Indonesia Expat
Featured Observations

Is It Wrong to Eat Pussy?

There are rumours of forbidden meat, such as cat and rat, being used in meatballs.

Kenneth Yeung examines why consumption of pussycats is unpopular in Indonesia.

Cats tend to enjoy a relatively exalted status in Indonesia. Unlike dogs, which are often frowned upon or feared in this Muslim-majority nation, cats are treated with greater respect. So there was understandable public outrage over a recent viral video of a man eating a cat in Jakarta.

The cat-eater was identified as Sanca alias Abu Grandong (69), who hails from Rangkasbitung town in Banten province, west of Jakarta. On July 19, he came to Kemayoran Market in Central Jakarta, where he was filmed eating a small grey cat as he strode around a former outdoor food court, while blood splattered onto his white shirt. With blood also smeared over his mouth, he asked that lights be turned off.

Grandong’s action was a black magic ritual, aimed at evicting traders from the market. Police confirmed that he was trying to scare traders to stop using electricity at their stalls, as the management of the area no longer permits them to operate there.

Local media reports said Grandong was hired as a security guard for the area a few days before the cat-eating incident. Some netizens claimed the cat was alive when he was eating it, although it appeared lifeless after he had chewed through part of its stomach.

Grandong surrendered to Central Jakarta Police on August 1 and was charged with animal cruelty, which carries a maximum penalty of nine months’ imprisonment. He was accompanied by a relative, Deden, who said Grandong is a practitioner of black magic and often behaves strangely. He is also known for eating live centipedes.

Police did not detain Grandong but instead took him to Kramat Jati Police Hospital for an intended psychiatric examination. However, officers later said they were unable to carry out the mental health test because the suspect was sick, as he had been fasting for five days.

Grandong told police he thought he had been eating a rabbit. Police said he had used his fingernail to cut open the cat’s stomach when it was still alive.

WASTE NOT

Indonesia is rated as the world’s second-largest food waster, squandering about 300 kilograms of food per person annually – largely due to a lack of cold storage and transport infrastructure. It’s ironic then, that 31 percent of Indonesian children suffer from stunting due to malnutrition.

Many low-income Indonesians struggle to afford meat, yet cat meat is generally not considered suitable for the cooking pot (the exception is predominantly Christian North Sulawesi province, where cat and dog meats are consumed). The only meat forbidden by the al-Quran is pork (and carrion – animals that die by themselves), but Muslim scholars assert that cat meat is also haram because Muhammad is said to have banned the consumption of all fanged terrestrial beasts of prey.

In September, two impoverished brothers in Lampung province in southern Sumatra unwittingly gained media attention after they cooked and ate a cat that had been hit and killed by a car. Wagimin (35) and Suyatno (30) work as scavengers in Kelapa Tujuh village and are rarely able to afford meat.

Wagimin said he is not accustomed to eating cats, but was hungry on the day he found the dead cat. “I just wanted to eat meat. I saw a dead cat on the side of the road. I took it home and I cooked it for me to eat with my brother,” he explained.

A concerned community group visited the brothers, who live in a simple house without furniture, and donated some food to them.

If you run over a cat in Indonesia, it’s considered bad form to leave the carcass on the road. Not because you should be eating it, but because of a superstition that you will suffer bad luck if you fail to pick it up and give it a burial. This belief apparently stems from an ancient Islamic story of a woman who went to hell because she starved a cat.

MEATBALL RUMOURS

In Berau in East Kalimantan, rumours arose in 2016 that vendors of fried pentol (a chewy ball made from tapioca flour and other ingredients) were adding cat meat to their products. The hoax spread on social media and caused vendors to suffer a downturn in sales.

Local police and health officials responded by eating pentol at roadside stalls in an effort to convince the public there was no cat meat in the balls. They also handed out free pentol to students.

The District Animal Husbandry and Animal Health Office said that every year, there are rumours of forbidden meat, such as pork and rat, being used in meatballs. Samples of pentol and samples from meat suppliers were sent to a lab for testing and none showed any traces of cat meat.

In 2018, TRIBUNnews.com reported that a pentol vendor had been arrested in Banjarbaru city, South Kalimantan province, for using cat meat. The report quoted a retired policeman as confirming the arrest. Police and the government later said the report was false and no one had been arrested for selling cat meat.

Also, in 2018, a meatball vendor in Morowali in Central Sulawesi complained to police after social media posts accused him of using cat meat and human sperm in his products.

HEALTH HAZARDS

After the video of Abu Grandong went viral, doctors warned that eating raw cat meat poses numerous health risks. Humans can contract rabies if they eat the uncooked organs of an animal infected with the viral disease.

Raw cat meat, especially if unrefrigerated, can also contain harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Handling cat carcasses can lead to the spread of toxoplasmosis – a parasite-borne infection that can be fatal to humans with weak immune systems or cause deformities in infants.

If you feel compelled to consume feline flesh (perhaps only as a famine food), you should ensure it is hygienically handled and stored, and well cooked. At least it doesn’t come with the instant plastic waste and poor nutrition of more socially acceptable Indonesian snack foods.

See: Beware of Interpol Impersonators

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