This week, with a degree of self-serving fanfare, the authorities launched a motto to convince us, and perhaps themselves, that our island will soon be rid of the rabies virus that has cast a deep pall over Bali.
The slogan comes more than two years after the outbreak that has killed around 130 Balinese and shattered families’ lives right around the island. It has been devised at a time when few among the public believe we are on the right track in terms of eliminating the deadly disease. That’s because many people want the viral container, the vast throng of stray dogs, eliminated immediately – and also for threatening reasons other than rabies – instead of a 70-percent vaccination of strays that is currently advertised as the “only” solution.
That method is doomed.
Instead of seeing an end to rabies in Bali in the coming months, as promised under the Bali Rabies-Free 2012 banner unveiled by provincial Animal Husbandry Department chief I Putu Sumantra, a man with a tenuous grip on facts and figures, according to oscillating rabies data emerging from his office, rabies will very likely still be largely prevalent in Bali by the end of this year. Indeed, vowing to have the threat wiped out in a mere eight months when the problem is so entrenched is questionable in itself.
Hardly a week goes by now that the virus does not claim another human life. Last week a teacher was killed by the contagion; this week a little girl succumbed. It is a human catastrophe with little parallel in the recent history of our island, aside from the terrorists’ double bombings. Yet as we have continually argued, an end to this crisis can be swiftly brought about: by removing every stray dog on the streets. It is as simple as that.
There is rising public anger at the growing human death toll and that efforts – and a great deal of public and private money – are being made, it is perceived, only towards the wellbeing of stray dogs whose owners will take no responsibility and keep within the confines of their homes. That behaviour has to end.
The rabies-elimination programme as it exists is a sham; it will not eradicate the virus because the numbers of stray dogs are too severe – there are well over half a million of them, according to government estimates, and because they are strays, they breed at will, further exacerbating the crisis. Until such time that the authorities awaken to this – and stop capitulating to foreign animal-welfare activists – and engage in an all-out cull, people will continue to die. That would represent an extraordinary dishonour for all of Bali.Filed under: Editorial