Sitting with a very wise young Balinese man a few days ago, we watched in delight as his dogs did what dogs indigenous to the Island of Bali have instinctively done for thousands of years. Barking, practice fighting, eating, sleeping, barking, practice fighting, eating, sleeping, and repeat again. But it must be said, having been told on good authority, that Bali dogs are very lazy, just like Bali people. Having lived with Bali dogs, we can certainly attest that this observation is to be true, canine wise.
Finding a pack of Bali dogs in a jungle setting with a hierarchy of command was certainly a bonus on an unexpected visit. Realizing that they cohabit with a young family who are determined to keep everything as traditional as possible was a very heart-warming experience. In a rapidly changing environment, they are attempting to recreate the old in present modern day Bali Island form. To retain as much as possible of their forebears teachings but to be realistic and aware enough to realize that so much of the past is slipping rapidly, being swallowed and reconstituted into the new materialistic that is consuming their Island home.
Bali people have their own interpretations and versions of love when it comes to feelings for their dogs. Like so much of everywhere, myth and miscommunication, not to mention arrogance, shrouds the fact that the reality is not so different in general actioned love. Their dogs are fretted over, worried about, frustrated by and cursed at, an awful lot.
With a retro progressive philosophy this small group is attempting to action the best practices of and from the past to create a better life in the present world they now inhabit.
They observe correctly that the planet is at a tipping point, that the point of no return may already have passed and that Bali is a daily micro reflection of that crisis. They regard the obvious danger to the Bali dog, through rampant material globalization and unfettered greed, as just one of many dangers to their culture and ancient way of life. Their decision to continue with mainly having Bali dogs is their small way of honouring the line and creating ongoing balance and harmony.
It is indeed an honour to know them.
The hope that consumption of Bali Dog as a protein alternative, to let’s say chicken, pig, duck or fish, would cease overnight on the back of Government say so, was always going to be unlikely. Unfortunately for those who consider the practice of eating dog to be abhorrent, no other time than yesterday is acceptable. A complete unmitigated non-negotiable state of cease and desist is how it must be.
A cease and desist order will be the only legally binding and enforceable way. But unfortunately the law, historically and universally, is a very well proven ass indeed. Directing someone in an industry that obviously has a market demand, to stop engaging in such an activity, can only happen with legally serious levels of power. That hasn’t happened as of yet and the jury is still very much out and absent. In regards to if such a judgement will ever happen or not, hope springs eternal in the minds of optimists.
So where does emotion and pragmatism sit on the dog eating dirt track. It certainly stirs the gastric juices of those in the emotional camp; those who see a fur covered sentient being as no different to a hair covered one. In fact, many on that side give much more credence of rights and favour to our four legged friends, over our two legged relatives. To those who connect with canines the very thought of them being consumed like some cheap source of sustenance is beyond criminal, its complete and moral madness. It’s a heinous crime, punishable upon those in the trade serving a sentence by being slowly beaten, while forcibly ‘encouraged’ into consuming bits of their own flayed flesh. It’s a level of distain that verges on fundamentalist rage and fury. It’s a very stand-alone fervour and distinctly very separate from other animal welfare issues. Their voices are loud and in their opinion their way is the only right way.
At the other end of the track the unemotional pragmatists set up camp. It’s an animal that can be eaten like any other animal. There are humans who demand it for food and they have a preference for dog meat as an alternative or option to other animal based protein options. It’s a business that brings in money that provides a quality of life versus none or very little chance of human survival. It’s not at all personal, it’s a job like any number of jobs and it’s simply a means to an end. The need to feed and provide a family with security in a non-welfare state reality, far outweighs the welfare and security of canine sentience.
But then unfortunately there’s the method of dog meat preparation. Live capturing beating binding skinning boiling, unarguably torturing, is beyond any leeway that could ever possibly be afforded those involved in the trade.
Bali Dog welfare has a slippery history of warfare, a lot of it involving foreigners berating Balinese for their perceived and proven cruelty. The subject of dog consumption is certainly not a divider of cultural difference. The majority of Bali people are also reviled by the thought of and actual reality of their dog being consumed as a relatively cheap and common source of food.
Politicians are actually people; admittedly they appear to be generally unique to their trade and not seen as readily given to emotion and compassion when it comes to animal rights and welfare. Force from outside sources can only do so much when brought to bear on or against an internal sovereign political system. Diplomatic sensitivity cannot be overstated when it comes to internal cultural context, even if those cultural norms do not sit easily with the cultural anomaly of dog meat consumption, yet still appear to politically condone it.
