The Killing Fields

March, 2001

It is a ghastly sight. Giant cranes drop bodies of slaughtered animals onto large funeral pyres. The legs of the dead cattle stick out grotesquely as the billowing smoke clouds out the setting sun. And the scene repeats itself endlessly in the rural English countryside - the killing fields are truly what they are.

After the madness of the mad cow disease in Britain, it is now foot and mouth disease. The talk by the politicians, the media, the general public and of course, the "farmers" (as the industrialised cattle-raisers are called) is of economics. Hundreds of thousands of perfectly healthy animals have been killed to prevent the spread of diseases caused by man's inhuman and machine-like treatment of the hapless animals. And yet, when the media refers to the deliberate mass killing that is ordered by the government, the reference is to the loss of income, the blow to the British tourism industry, the defiling of the country's image, the damage to the ruling party's election prospects and so on.

Worse, the word "kill" has been temporarily cleansed from the English language. Instead, the term "destroy" is used. Animals are not killed, they are "destroyed" as though they are mere things. And this is the biggest tragedy of the foot and mouth "crisis". Not a single media organisation, politician or even farmer has talked about the ethical side of the killing of so many animals. They are mere playthings in the grander scheme of mankind, to be mercilessly "destroyed" when not needed.

Humaneness has gone out of humanity here, except in children. One "farmer" had to send his daughter to a relative's house, as she was in tears when she found out that the sheep on the farm were going to be shot dead. The marksman brought in to do the killing refused to do his job if the little girl was present. And here is the other irony. The farmers claim to be very emotionally attached to the animals, the very animals they are raising with the express purpose of making money by killing them in the slaughterhouse.

It is the great tragedy of our times that humankind's own greed justifies the mass killing of perfectly healthy animals in a supposedly advanced and developed country. Far worse is the complete lack of debate on this issue. Gandhi was absolutely right when he said, in response to a question on what he thought of Western civilisation: "I think it is a good idea"

- Chetan Dhruve in London

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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