(Some readers may find the images in this post distressing) The role of the pet in Balinese society is fairly well pronounced. Almost every family owns at least one dog, probably a small run of chickens to provide eggs, and a songbird to provide song. The dog plays a very important part in the family – it protects the compound from human intruders, but also evil spirits, and natural vermin such as snakes and rats. It also delivers an important role as garbage disposal unit – eating the leftovers and keeping the village clean from food waste.
Of course, wherever there is a need to be fulfilled, there is always someone ready to fulfil it. And when it comes to providing Balinese families with pets, the somewhat barbaric animal markets are there to deliver the goods. During our trip to Denpasar we were able to visit the Denpasar Badung Burung bird market, and experienced the sometimes distressing conditions that these animals are kept in.
Despite the conditions that are evident from the photos, our driver assured us that there is a swift trade in buying and selling, and therefore the animals only stay in the market before they are purchased by a family and then taken home to live in better conditions. However this seemed hard to believe looking at some of the animals. The market traders are competing with one another for trade, taking an extra step or two to make their animals more attractive to potential buyers – take for example the brightly colored chicks, painted to attract the attention of children, and often given away as prizes at village ceremonies. The color quickly disappears, and the chickens grow into the family ecosystem, providing eggs, and, ultimately, meat.
Songbirds are also very popular in Bali, and men will spend hours standing at the market trying to find the bird with the most perfect singing voice, whether it be from the ‘official’ sellers with their cages, or the brown paper bag trade near the edges of the market.
One of the problems that has stemmed from the pet keeping industry and the pet markets is the introduction of otherwise protected and/or endangered species into the markets. Probably the best advice is not to buy from such markets, and there are organisations in Bali, such as the Bali Animal Welfare Association, who are working tirelessly to publicise the impact that the poor conditions inside the markets are having on the animals.
Chapter Forty One: Life in Istanbul, October 2014
Chapter Forty: Sitting down in Istanbul: October 2014
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Leica Factory Visit, Wetzlar, Germany: September 2014
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Ngaben Cremation Ceremony, Ubud: July 2014
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