Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Banning dog meat; is it animal rights versus tribal rights?

Banning dog meat; Is it animal rights versus tribal rights?

July 15, 2020, 7:48 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

The Nagaland Government’s ban on the import and sale of dog and dog meat has witnessed mixed responses from the public, across the country. Sure enough, many animal rights activists welcomed the move and lauded the Government for its bold move. The recent debate on the ban of dog meat took an ugly turn when one person proclaiming to be an animal rights activist uploaded a video wherein the said person openly threatened the tribal people of Nagaland and requested people to boycott Nagaland. The clarifications and apology tendered by the person a few days later notwithstanding, the public outbursts against the call for questioning the food habits of the tribal people continue to pour in from various quarters. The reactions proved that North East people in general and the tribal groups in particular have had enough of the repeated cultural invasions.

There are sizeable number of the human population who’d love nature more than a few self-proclaimed activists but have certain food habits, which may be different. A couple of years ago, in December 2018, a poor Mizo woman selling a dog, compelled by the family’s economic conditions, was harassed by two women who claimed to be ‘Animal rights activists’ at Silchar, Assam. It was later reported that the pregnant women had a miscarriage due to the physical assaults meted out to her by the so-called activists. Glaringly evident is the simple fact that, when one’s love for animals exceeds one’s love for human, it goes without saying that some thing is not right with our understanding on animal rights and more so, tribal rights. I am not for or against any particular diet, and most importantly I am not against people fighting for Animals Right in a civilized way. The question is rather to ask ourselves if HUMANITY should not be the first concern for all.

Wrong rights?

While we draw the thin line between Animals rights and Human rights, one crucial element is the need to get rid of our whimsical concept that- only some animals feel pain; dogs to be precise. Also, worthy to note is the cultural food habits of people concerned. Benighted self-proclaimed activists are not relied upon to be conscious of the massive sociological challenges our founding fathers would have gone through when formulating a constitution for a diverse country like India and the accommodative elements thus required for the idea that is India. Not to mention the 5th and 6th schedule of the Indian constitution which acknowledges the tribal people and their rights, any right-thinking person is expected to respect the diversity of this beautiful country, repeatedly corrupted by radical thoughts and actions that could destabilise the unifying fabric of the nation by imposing unwarranted diktats on the tribal people.

Attribution of meats as a reason for pandemic

The unsatisfactory findings related to the cause of COVID-19 has led many to make their own assumptions. It is not surprising that many people used the opportunity to advocate a vegetarian dietary culture and labelled meat as a carrier of the virus without any evidence to support their claim. Surprisingly, many gave up eating pork, chicken, and beef. The number of people abstaining from non-veg has increased manifold. I for one wish to stay away altogether from any meat products, let alone dog meat. It is a voluntary abstinence and if not for the forced preaching and taunting, many would have given up on their own, even if temporarily. But to use this moment of hardship to pass a legislation banning consumption of meats or dog meat to be precise is akin to opportunistic leverage of the pandemic to invade the rights of the tribal people. If needed be, a restriction order specifically mentioning the timelines would have resolve the issue, unless the motive is to permanently ban dog meat irrespective of concerns related to the origin of Corona virus.

Tribal tradition

Taking animals’ lives for dietary purpose, be it chicken or dog by the tribal people doesn’t involve any atrocities or torture. It is only for the purpose of the meat that they are killed. Dog meat as part of tribal culinary is a tradition that went back as far as time immemorial. In some tribal customs, the killing of dog is a traditional requirement when the priest had to invoke prayers (Known as Kithoi among Kuki Tribes). It was a sacred act, which was believed to have kept evil spirits at bay. Thus, the ill-informed presumption that dogs are killed or harmed as a lack of love for animals is the absence of understanding the tribal people and their culture, who have a deeper bonds with animals than many self proclaimed lovers of animals.

Double standard love

Many animal rights activists, especially those highly vocal to ban dog meat, who have vociferously fought their human counterparts have shown no lost love when it comes to stray dogs. Is favouritism card being played even on the canine populace? Normal expectation on activists is that, the same way they unleash unsolicited attacks on preaching the ban of dog meat, they'd owned up to the issue of stray dogs and the menace they have caused. Homeless, unfed, and condemned of attacking humans, the stray dogs have no one to represent their cause. May be, it is not the rights of the animals per se but the rights of a section of people that is consciously targeted with different motives. For, any true lovers of animals would have advocated euthanasia-like solution for all the stray dogs to put an end to the sufferings the animals have gone through. And once, that life of misery ends, what happened to its meat should not concern rights activists as being burnt, buried or eaten would cause no harm or comfort to the dead animal.

The last Say

Dogs are human’s best friends and that human includes the tribal too. And the same way an act of cutting a beautiful flower and given to our loved ones does not represent our hate for the flowers, the consumption of meats of pigs, beef, chicken, and dog meat is not out of enmity or hatred towards the animals. These animals are domesticated for their meat. Nevertheless, if the Government in its infinite wisdom, while representing the will of the people for their betterment, felt it justified to ban killing and selling of dogs, the public has no choice but to trust the people they have elected to represent them. All the same, the elected representatives should not only convince the people for resorting to ban dog meat but also assure them that, their rights- especially cultural rights will not be encroached and a commitment that they, the Govt. would be open to relook their decision, if so demanded by the public.

In what now appears like Animal rights versus Tribal rights, the general perceptions of the generals will highlight the attitude towards the tribal people. If we cannot love our fellow beings but profess our love for animals, either we are lying or we need to be tamed! While there are serious issues around us to get to grips with at this juncture, the least fruitful would be to engage our time and energy on what should appear on the plates of the tribal people. At the end of the day, it is the tribal people that should have the last say in matters related to the law and governance, let alone food choices, of their land and not some animals or for that matter their lovers!

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