Another dog massacre in Indonesia
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2000:
FLORES, Indonesia––Either in
panic response to a deadly rabies outbreak or
“killing the dog to scare the monkey,” as
aphorism has it, officials in mid-June
ordered the killing of all 90,000 dogs
believed to have been in the Ngada district of
Eleven people in the Ngada district
had reportedly died of rabies in the past two
weeks, with 120 more victims hospitalized.
Ngada district top medical officer
Wayan Arsana told Associated Press that
none of the local clinics had rabies vaccine
on hand, and supplies were not expected
“We are beating the dogs over the
head, or shooting them,” Arsana said. “We
are killing them any way we can. All are
then being buried immediately.”
Editorialized the moderators of the
20,000-member ProMED electronic information
network, “It is very sad that this many
animals are being killed when the anti-rabies
vaccine is relatively cheap. People are dying
from a preventable disease. A vaccination
program in dogs could have controlled much
of this outbreak. With the many humanitarian
efforts in the world, it is a shame that
someone or some organization has not provided
vaccine and assistance.”
Added Argentinian rabies expert
Oscar P. Larghi, M.D., “What is happening
in Indonesia? They cannot vaccinate 90,000
dogs? The experience of Latin American
countries should be applied. In Brazil, for
instance, in 1988 one million dogs were vaccinated
in a single day.”
Rabies section chief Anthony R.
Fooks of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency
in Great Britain volunteered the use of the
VLA facilities “to rapidly genotype the
strains,” in order to produce a vaccine specific
to the virus.
Australian officials were concerned
that the rabies outbreak might spread.
Australia, 420 nautical miles away, has no
canine rabies, but has peacekeeping troops
stationed in East Timor, next to Flores.
In addition, AP explained,
“Flores is within the region used by peoplesmugglers
ferrying illegal immigrants to the
northwestern Australian coastline.”
The illegal immigrants are often
refugees from Indonesian political, ethnic,
and sectarian violence.
Commencing a month before the
anniversary of riots that reportedly killed 18
people on Flores during July 1999, the June
2000 dog massacre was the second ordered
on Flores just over in three years.
In May 1998, as the demonstrations
that deposed the former Suharto dictatorship
erupted 920 miles away in Jakarta,
East Flores regent Henke Mukin declared a
rabies emergency, and ordered “all people”
to kill the estimated 150,000 dogs, 100,000
cats, and 170,000 longtailed macaques
believed to have inhabited East Flores.
The Mukin order was then much
publicized by Jakarta media.
“We anticipate that there will be
protests from the community,” Mukin said,
“but there is really no other way.”
In the ambiguous language for
which Indonesia is notorious, Mukin seemed
to be suggesting that human opponents of the
regime might also be shot in the street.
The dog massacres in 1998 and
2000 both had ethnic and sectarian overtones.
As AP noted, “In most parts of
Indonesia, dog populations are small
because the predominantly Muslim population
consider dogs unclean and do not keep
them as pets. However, the Ngada region is
mainly Christian, and most families own
several dogs,” whose most important function
is deterring intruders.
Stripping the Christian community
of their dogs could markedly increase their
vulnerability to crime and mob mayhem.