. The Cattitude Trust - Chennai
  72. The Jane Goodall Institute - Global
  73. The Kerulos Center Elephant Liberation
  74. The Kerulos Center Science in Service to Animals
  75. Vietnam Cat Welfare
  76. Voice for dogs abroad
  77. VShine (China)
  78. Wild Futures
  79. Wildlife Alliance
  80. Wildlife Salvation
  81. Working for Animals
  82. Zhuzhou Small Animal Protection (China)
  83. Zoocheck Inc.



In Bobby’s Honour

We found Bobby sitting in a wire cage in a busy dog meat market in North Sulawesi whilst we were conducting investigations in December 2017. He was surrounded by scenes from a horror movie, and the terror in his eyes was haunting. We knew we couldn’t leave him.

It breaks our heart that he left this world too soon, but he left having known love and with a name. And in his name, we will never give up until the dog and cat meat trades end throughout Indonesia.

Hero’s Story

The Dog Meat Free-Indonesia coalition spent many long and heartbreaking months investigating the inner-workings of the dog meat trade throughout Indonesia. As people who do what we do because we care so passionately about animals, doing investigations never gets any easier. It is soul-destroying and heart-breaking, but essential in documenting the reality of the trade so that we are best-positioned to fight it, and to ultimately realise our goal of ending the dog meat trade.

But we always save those we can…

On one particular day, we had the chance to save a dog who we named 'Hero'.

Change is coming in Indonesia and throughout Asia… Never before has the dog meat trade or the consumption of dog meat been questioned the way it is now. People are turning their backs on a trade and a practice that can no longer hide behind a defense of ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’.