By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Authorities in Indonesia's West Java province have called a halt to contests pitting dogs against wild boars, following media coverage of the bloody spectacle and pressure by animal rights activists, the provincial governor's spokesman said on Tuesday.
Last month, Reuters reported that cash prizes of up to $2,000 were being given to dogs victorious in the fights, which villagers call 'adu bagong', or boar fighting.
Owners of participating animals said they saw the fights as a way to preserve a regional tradition, besides testing the agility and hunting abilities of the dogs.
"Not all traditions that we have are good," said Ade Sukalsah, a spokesman for provincial governor Ahmad Heryawan. "If a tradition has a bad influence and impact on people's lives, the tradition must be eliminated or forgotten."
Heryawan's decision to halt the fights was based on Indonesian criminal law provisions against the torture of animals, he added.
The shows "have a negative impact on the community by showing cruelty, torture and violence against animals," Sukalsah said.
They were also a forum for gambling, he said, adding that Heryawan had issued a circular to regional officials, urging police and the local community to help enforce the law.
Sukalsah said the decision was made in response to "some media reports from Reuters, the BBC and then some animal protection NGOs that sent letters to us."
The practice, which began in the 1960s when wild pigs were hunted to protect crops, has angered animal rights groups who created an online petition demanding the halt.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)