Recently Kerala, a southern state in India, has ordered the mass slaughter of rabid stray dogs. This was after government officials made panicky and untrue statements about their menace. And for the past two months, stray dogs (not just the rabid ones) have been mercilessly hunted down.
The State government’s reaction has been an expected one. Some of the authorities are claiming ignorance. While others – fabricating the truth. A few are talking about vaccination drives and exporting dog meat as practical solutions.
The general public has been aghast. Photographs of bloodied stray dogs ferried on bikes. Poisoned carcasses piled up for disposal. They have spread like wild fire. And people are speaking out against it on many platforms. The media agencies have been miffed about it. They are enabling readers, viewers and subscribers to call for action.
I am sure that you, dear reader, think it is both a tragedy and a travesty too. I certainly do. How dare the State behave so brutishly? What in the blue planet were they thinking when they found it fit to kill the problems they create?
Here’s another question – exactly how much do we care? How much we think we should care is a different matter altogether.
I am not talking about having the time to volunteer at animal shelters or publicly address animal cruelty. Just how much respect do we have for the life of another species? Is it enough for us to feel their pain like we can within our own? Or so little that we remain mute spectators while they are being subject to the very worst of humanity?
In a film called A Time To Kill, the protagonist – a white lawyer – defends a black man for killing someone who kidnapped and raped his teenage daughter. In his closing argument, he urges a primarily white jury to close their eyes and listen to the graphic details of the heinous crime. Towards the end of the recital, he says “I want you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she’s white”. It humanized the act of revenge by making the jury admit their prejudices to themselves. As the story goes, the verdict was in favour of the black man.
Now let us imagine if the State decided to kill all the homeless people in its area because of the problems they allegedly presented. Picture this – battered corpses of men and women left to rot in open spaces. Uncivilized rogues looming over frightened urchins with machetes and clubs.
Each one of us would be aghast. The Internet would blow up. But the only difference being – something will come of it.
I think it’s because as much as we care about other species we don’t respect them enough. It is why most of us can stand idly and watch stray animals being subject to unimaginable cruelty. We may consider their lives to be valuable too; just not enough to be appalled by the forces that unjustly claim them.
I am not removing myself from the problem. While I may believe that culling of stray animals is the equivalent of ethnic cleansing, I am merely writing a blog about it. I am painfully aware that it is going to make any sort of difference to the stray dogs in Kerala.
I hope though that we talk to the children in our respective communities about the important of harmonious living. The humanity of treating those different from us like we would our own.
have turned into
killing fields, and
our minds – open graves;
there’s no love
in the air, there’s
none of it, in suitable
(Photographs – Kodaikanal / Megamalai / Sourced online)