Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Chicken Is a Goat Is Not a Cow!

The above title is a reference to an actual statement from Ingrid Newkirk of PETA in which she affirmed the moral equivalence of persons and animals ( A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement ). In the West, the Animal Rights movement has been one of the latest fads to emerge from the Chihuahua sporting Beverly Hills crowd. As always India too wasn't far behind. Maneka Gandhi shouted for the rights of dogs and fish at every opportunity dished out by the media. Now hey - I am a guy who from the time I can remember had a dog at home. Even now, I have two strapping Labradors with me who loves to jump on me at every chance. We are a large family living in an independent home, and hence the leftovers from our meals as well as the scraps supplied by the local butcher are more than enough to keep them happy. Apart from my dogs at various times I had birds and fishes too as pets. So yes, I like animals and have no enmity towards them. So when someone is vocal about their rights I have no objection to their cause, but at the same time when they take it too far I am peeved.

When hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on advertising promoting it, when actresses come out in nude to create awareness and when parliamentary representatives waste their time being vocal about the rights of stray dogs, I have serious objection. - for a polar bear cub, however cute it may be, is not a boy. And there are millions, maybe even more than a billion human beings on this planet who are living in conditions that can be politely said as sub human. In my locality alone, on the way to work I can see people - who can smile and cry and feel sorry for themselves unlike a dog - living off in ways inferior to street dogs. For a dog can have a healthy life living off three days old leftovers, but a person can't. And as long as human beings are suffering across the world, so called animal lovers can care for the animals in their private lives and stop diverting public attention from more pressing concerns.

In India, the whole issue has extrapolated into another dimension entirely. Last month, the Karnataka State Assembly passed an anti - cow slaughter bill and joined Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir who have this law in effect. The Bill stated that slaughter of a cow, calf, bull, bullock, buffalo was completely banned in the state. There was also prohibition of sale, usage and possession of beef (which would practically mean a complete ban on beef eating) and restriction on transport of cattle. It said a police official had the authority to search and seize cattle. The law provided for imprisonment from one year to seven years, with a fine of Rs 25,000-Rs 50,000. So what is the reason for such a bill?

There are various issues for this and we will take this one by one.

1. The cow is 'sacred': I don't even want to comment on this! The cow is a cow, an animal that has been in the service of man for hundreds of thousands of years. The argument for the holiness of the cow is that it is considered the "mother". The cow was possibly revered because the largely pastoral Vedic people and subsequent generations relied heavily on it dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung as a source of fuel, fertilizer and psilocybin mushrooms which naturally grow out of the animal's own excrement. The wealth of a person was often decided by the number of cattle he had and thus the cow gradually became a symbol of wealth too. But all this has to be identified for what it is and the educated person can identify that the cow is an animal just like a goat.

2. Eat mutton if you want to , but not beef: Well, having established that the cow is flesh and blood, there is no reason to consider it separate from the other set of animals. Hindus who live in Kerala/West Bengal/Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh/Karnataka/North East, etc can attest to the fact that poultry, mutton and beef - all tastes delicious and does not affect their discharge of religious duties.

3. There will be scarcity of milk in the future: At the rate India is growing, there is going to be scarcity of everything :). Jokes aside, the cows and buffaloes supplied to the slaughter houses are those that have grown old and cannot supply milk anymore.

4. All meat is bad, go eat plants: Vegetarianism is a very healthy habit, and I welcome all those who want to try it. But just because you like paneer tikka burger, doesn't mean I have to sacrifice my hamburger! I eat meat because it is delicious, and taken in moderate quantities, contribute towards a healthy diet.

5. Poor animals, it's so painful: What do you think - plants don't feel pain? Plants and animals are two different branches of living beings. In fact it can be argued that plants appeared on the earth's surface even before animals did, and that would make them the righteous heirs of the planet. An animal is able to be vocal when it feels pain, and that is what makes all these animal huggers wail for them. But plants too express their distress. Only difference is that they do it through chemicals instead of noise. If you have the necessary apparatus, you can that carrot screaming as you pull it up and chop off the leaves.

But in Karnataka, the only reasons cited from the above five were the divinity of the cow and the scarcity of milk in future. If this is the line of their reasoning, then the only questions I can ask is this: If tomorrow a Muslim majority state comes out with a legislation stating that all men must sport beards and all women must wear veils, will the BJP and other hindutva outfits agree to it? If the majority of people do not want to eat beef then let the majority not eat beef! It's as simple as that and the government should leave it at that.

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