A weakness for flesh

An interesting debate has picked up on the social media, following an opinion printed in the My Say column of this newspaper.  The letter requests the government to reconsider their plan to start a meat-processing unit and slaughterhouses.

The letter, warning that such a cruel act would end the sacred Vajarana Kingdom, has gone down well with people, who are against killing, and are probably vegetarians.  There are not many who support the idea.

It is true that we are a Buddhist country and we discourage killing.  In fact, every prayer ends with a line, wishing all sentient beings to be free of suffering, forget getting slaughtered.  The reality is little different.  We, or least many of us, love meat to the extent some cannot eat a meal without meat.  Some even steal from neighbours meat that is hung outside to dry.

Sale of meat is banned on auspicious months.  And we have at least two such months every year.  The intention was to reduce the number of animals slaughtered, but more animals are slaughtered the month before the ban so that people can stock meat.  And of course, meat is available and served during the auspicious months.

The issue is now about religious sentiments and economic reality.  Bhutan is importing almost all the meat.  Last year, we imported meat worth Nu 1.37 billion.  That is, excluding the chickens, fishes and the cattle killed for meat in the country.  The government is under pressure to limit import of commodities that can be substituted.  Vegetables and meat are such commodities.  Until recently we imported our meat from India.  Now it has stretched to Thailand.  This has implications.  We have not fully recovered from the INR shortage because of the unfavourable balance of trade.

High on the government’s agenda is import substitution.  If we can produce all the meat, except white meat like shrimps and prawns, and vegetables, it will not only stop the outflow of money, but also create jobs in the country.  Religion is important, but the pressure is to straighten the economy and create jobs.

Our religion discourages killing.  But there is some hypocrisy among those who practise it.  We have slaughterhouses in the country, even if we proudly say that we don’t kill to eat.  If we stop importing, they will not kill for us.  A rush at the meat shops a day before the meat ban is a good indication of our hypocrisy.

While debate is important to reach a good decision, we could look for better solutions.  For instance, the ban on serving meat at the dhutroe (crematorium) is practical and logical.  And most follow it because it benefits the dead and the living.

Unless most of us give up the craze for shakam and sikam, animals will be slaughtered within or outside the borders for us.  It is a difficult choice.  Maybe, when we see animals slaughtered on our soil, people will turn to vegetables.

We are all butchers, according to a meat vendor.  If we keep rushing for meat, they will kill for us.  And there is good money in the business.

3 replies
  1. joker
    joker says:

    What do most Bhutanese do? If meat is available, we buy and eat. Otherwise, we really do not crave for it and make orders. If the govt tries to minimize the import, eating and buying will also reduce. Eating is one thing and killing is another. By setting up slaughterhouse in our own land, we are encouraging and rationalizing that killing animals and eating meat are not unvirtuous. Let’s all work towards discouraging eating meat and killing, instead of doing just the opposite.

  2. Kar10
    Kar10 says:

    I don’t buy the line that the butchers will kill more if we constantly rush for meat. there are consumers outside Bhutan too who are willing to dump clean their pockets for the sake of flesh, bones and blood. the butchers would kill for them.

    what Bhutanese do is just procure a minor chunk of that flesh…that’s nominal but the very thought of prioritizing economy over religion, seriously, we oughtta think better than that.

  3. logical
    logical says:

    I appreciate the balanced views presented in the article.
    RELIGION as SENTIMENTAL issue is hindrance to the progress of economic growth in the area of meat farming. The national religion does not contribute to practical progress of nation towards sustainability but subdues the Bhutanese sentimentally by FANTASIES, according to scientific reasoning. As such, the peoples’ representatives should consider opining about the irrelevancy of counterproductive religions and opting out their role in national affairs by restricting state or private funding for their support.
    The ARMY of monks should cultivate vegetables and other crops on the farms registered to the shedras and learn practical life of the lay people to be able to guide them with application of spirituality in practical living. They should also rear poultry, piggery, dairy, fishery etc. like some of the regular Schools producing part of their needs for consumption in parts of the country.
    Exiting Nu.1.37 billions on meat import is big national loss for Bhutan that I believe can meet its local demand producing higher quality within the country.

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