Saturday, January 22, 2011

Worship the Cows, Blind the Bulls?

(Published in, on 22nd January 2011, retrieved from

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Every January, Tamil Nadu turns into some warped form of the Colosseum. The victims being thrown into the arena are bulls, and the wild creatures they must tackle are the wimps who believe jallikattu is a demonstration of their valour.

In the lead-up to Pongal, one usually sees protest demonstrations by villagers who believe tonsuring themselves will in some manner induce judges to wave the green flag, and allow them to conduct jallikattu sans rules.

In the days following Pongal, one reads headlines announcing a body count or listing injuries. I personally wish the brutes who rub chilli powder into the eyes of bulls, scratch them under the tails and string firecrackers to their bodies to get them into a fury were gored more often, and severely wounded. Death would be too easy. They ought to spend the larger part of their lives attached to tubes and bottles.

The most bizarre defence of this cruel ‘sport’ is that it’s a show of courage. What exactly is brave about a group of morons provoking an innocent animal and then attacking it?

And this happens in a country which worships the cow so much that it won’t allow its burger joints to sell beef.

The Indian disregard for animal life finds expression in several ways – killing for food, killing for sport, and killing for convenience.

I turned vegetarian the day I saw a gypsy kill a bird. It was a crow. As it fell out of a tree after being hit with a stone, the gypsy beat me to it, and squashed its neck with his foot. I wish I hadn’t been too stunned to drive him out and bury the crow. But I stood frozen as he packed the bird into a bag.

Most people seem to believe eating animals is an environmental duty. Apparently, without our contribution, the balance of life on the planet would be disrupted by changes in the food cycle. If that’s the case, though, why are animals being bred for the purpose of being eaten?

I wonder if any of the defenders of the food cycle could actually kill an animal and feel he or she is fulfilling a designated role.

Violence against animals isn’t restricted to consumption.

Take the ‘menace’ of stray dogs. I find most of my friends’ treasured pedigree dogs far more menacing than strays, who are happy to eat what’s left on the roads, wag their tails desolately at most people they meet, and are grateful for the slightest bit of kindness. And yet, across campuses and residential blocks, they’re being poisoned and beaten to death.

A visit to a dog shelter usually leaves one sick in the stomach. You’d think they were better off on the streets than in tiny, smelly cages, being fed a few scraps a day.

Endangered species of birds are being poisoned to death in zoos, and the administration speculates that the cause could be a stand-off over payment between zoo officials and the government.

A nation that could once boast of a rich stock of fauna is now launching sundry projects to save tigers. And who’s to blame for the disappearance of those? The Indian and British elite of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who thought going shikar was proof of blue blood.

How does hiding in trees and shooting bullets at an animal that could tear you to shreds if you were to meet face-to-face count as daring? Would any of the people who decimated the tiger population of Bengal have worked up the guts to tame a tiger by hand or spear?

And then, we tie up animal murders to religious rituals. Take the ‘camel sacrifice’ at Bakrid. This majestic animal is transported in miserable conditions across the country, held down by ropes, cut at the neck and then skinned alive, with police protection in most places.

Hindu cults aren’t any better, with ritual mass murders of animals taking place regularly at temples such as Kamakhya, in a bid to propitiate deities.

We panic about herds of wild elephant attacking villages. Have we ever thought about how we’re ruining their habitat in trying to ‘develop’ the country?

The only species in India that seems to be in no danger of having its numbers cut down is the human. And in indulging our ‘sentiments’ and avarice, we just might find ourselves to be the only fauna in the country some day.


Pro et Contra said...

I am a non-vegetarian and not in the least bit remorseful for it, I have a dog - but feel the same way about stray dogs as well - inoculate and feed some outside my apartment block... so what is the point

Nandini Krishnan said...

I suppose the point is to get people thinking about all the things that count as cruelty to animals - including eating them.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

I am a vegetarian too, yet my problem is more with cruelty than the eating part.

And yes its important to create awareness and debate such barbaric practices.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Siddhartha, you know, when I was in college, there was a debate of some sort about the treatment of animals, and I said if they must be killed, why not painlessly? And someone said, "but they're going to die anyway, what's the difference?" I suppose there really is no un-cruel way to do it, and that's why I have a problem with meat-eating.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

To tell you the truth even I have a problem with meat-eating, and that's why I am a converted vegetarian...

And its a weird thing to say that they gonna die anyway, so let's give them pain. Let anyone say that for living people who are dying or are in pain.

I guess somewhere many of us just don't empathize with the fact that non-humans feel the pain too and deserve to die with minimal pain. That's the least we can do someone who is dying for become our food.

Nandini Krishnan said...

True. The "they're just animals, not people" is an argument I really haven't found a response to, because what can you say when the premise is illogical?

Siddhartha Joshi said...


Aswathy said...

I agree that when animals are killed for food it should be done by causing minimal pain. Also, i am against such festivals like 'jellikettu'. But, i the case of stray dogs, i think differ with you, because i see so many newspaper stories saying dogs attacking humans. these people, mostly children where not intimidating those dogs in any way when they were attacked brutally by groups of dogs probably for want of food. May be they were rabbis infected. Since a dog is an animal and has no common sense, it can attack humans when they feel they are threatened in any way. for example, if few dogs are fighting for food by the road side and if you happen to pass nearby, they may attack you, even if you don't even think about intimidating them. many animals including stray dogs have area dominance nature and if you happen to get into their place alone which may be a public road at night you may get attacked. even i had a similar experience when i was driving my bike through a deserted street at night. one dog tried to follow me , but as i was on my bike they couldn't get me. so put simply, i agree with killing stray dogs painlessly or at least castrating them painlessly. i agree with causing pain to stray dogs than causing pain to humans if these dogs are left free.i agree so much more with loosing a dog's life than loosing a human life.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Aswathy, but the dogs that are getting killed are not necessarily violent or rabid. Often, it's a clean-up project. At a university in Madras that the prime minister was supposed to visit, dogs were killed using sticks.

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