In this undated photo released by Dog Meat Free Indonesia, dogs for sale are seen in a cage on the back of a truck at a market in Air Madidi, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
In this undated photo released by Dog Meat Free Indonesia, dogs for sale are seen in a cage on the back of a truck at a market in Air Madidi, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

SOLO, INDONESIA - The tented business next to the Tirtonadi Bus Terminal blends in with nearby food stalls selling local favorites.

The “warung” displays its menus on a stick attached to the side of the tent. “Warung Makan Kuliner Daging Guk Guk” proclaims this busy stall serves dog, as “guk-guk” is how Indonesians describe a dog’s bark, heard elsewhere as “woof-woof” (English), “wan-wan” (Japanese) or “hau-hau” (Arabic).

Anton Kristian, a dog meat aficionado in his 30s, said a schoolmate introduced him to dog about five years ago, and ever since then he has enjoyed eating dog on a night out with friends. 

“Dog meat’s texture is similar to beef. It’s tender and has distinctive flavour,” said Kristian, who prefers his dog prepared as tongseng,  a curry-like soup with chilli, chunks of tomatoes, and cabbage that is also prepared with goat, mutton or beef.

“I love it,” said the young professional in his 30s who may soon find it difficult to indulge his taste for the animal known as man’s best friend in other cultures.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, after a meeting earlier this month with representatives from Dog Meat Free Indonesia, told city council members and administrators to draft regulations to ban the sale and consumption of dog meat in Solo, a city renowned for its dog delicacies.

He pointed out that Indonesia does not recognize dog meat as edible, and added that by stopping people from consuming dog meat, he hopes to contain the spread of rabies.

The virus is endemic in Southeast Asia. Dogs are the main hosts and transmitters of rabies. They are the cause of human rabies deaths in 99% of all cases.

A customer eats dog meat in Yogyakarta May 28, 2011. A meal comprising of dog meat and plain rice costs about 8000 rupiah ($0.90).

The coalition believes that while only 7% of Indonesians consume dog meat this means millions of dogs are killed for their meat annually.

“We didn’t ask for a bylaw, but at least there is a progress toward reducing dog consumption” said Pranowo. “It will be great if there is a ban. Without a regulation, the danger of rabies can be high.”

According to scientists, it is rare for rabies to be transmitted to those who eat cooked dog meat. The risk of transmission is to those who capture the dogs, some of them pets, and to those who slaughter and butcher the dogs. The virus is transmitted in the saliva of rabid animals that enters the human body via a wound or a scratch, according to the World Health Organization.

Putting an end to the trade

Data from Dog Meat Free Indonesia, which wants the dog meat trade abolished, suggests that 13,700 dogs are slaughtered every month in Solo. Most of the dogs are transported from West Java, which has yet to be declared as a rabies-free region, according to the organization. The group also said Central Java Province, where Solo is located, has been rabies-free since 1995 but is threatened by the high consumption of dog meat.

Pranowo urged owners of food stalls and restaurants that serve dog meat dishes to substitute other meats for dog if they want to remain in the food business.

Solo Mayor Hadi Rudyatmo said the plentiful supply of dog meat contributed to proliferation of dog meat dining options in Solo.

The growing popularity of dog meat in Indonesia stands in opposition to other nations in the region where people eat dogs. The meat is falling out of favor with South Korean and Chinese diners as growing prosperity makes other meats more affordable and owning dogs as pets fashionable.

But in Indonesia, many people too poor to purchase beef can afford dog, a less expensive meat in part because dogs do not require pastures or grain for feeding.                                                                                                           

“By prohibiting the sales of dog meat, will it end? No,” said the mayor. “Even before I was born, the dog meat sellers have been in the business.”

Ending dog meat consumption has proved challenging elsewhere in Indonesia. Although Bali banned the trade in 2017, authorities in April and May 2019 found many food stalls serving dog meat.

Solo’s mayor, aware that people in the dog meat trade will need a new source of income to support their families, cautioned the proposed ban should not add any financial burden to the city government.

“We will do it slowly,” he added. “We will talk them into the possibility of replacing dog meat with other ingredients in their cooking.”

Fitri Wulandari contributed to this report.