Eating dog is a subject that will always spur outrage and often abuse when it is posted about on social media sites. Animal lovers and in particular dog lovers seem to take particular umbrage to man’s best friend being reduced to nothing more than a satay or snack.
The subject of eating dog meat in Bali seems to incur even more outrage from outsiders and expats than from those within. Understandable, but when you really think about it – it deserves no more of our outrage than any other cruel and inhumane slaughter of any sentient being for the purpose of filling the human belly.
We are in no way experts about Balinese culture and do not for one moment purport to be such. However, we have spent a long time living, working and being with Balinese people and their Bali dogs. What we have learned about the custom of eating dog has taught us much. It has shown us that it is an incredibly cruel and sadistic practice. We have been horrified and reduced to tears on more than one occasion.
The first step to making any judgment on any practice is to be informed.
Balinese people have eaten dog for ceremonial purposes since time immemorial. The practice of sacrificing a 'blang bungkem' dog for ceremonial purposes usually ends with the community partaking of the dogs flesh. This is normal and a traditional part of Balinese life.
Within Indonesia eating dog as a source of protein is common and long standing. Dog meat Warungs are named RW, which is short for rintek wuuk which is literally translated to mean ‘soft fur’.
The dog meat trade in Bali is well organized and established. Suppliers have an established route and deliver to RW’s around the island on designated days of the week. Supply equals demand with some RW operators receiving 5 – 7 dogs a day, some only 3 a week.
The dogs are obtained from local communities; there is no active ‘farming’ of dogs in Bali. Anecdotal evidence does point to some backyard farmers in the more urban areas, but this has not been proven.
Dogs are purchased or exchanged from communities or individuals who deem them to be a problem. The monetary figures are not high; dogs are sold or traded for as little as a bucket or a bowl. There is not a great deal of money to be made in providing dogs for consumption. The communities see it as a way of getting something for very little effort; in fact they feel they are doing a community service by ridding their community of a problem. The real money comes from the selling of the end product. The average RW owner can make up to 600,000 INR on each dog’s body. The average dog meat meal will sell for 20,000.00 INR which is substantially more than the normal rice and chicken meal.
Why do people eat dog meat? Some just do as it seen as a good source of protein for their families. And they are correct. Dog meat contains more protein that chicken or tofu. Others eat is because of its perceived medicinal value, this may be based in superstition, but it is very real for them. We have also learned that the younger generation of Balinese males, tend to trend towards dog meat because it is a ‘hot meat’; it will make you potent and is generally best eaten after a night of drinking.
Some dogs are stolen for dog meat, but this appears to be more opportunistic and is usually done at a deeper Banjar level than people are aware of. The trade is too well organized to rely upon opportunistic stealing of people’s pets for food. This is not to say that a well fed and fat healthy Bali dog may not fall prey to the dog meat traders. People do need to be aware of their dog’s whereabouts all the time. It can, and does happen.
The method of transporting the dogs is horrific. They are hog tied with tape tied tightly around their muzzles and legs and are often placed in sacks to prohibit movement. Sometimes great piles of dogs are tossed on top of buses in order to transport them great distances. At other times they are harnessed by a metal lasso and dragged slowly behind the back of a motor bike to their final destination. But not killed, the slaughter must be saved until later.
The slaughter is more than words can describe. Dogs are strangled, slowly. They have their limbs cut off whilst they are alive, they are skinned alive, they have butchers hooks poked through the top of their muzzle so they cannot move and then their limbs are removed. All the while the other dogs, hog tied and rendered immobile watch on. Anyone who knows anything about dogs will know that the waiting dogs know exactly what is happening and exactly what is about to happen to them. It is completely and utterly disgusting and it rips your very soul out to witness the act. The cruelty imposed on the dogs of Bali, that are chosen for the dog meat trade, is shocking even in comparison to the dogs who are farmed for the same purpose in places like China and South Korea. Why this degree of deliberate cruelty? Because it increases the ‘hotness’ of the meat.
There is probably no need to reinforce the reality of what happens to these dogs, but we have seen dogs that are waiting, hog tied and heaped together, having just witnessed their fellow captives being murdered in the most horrific way. They wag their tails at the slaughter man as he approaches them.
We would dare the most hardened carnivore to not be moved by that sight.
Once they are dead the suffering ends, thank god. Their carcasses are soaked (dog meat is tough) and then they are turned into stew, soup or satay.
There is little to no thought given to the diseases that can be spread by slaughtering and then ingesting dog. Although there is one regency within Bali that has refused to allow RW to operate within its boundaries since the outbreak of rabies in 2008. Smart regency that one.
Balinese people, in the main, will not eat Breed Dogs. They are seen as a status symbol and a creature of value. Although there are Warungs in existence that do cater for the ‘extreme foodies’ and tourists can order ahead for a pit bull or other such breed that will greatly improve their man hood.
In closing we pose the question – have you ever heard a pig being slaughtered for a ceremony or a feast? Its screams of pain and terror are no different to the fear and pain experienced by a Bali Dog who is about to be made into a Satay.
Before you cast judgment, think about it. If you are fortunate enough to live on Bali and share your home with a Bali Dog or two – make sure you know where they are at all times.