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Animal Welfare in Indonesia is Still Low, What Should Be Done?

The concept of animal welfare, both wild and domesticated, is not very popular in Indonesia. Animal welfare, in fact, is basically the same as human welfare. The thing that sets it apart is that animals cannot verbally express what they feel.

Globally, there are five basic principles of animal welfare that have been recognized, namely animals free from hunger and thirst; free from discomfort; free from pain, injury, and disease; free to behave normally and naturally; and freedom from fear and suffering. This principle applies to both wild and domestic animals; both as pets and as production animals [raised cows, goats, chickens, or pigs].

“Maybe not many people are aware of animal welfare, because it is more towards wild animals. But this is what must be fulfilled,” said Nur Purba Priambada, a wildlife veterinarian from the IAR Indonesia Foundation, at the Mongabay Indonesia Nature Talk , January 26, 2023.

According to Purba, when animals live in nature, they are prosperous enough. However, there are many things that make it exploitable, starting from the explosion in the human population unwisely using nature as its habitat.

When human settlements are entered by animals, there is a negative interaction between humans and wild animals. These animals are then called pests. Thus, they may be hunted or eliminated for threatening human life.

“Also, it is considered a certain economic asset because it is considered cute, cute, or beautiful so some people catch it to keep as pets. In fact, the pet process to the house is long. Starting from being hunted, ensnared, or separated from their mothers by being killed,” said Purba.

In fact, he said, in the illegal trade market there are animals whose wings are cut off, their teeth are cut and so on, then when they are kept they are not aware that these are wild animals with special needs.

For example, birds need perches, not just cages. Or, nocturnal animals that should sleep during the day are invited to play, also given food according to human standards. This misunderstanding often leads to torture.

In some cases, many animals are used as material for entertainment or social media content, especially for people who have great influence and then show it to their followers . This creates a trend on social media and makes other people become Fomo Fear of missing out ] or fear of feeling left out so they join in.

This condition creates a cycle of animals being hunted, traded, because there is a market, they have economic value and in the end they are exploited.

“Even though they don’t have to be hunted, they are already threatened with their habitat being disturbed by various human activities,” said Purba.

As is known, globally trade in wildlife is in second place after narcotics, followed by trade in weapons and gold. In Indonesia, the value of wildlife trade in 2008-2017 was around 7.8 billion to 19 billion US dollars per year. State losses that can really be calculated can reach Rp. 9 trillion per year, not including damage to the ecology, ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity and certain species.

Steps that must be done

Etheldreda ELT Wongkar, a researcher from the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law [ICEL], who is also a speaker at the Nature Talk, said that from a legal perspective, referring to Law Number 18 of 2009 concerning Animal Husbandry and Animal Health, the physical and mental state of animals has been defined. However, the law does not yet have clear indicators or measurements as well as strict sanctions regarding violations of animal welfare.

This is due to abstract norms. For example, limiting the scope of application of animal welfare, to all types of vertebrates and some of the invertebrates, which can feel pain.

From here, he said, animal welfare is dichotomous, not holistic. This means that in Indonesia the concept of animal welfare does not apply universally, but is selective according to what is needed and beneficial for humans.

“At the international level there is also no reference. But we can refer to World Animal Protection , which has provided an index of animal protection through scoring and assessing the extent to which the state pays attention to animal welfare,” said Chenny, her nickname.

Based on the World Animal Protection rating index, there are four animal welfare values. First  the acknowledgment that animals have feelings and emotions and the prohibition of suffering. Second , the establishment and implementation of laws governing animal welfare.

Third,  there is a government agency that is committed to protecting animals. Fourth,  there is government support for international animal welfare standards that are integrated into laws or government policies.

Of the four assessments, Indonesia can only meet the first value which refers to Law Number 18 of 2009, but there is no concrete enforcement mechanism. While the second, third, and fourth grades; Indonesia is still lacking so in general our country has a red report card because of the government’s lack of commitment and support for animal welfare.

The solution, both Etheldreda and Nur Purba Priambada, agree that the recommendation that needs to be made is the need to “rejuvenate” or “update” laws that are adapted to current conditions.

This is because, from a law enforcement standpoint, Law Number 5 of 1990 is lagging a lot, although in theory it is good. Including, gaps in keeping wild animals are still allowed with certain conditions, for example through captive breeding and so on.

“When viewed from the existing policies, the sanctions that have been set are oriented towards the goal of maximizing conservation achieved and animal trade running smoothly. In addition, the protection is still focused on certain species that are rare and determined by humans,” said Chenny.

According to him, administrative sanctions in the form of written warnings, termination of activities, revocation of licenses need to be evaluated again. Because it needs a deterrent effect, from a legal point of view it needs to be updated which ones can be criminalized and which are sufficiently administrative.

“There needs to be a shared understanding of what is meant by animal welfare, so that a paradigm shift and change occurs,” he said.

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