The next time you go to Bali, you might want to think twice before approaching satay stalls with the letters RW on them – despite what the seller might have you think, they are selling dog meat.
Unsuspecting tourists are sold the satay believing that it is made of chicken meat, reported ABC News following an investigation led by Australia’s leading animal protection organisation, Animals Australia.
It is not illegal to eat dog meat in Bali. However, killing animals cruelly or eating meat contaminated with poison is against the law, said Animals Australia’s Director of Investigations, Lyn White.
The investigation uncovered the inner workings of the unregulated dog meat trade in Bali, including how the dogs are slaughtered with brute force and poison.
Dogs – both stray and domesticated – are caught on the streets by villagers for a small fee of about S$10.40.
Captured and muzzled, they then brutally meet their end by a variety of means, the most common of which is being bludgeoned to death. Others are shot on the streets, and some are fed food laced with cyanide.
According to Luke, the undercover investigator who witnessed the horrors of the dog meat industry, shooting is the most humane method of killing as the animals are put out of misery quickly.
However, beyond the gruesome acts lie deeper implications, including intentional omission of information to tourists, as well as hidden health risks.
In Bali, stalls with the letters RW on their shopfronts mean they sell dog meat, a fact that many tourists are unaware of. RW stands for rintek wuuk, or ‘fine hair’ in Tontemboan, an Indonesian dialect, and is commonly used to refer to dog meat by Indonesians.
Clueless tourists unwittingly make their purchases from these stalls, and the sellers too do not bother clearing the air. On a documentary of the investigation, a satay seller was seen approaching a group of Australian tourists and asking them if they would like some. When the tourists asked if it was dog meat, the satay seller said it was not.
There are also a slew of potential health consequences that come with consuming dog meat satay.
As some dogs are killed with cyanide, which does not get destroyed by cooking, consumers are exposed to the poison that remains in the dog’s body. This can be dangerous especially if large amounts of the poisoned satay are consumed, and can lead to symptoms ranging from nausea and diarrhoea to organ damage and even death.
“If you are eating, for example, a curry and it was including bits of the animal stomach or the heart, then you would expect really high concentrations of cyanide … which could be fatal,” said Doctor Andrew Dawson, director of the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre and head of toxicology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
The poison from discarded bodies and organs can also contaminate the ground and waterways, noted Animals Australia.
Dogs are also being caught in ‘rabies red zones’, which means there has been a recent case of rabies in dogs in that area, said Ms White.
While it is illegal to move dogs from a rabies red zone to other areas, the rampantness of the dog meat trade means that this law is being breached, said Ms White.
Rabies, which can be fatal, is spread to humans via dog saliva.
In a media statement, Ms White added: “Not only is poisoned meat entering the dog meat trade, a sample of raw dog meat tested showed the meat was contaminated with high levels of coliform bacteria and E.Coli, which are commonly associated with faecal contamination and can cause serious food poisoning.”
Animals Australia is one of multiple organisations and individuals fighting to bring a stop to the dog meat trade. Animals Australia has held discussions with government officials over the risks that the industry poses, while the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) is working to protect the island’s dogs.
“We rescue them from the [dog] trader,” a volunteer with BAWA told ABC News.
BAWA currently has rescued over 150 dogs, but that is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the estimated 70,000 dogs that are slaughtered for the trade on a yearly basis.
When asked about the Balinese whose livelihoods might be affected by the possible crackdown on dog meat, Ms White told ABC News: “This is not about laying blame. This is about unnecessary cruelty that puts the human health population at risk and is causing shocking animal cruelty, it also is breaching Bali laws.
“We are certainly also willing to partner with the Bali government to bring about positive solution here.”
The video of Animals Australia’s investigation can be viewed here. Viewer discretion is advised as it contains graphic content.