Sun, 13 Feb 2000

Bring a doggie bag when visiting Sidonganti village

By Gin Kurniawan

TUBAN, East Java (JP): Those afraid of dogs should beware. They should not enter Sidonganti village because there are many dogs in this village, located in Kerek district, Tuban regency, East Java.

An enormous number of dogs are found roaming the streets. Nearly all residents raise dogs as people may breed other animals like goats, cows or chicken. Not surprisingly every day in this village dogs bark stridently, grating on eardrums and frightening passers-by.

Sidonganti village, which occupies a chalky hilly terrain has recently become known as a dog village because of its huge supply of dogs for consumption. In the beginning the name of the village was only known by dog traders in East Java. Of late traders have been coming from other provinces like Central Java and Jakarta.

It has become a public secret that there are eateries and restaurants serving dog meat which is haram (forbidden) for Muslims. In Jakarta, some restaurants specializing in food from North Sumatra and Manado, North Sulawesi, include dog meat dishes. In East and Central Java, eatery owners serve dog meat as sate jamu (satay with herbal medicine effects). This is connected with the belief that dog meat can cure certain diseases. Some people are said to believe that dog meat has aphrodisiacal properties.

According to Yassin, 43, a local community figure, dog traders from Jakarta have only recently come to the village but their visits have had a positive impact on the villagers, especially the dog raisers. There is increasing enthusiasm to breed dogs because the animals fetch good prices.

"People, not interested in dog raising before, have now started to breed the animals as a means to increase income. Nearly all inhabitants now keep dogs," said Yassin, also a breeder.

Information gained from a number of Sidonganti residents reveals that no fewer than 1,000 dogs are sent to Jakarta every month. "The demand is actually higher, but our capacity is limited," said Pardjo, 36, another dog breeder.

In the village, dogs are priced between Rp 20,000 and Rp 35,000. The traders can sell them in Jakarta for three or four times as much.

The raising of dogs at Sidonganti may be connected with the structure of the village situated in the middle of a jati (teakwood) forest. The houses are sparsely located and the villagers keep dogs as guards for the house and to protect the rice fields against wild boars. They also use the dogs when hunting.

The term "dog village" does not bring pride to the residents. On the contrary, most of them feel ashamed because they raise dogs for consumption.

"We feel ashamed because dogs are haram according to Islam," a number of them have said.

They raise dogs because they are compelled by the situation to survive.

The life of these people, consisting of 350 family heads living in the 11,700 square meter village is distressing. They mostly live in simple houses with walls of bark planks and bamboo.

Sidonganti is indeed a backward village; it is categorized as a minus area. The village is located about 40 km southeast of Tuban. The remote hilly terrain has hindered development of facilities as well as the infrastructure. The inhabitants are dependent on crop farming which is difficult in the arid land. The land must be worked to store rain water because it consists mainly of rocky elements.

The inhabitants must walk several kilometers to fetch clean water from a water reservoir. The water is collected from a source below the hill and channeled by pumps through pipes to Sidonganti.

"We have no animals to raise apart from dogs. We are not capable of raising other animals. Besides, these animals are easy to keep because they can find their own food in the forest," said Yassin.