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August 6, 2009

The Speciesist…Part 1 ( And the moral dilemma for many Indians)

Like every other kid who grew in the 80s, I read all Hardy boys, Three Investigators and the like. In fact the whole thing got into our heads so bad that I with my brother and cousin thought of creating an investigating agency. Our first case was about a cycle theft in our neighborhood, and we solved that mystery in minutes (on paper that is). Our deduction - mechanic running the local cycle-repair shop was the culprit; he had the modus-operandi and wherewithal to dispose a stolen cycle. Without any investigation or evidence, we condemned him guilty. Thinking about our naïveté makes me laugh even now.

Another thing I was copying Hardy boys was their eating habits– Bacon, Sausage, Hot Dog and the ilk. Though eating ‘non-veg’ was a strict taboo in our family. My Dad who had travelled a bit, was a libertarian , so I had my first sausage in class 6 at a Snack bar called Frightemp, probably the only shop in small town Baroda where you could find something so ‘Foreign’ to eat those days ( later eat Chicken couple of times at my friends house.

One Sunday evening while watching a Doordarshan movie at home I heard some commotion in our society. There used to be a small bush diagonally opposite to my house where there was enough shrub to feed a few animals. The commotion was caused by an unlikely and uneven contest between a cow and two butchers. When the crowd who had gathered protested the men informed us that they had bought the calf from the owner of the cow.I was a mute spectator as in vain that hapless cow tried to protect the calf from being taken away. She charged at those men several times but it did not deter them. Eventually one of them distracted the cow while the other quickly grabbed the calf tied its feet and dumped it in their van. In a few minutes it was all over.
Thinking about what followed gives me goose bumps even today. That wretched cow stood at that very spot for the next 2 days grieving, wailing. It was eerie; I had never heard an animal cry before, let alone seeing tears in their eyes. It was a sort of ‘Gautam Buddha’ moment for me, It was very troubling for a young mind & I promised myself never to eat non-vegetarian food again. Though that episode happened over 20 years ago I have still kept that promise I made to myself… But??
But, that was the easiest part I had more troubling questions. What if everyone became vegetarian, would Earth be able to feed and sustain this growing human population? What about fisherman whose livelihood depend on catching & selling fish? What about Darwin's theory of evolution & survival of the fittest? If we are the dominant species, in a way we are entitled to our ways. Nature grants us that privilege by virtue of our earned superiority. What if that stray asteroid had not struck earth and Dinosaurs were still the dominant species, would they have shown any compassion towards humans. Questions endless questions.

And the most disturbing was Jagdish Chandra bose’s findings about Ascent of Sap. (* he showed with the help of his newly invented Cresco graph that plants responded to various stimuli as if they had nervous systems like that of animals. He therefore found a parallelism between animal and plant tissues. His experiments showed that plants grow faster in pleasant music and their growth is retarded in noise or harsh sound * Wikipedia) In that case wont eating of plants be the same as animals.(
Last month while watching a documentary ‘Earthlings’ which uses the term ‘Speciesist’ to explain how humans treat other species(animals) and it compares it with racism. And suddenly all those moral questions came rushing back to me…………. But this time I figured out a few answers (Part 2)

(In case anyone has found answers to the moral dimension of this argument please email me before I conclude)

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