Cat lover campaigns for animal rights in Indonesia elections

By Thomson Reuters Feb 8, 2024 | 10:30 PM

By Yuddy Cahya Budiman

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian Francine Widjojo is hitting the campaign trail with cats and treats in hand to run as a Jakarta legislative candidate and raise awareness of animal cruelty along the way.

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14 and campaigns are now in full swing.

On posters scattered across the Indonesian capital, Francine can be seen holding Yakult, a white cat she rescued as a kitten and one of 27 that live in her home.

The 44-year-old walks around town holding a bottle of cat treats with a Yakult sticker, urging people to join her to feed strays in the city.

“One of the issues that I will be fighting for is for Jakarta to be a pet-friendly city,” she told Reuters last month while attending a vaccination event for Yakult, adding that if elected as a Jakarta lawmaker, she wants to increase sterilisation and vaccination for pets in the city.

People in some parts of the Southeast Asian nation are known to consume cat and dog meat and the government has faced pressure from animal rights groups to end it.

The agricultural ministry classified dog meat as not for human consumption in 2018, but that has had little impact on the trade as there weren’t fines that could be enforced on those who sold such meats, activists said.

The government of the Central Java province said it intercepted over 200 dogs that were transported there for consumption last month.

Activists rallied in Jakarta this month to call for a national ban on dog and cat meat trades, according to the animal welfare group The Humane Society International.

Francine, who is running for office with the Indonesian Solidarity Party that is headed by President Joko Widodo’s youngest son, plans to fight against corruption and racial and religious intolerance.

But she said animal cruelty is not commonly addressed in Indonesia, and vows to “fight this together”.

(Reporting by Yuddy Cahya Budiman; Additional reporting by Zahra Matarani; Writing by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)