4 June 2020 – One significant, yet unintended impact of the current COVID-19 travel restrictions is the starvation of thousands of stray animals in Indonesia as their food resources are largely reliant upon the tourism industry. Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, together with its local partner, Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), have launched a feeding program on Bali which aims to support hundreds of dogs and cats across 13 target regions. Currently, thousands of stray animals on the usually bustling island have been forced to survive on minimal food, and innutritious scraps like dried husks and kernels of corn. An additional benefit of the team’s presence on the ground, is their intervention to ensure that street dogs are not snatched and killed for the dog meat trade.
The newly launched program employs two full-time teams of feeders and will run for three-and-a-half months. After just three weeks, the teams have already provided thousands of meals to stray animals. Although the current focus of the project is on feeding the starving stray populations, the mobile teams also use the contact with the dogs and cats as an opportunity to provide medical care, if necessary. “With flights halted, jobs gone, expats repatriated, and restaurants closed, stray animals on the island have lost their food sources,” says Dr Katherine Polak, Head of FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care projects in Southeast Asia. “Facing starvation, dogs are especially at risk of being poisoned or killed in brutal ways. Many starving dogs tend to steal food or hunt and kill farmed animals, placing them in conflict with local communities.” FOUR PAWS has committed to supporting an ongoing feeding program for stray animals in Bali, and key regions in Southeast Asia, sharing pet food supplies to locals and supporting animal protection measures including neutering and rabies vaccinations once lockdown measures ease.
Stray dogs as victims of the brutal dog meat trade
As the situation worsens across Indonesia, stray dogs are at an increased risk of being snatched and killed for the dog meat trade that still exists in Bali. While some regulations prohibit the consumption of dog meat, FOUR PAWS investigations show that over one million dogs are estimated to be killed for their meat in Indonesia every year. For many years, Bali has continued to have a local dog meat industry, and with many people out of work, there is a concern that the number of dog meat vendors will grow as people see it as an easy way to make money, particularly while the tourism industry has been decimated.
“Our feeding program is also keeping an eye for dog theft and engaging with local community members. By providing food to both dogs and pet owners, we can keep the animals in their homes and in their communities, decreasing the risk of them wandering for food, and being stolen for their meat. Stray dogs, particularly those that people can no longer afford to feed, are easy prey. We need to make sure Bali’s dogs stay out of the hands of dog meat traders,”
says Dr Polak.
FOUR PAWS’ fight against the dog and cat meat trade
In order to put a sustainable end to the brutal dog and cat meat trade in Indonesia but also in the rest of Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign on an international and national level. “Through educational work and cooperation with multiple stakeholders such as local governments, communities and the tourism industry, the goal is to introduce and strengthen animal protection laws across Southeast Asia, which bring an end to the capture, slaughter and consumption of dogs and cats. When achieved this will protect both people and animals,” says Dr Karanvir Kukreja, Project Manager for FOUR PAWS’ Ending the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Campaign. Furthermore, FOUR PAWS supports local animal welfare organisations and communities with humane and sustainable stray animal care programmes. FOUR PAWS is also part of the animal welfare coalitions DMFI (Dog Meat Free Indonesia) and ACPA (Asia Canine Protection Alliance), which lobby against the trade in Southeast Asia, as well as the Asia for Animals Coalition, which works to improve the welfare of animals across Asia.
In addition, FOUR PAWS has launched a petition against the dog and cat meat trade, which has already been signed by over 750,000 supporters worldwide since it launched late last year: https://help.four-paws.org/en/end-dog-and-cat-meat-trade-southeast-asia