Hoteliers in Bumthang, 67 of them, have decided not to serve meat for two months in a year, during the auspicious months.
This may be a bizarre decision for those in the hotel and restaurant business, but they have agreed to do so and signed an agreement thereof.
The decision should be appreciated even if it causes inconveniences to travellers or visitors in the dzongkhag.
Bumthang is a centrally-located dzongkhag and see a lot of travellers on their way to east Bhutan or from east to the rest. It is also a tourist hotspot, although the auspicious months fall during the off tourist season.
The decision should be lauded because it comes at a time when meat has become a big issue. Following the government’s plan to start a “meat-processing unit,” a great debate ensued about whether a Buddhist country like Bhutan should allow slaughterhouses. It then spilled over to if we should refrain from eating meat to discourage killing. The media, both traditional and social, was inundated with views, suggestions and recommendations. Some became outright animal right advocates.
The hoteliers are practicing it and not preaching. In the debate of the meat, many argued that we should promote vegetarianism with the Zhung Dratshang taking the lead. The decision of the hoteliers, if all agreed without any pressure, is a lesson for all to learn. Despite saving the lives of many animals or letting them live for another month, it is a loud message that if we have the will, we can change.
It is worth noting that many are becoming vegetarian by choice. And it is common to see many young people switching to a no-meat diet even against their parent’s advice.
Many will continue with the staple meat diet even if rules are imposed on them. The Zhung Dratshang issued a circular to stop serving meat during annual lochhoe. Many villagers followed it, and many felt the lochhoe was not grand without meat. They continue serving meat. Serving of meat is banned at the cremation ground. Some follow it strictly, yet we see some are treated with special meals.
It is, therefore, best left for people to make a choice after understanding the logic. Continued awareness through religious discourse could discourage people from eating meat, but then again, it is a matter of choice.
Meanwhile, those who cannot live without meat while on their way to East Bhutan can take the short cut to Mongar.