Organising bloody fights between trained dogs and wild boars is a pastime for some farmers living in the Indonesian province of West Java. Activists like our Observer are fighting to stop this cruel practice.
In a video posted on Facebook on October 8 by the Indonesian animal rights organisation Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, a pitbull is released into a ring to fight a wild boar. The two animals throw themselves at one another and fight savagely until they are separated by a group of men wielding sticks. One of them grabs the dog’s tail to pull him away from the boar.
A second video posted by the organisation shows a man holding a dog on a leash and letting it threaten a wounded boar, whose injured hoof makes it difficult for him to walk.
"Participants say that dogs who have fought wild boars in the ring become more skilled wild boar hunters”
Our Observer, Marison Guaciano, is the director of Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group. He launched a petition asking for the local government to ban these fights. On October 22, he and his organisation held a protest in front of the governor’s office.
Indonesian farmers have been holding fights between dogs and wild boars for a long time. I’m not sure when it started [Editor’s note: News agency Reuters has reported that the first fights were organised around 1960.]
People living in rural areas see these fights as a local tradition. They are held all year round, all over West Java. Most often, they are organised on Sundays. Commonly, people hold championships where the winners of one fight face off against each other.
People watch a fight between a dog and a boar. (Screengrab from a video posted on Facebook by the Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group)
To enter a dog in the competition, its owner has to pay a registration fee. When the actual fight occurs, the organisers let a wild boar loose in a ring and then let a dog in. After some time has passed, they separate them and release another dog into the ring. The wild boar continues to fight new dogs until one kills it. Sometimes, a boar will fight a dozen or so dogs!
The spectators put money on the dog they think will kill the boar. In the stands, people scream and yell and have fun. At the end of a match, the owner whose dog killed the boar wins money [Editor’s note: Up to $2,000, or roughly 1,700 euros, according to Reuters]. Sometimes, they are also given other prizes, like a motorcycle.
"I have gotten numerous threats from people who accuse me of wanting to destroy local traditions"
Participants say that dogs who have fought wild boars in the ring become more skilled wild boar hunters [Editor’s note: Wild boars are often accused of destroying the harvests of local farmers].
However, I think that, overall, it is a brutal practice that results in the horrible deaths of both dogs and wild boars! The more violent a dog is during a fight, the higher his value. Breeders and owners sell fighting dogs in Facebook groups dedicated to this fight culture.
The wild boars are captured in the wild and kept in cages for several days to make them more aggressive and afraid.
This Facebook post offers a fighting dog for sale. It was posted in a group for dog trainers. (Posted on October 25, 2017).
We demand an end to these cruel “sporting” events. Recently, Muslim religious leaders in the region also joined us in denouncing the cruelty of these fights. Personally, I think that no religion or tradition could justify this kind of barbarism.
We launched our organisation two years ago. We were the very first to campaign to stop these fights. However, the problem is that, in Indonesia, there are lots of similar situations. People also hold buffalo fights, sheep fights, and cock fights, for example. We need to raise awareness on a wider scale and it isn’t easy. We aren’t going to be able to solve everything in one go. It is going to take time.
Our Observer found photos of himself, posted along with threatening messages, on Facebook groups for dog breeders. (Screengrab on October 25, 2017).
In West Java, these fights are extremely popular. It will be hard to change the minds of the people who participate in this sport and attend fights.
I have gotten numerous threats from people who accuse me of wanting to destroy local traditions. Some people also said they would use black magic against me. I have also found my photo along with threatening messages posted on Facebook groups used by dog breeders.
The France 24 Observers team tried to speak to dog breeders, without success. However, in mid-October, Reuters news agency managed to speak to dog breeder Agus Badud, who highlighted the economic incentives of fighting.
"I take part in this contest to increase the selling price and economic value of my dogs," Badud told Reuters.
On October 22, Daniel Johan, the vice chairman of House Commission IV (which deals with matters related to agriculture, food and forestry), gave a short statement to Indonesian newspaper Detik.
“It’s terrible, a spectacle that has no educational value because it’s full of cruelty. And usually things like this are associated with gambling. I’m hoping it will be stopped soon,” Johan wrote in the statement.
On October 25, the police shut down a dog-and-boar fighting ring in Pacet, West Java, following several complaints by local residents. This, our Observer says, was his organisation's first such victory.