The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
For the past few years, a very high rate of animal cruelty in Indonesia has been revealed through the number of dailies that highlight the cases related to the felony—either about abuse or exploitation—especially to wild animals. If you have been keeping up with the news, you sure know how horrifying the condition of animal welfare in Indonesia is. Such high value in illegal markets as the result of growing demands of animal product by consumers has driven some people to justify the crime. Such huge amount of excitement from society towards animal circuses has convinced some people to widen the business. It cannot be denied that those who are responsible for the cruelty have been seeing the opportunities towards the economic prosperity, thus turning the animals to be their ‘money-making machines’.
Perhaps the most frequently reported is wildlife trafficking that involves the immense killing of rhinos, elephants, and tigers. The three animals possess a part of body that is considered highly valuable in some countries. The use of rhino horn, elephant ivory, tiger skin or bone has been included in ‘traditional medicine’, as well as in crafts for home decorations, status symbol, and mystical belief. In international illegal markets, the sale value of body parts of these critically endangered animals is very high. For example, the price of rhino horn per kilogram is £40.000 (Rp 800.000.000), more expensive than a gold price1. The growth of demands for the products is getting higher, making the massive poaching profitable, bringing our majestic animals into critical extinction.
The demands for wildlife in black markets are not only about taking the valued part of body for (no) reasons of any kind—which results in the death—but also snatching the living animals to be intentionally domesticated for the visual satisfaction of collectors, on behalf of ‘animal lovers’. Eagles, cockatoos, cuscuses, lemurs, monkeys, snakes, and other endemic species are caught from their habitat, caged, and traded for domestic buyers, or smuggled abroad. Most of these animals are unique—one main factor why the collectors are interested to keep them as pets—and as they are classified as endemic, their existence can only be found in Indonesia. When they are all avowed to be extinct, forever loss to this world can be ascertained. Additionally, some of these rare species are natural predators. The number of predators in the wild is decreasing, leading to the disruption of food chains and the increase of prey populations, along with the disadvantage experienced by humans.
Speaking about the great loss of predators in the wild, it has been happening not only in the land, but also in the sea. Sharks—the marine creatures that are generally categorised as ‘monsters’ that hunt human flesh in some Hollywood films—are slaughtered on a large scale for their fin to be used as one of soup ingredients, with Indonesia being in the top list of the developing country that commits this illegal overfishing2. Fin soup, to some ‘actual monsters’, is tasty, ‘nutritious’, and considered as prestigious food. This has driven the growing needs of shark fin to be consumption, even it is now among the most expensive seafood product in the world, valued at €500 ($676) per kilogram3. Sadly, having to die for human appetites does not only happen to the solitary predators, but also the weaks that we usually find limping heavily as they walk along the beach, sea turtles.
As one of the largest seafood suppliers in the world, Indonesia has also this promising beverage industry, kopi luwak, that involves the capture of palm civets, Southeast Asian cat-like animals, from the wild. Palm civets are cruelly caged in small battery cages, forced fed coffee beans—inflicting poor diet—to produce the high class coffee derived from their faeces, and isolated from their natural habitat. As this trendy coffee is named as the world’s most expensive coffee—priced at about €550 (US$700)5—the cruel practice will keep on coming about and significantly threatens the populations.
Among the cruelty I have mentioned above that includes murder and torture, maybe this one is the least conspicuous to most of you: animal circuses. What comes to your mind first may be trained, clever animals—dolphins, elephants, lions, bears, sea lions, and any others—performing several acts in a big show for family entertainment and ‘children education’, where you can find most commonly in towns. But, it is not only plain about going to a circus and having to purchase a ticket. Such a street show that travels everyday nearby your house is included: topeng monyet. How can the animals do the entertaining and witty acts? Is it because they are intelligent? The lion playing balls, the dolphin jumping through hoops, the elephant doing handstand, and the monkey dancing to music have to go through severe pain and suffering—both physically and mentally—to do such performances for your joy. And your joy means cash flowing to the pocket of people behind this.
More and more animals die and suffer for ‘fulfillment’ constructed by humans—reflecting human selfishness. Some reasons to kill and torture are groundless. How is it right to mutilate a living body and take the part of it as these sort of excuses: medicinal, mystical, ornamental, and emotional? Rhino horn and elephant ivory are ‘believed’ as the cure for some kinds of ailment—some also believe that they could cure demonic possession—when in fact, there is no proven medicinal benefit at all. There is no reason why we have to convince people not to believe in prayer and voodoo, but there is a good reason why animals must not be included in concoction that have been shown to be ineffective. Moreover, a survey has been carried out to prove that the use for status symbol is more common rather than the medicinal reason6. The symbols ‘indicate’ wealth, success, and high education. How is it possible to consider using a part of dead body as pride? But then, I’m sure nobody would use tiger skin and bone as ornaments if they are completely aware that the skin and bone are as important to the tiger as their own skin and bone are to them.
It is also unfounded to deciding to keep rare animals as pets—or in a more genuine term, collections—which means snatching their freedom to live in unmolested condition. In addition, such proper care that meets the nutritional and social needs of the animals is impossible, which leads to the risks encountered by them, and even by humans7. If collectors enjoying this false hobby claim themselves to love the wildlife, they will leave the animals to live as they normally should in their native environments. Humans are not self-serving enough to imprison animals that they exploit them as consumption. I’m not trying to point out my diet that ‘avoids harming others’ here, but is consuming livestock products not enough that there must be other lives to be taken for more ‘good nutrition’? Shark fin has been scientifically proved to have no health benefits whatsoever, and even turning out to be bad news, it can harm human health instead as it contains mercury and toxins7. Moreover, such a barbaric practice is done—often by our ordinary fishermen on boats3—by hacking off the fin and throwing the body of sharksback into the sea, leaving it to be slowly dying or eaten alive by other fish8. If some people keep insisting that it’s okay to include shark fin—as well as sea turtle meat—in their bowls, or kopi luwak in their cups despite the peril and inhumane practice, it’s because of the ‘prestige’ they strongly believe, or simply their (weird) taste.
I definitely wouldn’t be pleased if someone took me from my mother—especially in my early age—and then got me chained to abusively train me to do tricks for my entire life. I can 100% guarantee that nobody would feel alright if they went through the same misery. Yet, the existence of circuses that include animals as the performers is still approved and supported through the number of audience going to the shows. If people want to seek entertainment, animals are absolutely not the source. If children need to be introduced to various animals by watching witty performances in circuses, then how useless it will be when they finally find out that the creatures are going extinct within the next few years.[*]