A notorious animal market once touted as a tourist attraction will stop selling dog and cat meat after a celebrity-backed campaign.

The Tomohon Extreme Market on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has long sparked outrage, with pictures widely shared online showing the animals being bludgeoned and blow-torched while still alive.

Their treatment was described by welfare groups as “brutally cruel” and “like walking through hell”.

The backlash saw celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowelland Ricky Gervais sign a letter calling on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to ban the trade back in 2018.

Meat on a stall at Tomohon
Meat on a stall at the Tomohon market

Sky News reported on the market in 2020 following the outbreak of COVID, which is widely thought to have first emerged from a similar site in Wuhan, China.

We found the carcasses of dogs, bats, snakes, and other animals being sold in far from sanitary conditions.

The change in policy regarding dog and cat meat was announced by the local mayor on Friday.

It will make it the first such market in Indonesia to go dog and paint meat-free, according to anti-animal cruelty group Humane Society International (HSI).

The group will rescue the remaining dogs and cats from the slaughterhouse suppliers and take them to sanctuaries.

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My visit to dog meat market keeps me up at night

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2020: The killer virus threat from animal markets

HSI and Indonesian groups under the banner Dog Meat Free Indonesia will also continue their campaign to stop the animals being killed for human consumption nationwide.

As well as being inhumane, they say the practice risks of rabies spreading to humans.

Karanganyar district in Central Java became the first region to implement a formal ban in 2019, with others including the capital city of Jakarta following suit in the years since.

But thousands of dogs and cats are still slaughtered weekly in North Sulawesi, according to activists.

Those who eat dog meat see it as a traditional delicacy or believe it has health benefits.

Around 7% of Indonesians eat dog, according to Dog Meat Free Indonesia – although 90% of the country’s population are Muslim and so wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

By fersz