Is Indonesia cruel to animals?
A report by the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition (SMACC) listed Indonesia as the top source for digital contents involving animal cruelty. Among 5,500 videos displayed globally, the report discovered that at least 1,626 of animal cruelty were made in Indonesia. This report involved studies of content uploaded to public domains, including TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook - hence, if we take private records into account, we may expect that there is far more unethical content beneath the surface. Animal cruelty comes in many forms - such as illegal trading, poaching, animal testing, to the treatment of animals in farms.
As with humans, all animals deserve to live a good life and be free from suffering. Animal protection is important because animals are responsible for maintaining Earth’s habitats and biodiversity. To cause harm to animals therefore means to cause harm to the environment, which in turn harms us. For example, animal cruelty in the animal agriculture industry impacts our environment as these farms use up a vast amount of water resources and emit carbon dioxide. Animal protection is also necessary as harmful practices that affect animals, such as human-induced pollution, ruins habitats and additionally affects local communities that rely on said animals. Hence, animal protection is important because animal protection directly affects the health of our environment and the wellbeing of our own people.
‘Major livestock producer with a high dependence on farmed animal production.’
According to the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index from 2017, Indonesia’s legislation on animal protection “are largely focused on maintaining the health and productivity of animals, rather than preventing cruelty” to begin with. Additionally, they note that Indonesia “is a major livestock producer with a high dependence on farmed animal production”. This index is significant to highlight because factory farm animals are often faced with abuse and should be replaced with decentralized agricultural systems wherever possible. Taking into account the notoriety of factory farms, it is also important to note factory farms are known for their extensive harm to the environment. For example, A South Korean study authored in 2018 concluded that agriculture contributed to 5% of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2000. Given that Indonesia’s meat consumption increased by 21.43% between 2009-2014, we can infer that the industry’s GHG emissions would be much higher now in 2022.
Indonesia’s loose regulations on animal protection makes it easy for large-scale farms to acquire and exploit more and more animals to bolster the nation’s increasing meat consumption. As a consequence of this cycle of production and consumption, Indonesia’s environment suffers from increased GHG emissions. Hence, if we want to protect our environment and minimize Indonesia’s carbon emissions, it’s necessary that we protect farm animals first and foremost, which can be done through means such as introducing tougher legislations on big farming industries.
‘It’s certainly harder now to look for fish in the Kawasi Sea.’
Animal cruelty is not always direct either - they can occur when our harmful practices unintentionally impact animals’ welfare. Think of environmentally-destructive practices like littering, deforestation, and water pollution: they also impact animals by destroying their habitats, which local, indigenous communities may share with them. The importance of ensuring animal protection in order to protect habitats is a highly relevant issue in Indonesia because industrialisation in the country has come at the cost of animals and communities’ living spaces. One particular case study that is of note involves nickel mining that is active in the archipelago of Maluku, which has led to “undeniable degradation of the environment in and around the Obi Islands.” Mr Yoksan Jurumundu, a fisherman from these islands, commented that it is “harder now to look for fish in the Kawasi Sea” because mining companies dump their outputs into the sea. In fact, in 2019, provincial authorities permitted mining company PT Trimegah Bangun Persada to dump “6 million tons of waste into the ocean each year”.
These pollutants have been reported to poison marine life, and also pose a danger to the local people that rely on fish for protein. This is consolidated by Mr Muhammad Aris, a marine biologist from Khairun University, who suggests that when animals are not protected, neither are humans. He emphasizes that “the people of Obi Islands could die from eating contaminated fish”, which clearly demonstrates that animal protection is in the best interest of society. Through this case, it can be seen that animal protection is important because it is directly correlated to environmental protection and the wellbeing of communities. Ultimately, animal protection is designed tp protects us too.
‘Permanently on the verge of exhaustion and bankruptcy.’
Despite the fact that a lack of animal protection has such a big impact on Indonesian society, this issue is not prioritized enough. Initiatives to protect animals are minimal and receive little support. As an example, Sehati Animal Sanctuary, Indonesia’s only farm animal sanctuary which is located in Riau, was threatened with closure in 2021 due to insufficient funding. The sanctuary houses over 270 rescued farm animals and was struggling to keep up with the maintenance required to keep the animals in basic care - they needed around $3,000 USD (40jt IDR) per month. Can you imagine that the purchase of some cars can be worth more than an entire year’s worth of funding for several animals? By December 2021, Sehati Animal Sanctuary has fortunately been able to secure $80,000 USD from a crowdfunding campaign, but even so, it’s an extremely meager amount compared to other sectors that Indonesia has invested in, like defence and the palm oil industry.
After all, if the government can go on a “defence shopping spree” (as described by the East Asia Forum) by acquiring 42 French-made fighter jets for 8.1 billion USD this year alone, there is absolutely no reason why more funding can not be allocated to protect the very heartbeat of our Earth.
The center of the climate movement lies in minimizing CO2 emissions and securing a safer future for the next generation, but it is impossible to do this if we have no mechanism that guarantees the safety of animals. Animal protection is directly linked to our environment and local communities, so to support animal protection means to support the basic right to safety which every living thing on this planet is entitled to. So what are we waiting for? It’s time we hold businesses accountable for their actions, and push ministries to consider animal protection as a key priority on their agendas now.
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