The foreign movement must now shift to a local position of support, encourage, educate, protect, promote, preserve. From a theory where Bali people work toward their future version of reality, taking the best of foreign learning, adapting their historical cultural norms and shaping what they want for their dog from the democratic Bali style demands they place on their politicians.
Only then, emotionally and pragmatically, will the eating of Bali Dog meat be beat.
As the battle against trading in dog meat for consumption continues as it should. As the push for laws against cruelty go on as they should. As educational encouragement surrounding protection promotion and preservation rolls on as it does. Let’s take some time to actually see what is good and positive about life for the Bali Dog.
Dusk and dawn would be the perfect generalized name for Bali Dogs, for it is during these times of the day when they are most active. In villages and outer ring areas away from built up Bali modernity, Bali people and their dogs mingle at sunrise and sunset. This gathering is not done for any other purpose than it’s just done, been done that way for, well basically forever. If you really want to see the dance of dog and people these are the times, especially in the afternoon/evening long shadow duration. In the fading light, colours are delightfully muted, throwing a scene where dogs and people combine in a complete tapestry of Bali and all her colours.
Here, during those periods, life for dog and people is just a normal cycle of get up and move and get back and relax. The afternoon shift from hot to evening cool, brings families and dogs onto the streets and roads, setting up a scene to those who are unaware, of what appears to be uncontrolled chaos, nothing could be further from the truthful reality.
This is the time when Bali is just doing what it has historically always done, people and dogs doing people and dog stuff together in a parallel dance of separateness. There are duties and jobs to be done during this period and with generational regularity an expectation of performance is simply adhered to, unspoken yet silently knowing.
It’s getting very tight around there, seriously very squeezy. From outside in and inside out, tourist infiltrated infected areas are imploding and bulging in ever increasing gasps of hyperinflation and severe suffocation.
And as if it’s just another normal day, Bali dogs and Bali people just go about their business, attempting to adapt and flow with it all. But it’s the older beings, dog and people, who are struggling of course. The change to their environment has been progressively rapid and chaotically brutal. Watching old Bali dogs and old Bali people shuffle and amble on and off streets and paths where death can and does happen at any given moment, is all at once humbling and gut wrenching.
They are the images of a very long bygone era. Yet they are still visions what Bali holds on to, still living and breathing, through fumes and chemical pollution. The younger Bali canines and Bali humans are hybrids, mixing and synchronizing into fast paced survivors, bringing the Island into a modern portrait of chaotic movement mayhem and crunch. This is modern present Bali, it’s not good bad or indifferent, it just is.
Yet the past still exists, for now. Of course that will also change; there is no escape from that. But for now, out and away from the bulge and bluster, life for those old dogs and people remains as stable and as serene as life in a Bali village can be. Even the young and upcoming new versions have a less cacophonous introduction to what will eventually swamp them.
So for those who are bent in such a way that excitement is generated from seeing and observing Bali dogs and Bali people doing what they have always just simply done. Get out there; get away from the inner, go to the outer. To those village environments, places and spaces, still open to flow and expansion, not crunch and constriction.
There may come a time in the not too distant future when the Bali Dog becomes such a rarity that their memory will be consigned to some historical documents. Or they may only be seen in some zoo like sanctuaries that will evolve into skanky touristy tackiness. Or they could actually out survive a human driven global event leaving them to feed on the rotting corpses of our failed folly. The thought of Bali Dogs getting fat and overpopulated on the backsides and entrails of humans seems rather fitting and very ironic.
More probable is the reality that they will continue to retreat from the plague that’s infesting their Island home, an unstoppable reality that’s consuming all in its path, a pathogen that’s causing ongoing irreversible damage to their natural habitat. At least Rabies wasn’t personal and a vaccine against its virulence was effective and successful. There really are no effective or successful antidotes for and against the globalized bacterium infection that humans have unleashed.
But for now consider an unavoidable scenario where humans make the ultimate sacrifice completely against their selfish will and gluttonous want. Having pushed too far, pulled too hard and destroyed ourselves, we are left at the mercy and whim of those we have shat upon.
On behalf of all those who continue to be aghast at the continuing destructive nature of our very own species and in what can only be guessed could be in the minds of Bali Dogs.
Go On and Just Grin.