(Published in Sify.com, on 22nd January 2011, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/worship-the-cows-and-blind-the-bulls-news-columns-lbuoXDfbeaf.html)
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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.