DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) - Among the white sandy beaches, luxury villas and temples, authorities on the Indonesian island of Bali are carrying out mass culls of dogs in an anti-rabies campaign, a official confirmed Sunday.
Despite a stomach-churning 16-minute video posted on YouTube of a mass slaughter that has prompted outrage from animal welfare groups, Bali Animal Husbandry Department chief Putu Sumantra said there were no plans to end the practice.
"The dogs culled were smuggled illegally. When that happens, we try to find the owners to return them, and ensure they are vaccinated. But if they have no owners, we have to cull them," Mr Sumantra told AFP, adding the persistent problem "requires firm action".
The footage shows more than 30 dogs squealing before they are given lethal injections to the heart and piled on top of each other as they convulse to their deaths.
A uniformed employee is seen smiling at a small fluffy pomeranian as she takes picture of it on her smartphone seconds before it is injected, along with Siberian huskies, collie dogs and pugs.
Although the footage was first posted in April, a repost this week sent the video viral, with 40,000 views in three days.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) strongly condemned the "inhumane slaughter" in a statement received by AFP.
"Local animal welfare groups have run successful vaccination programmes and the number of humans becoming infected with rabies has fallen dramatically," it said.
The government too has carried out a programme, with more than 300,000 dogs vaccinated.
Since 2008, 147 people have died after contracting rabies on Bali, but the numbers have declined rapidly over the years, with 10 deaths reported since 2012.
PETA warned that "many compassionate people worldwide will avoid travelling to Bali" after learning of the practice, while a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the culling has attracted more than 20,000 signatures.
Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika recently encouraged authorities to "eliminate" all stray dogs, according to local media reports, saying the government was tired of carrying out vaccinations and that protecting tourists was priority.
I Gusti Ngurah Bagus from the Bali Animal Welfare Association also condemned the practice, saying that animal trade should be better organised and dog breeders and sellers should be licensed.
"People are throwing away native Balinese dogs in exchange for imported breeds that are often not vaccinated, diseased, unhealthy and at times already incubating rabies," he said.
The Bali provincial government is aiming to rid the island of rabies by 2020, and in 2009 passed a local law obliging dog owners to vaccinate their pets.
Bali, a holiday spot popular for its surf, nightlife and cultural heritage, attracted more than three million foreigners last year, almost a million of them from neighbouring Australia.