What started as a good initiative, indeed a good deed, is fast becoming a problem now. The animals rescued from the jaws of death and released or put in care shelters, are being accused of many things. It is not only in one dzongkhag, but everywhere.
The animals rescued by the so-called tshethar tshogpas, have become an agenda at the dzongkhag tshogdus. The most recent was in Sarpang where local leaders decided to seek an intervention from the authorities. Some are out of compassion after the animals are being rescued, ironically, and some because the animals straying around are damaging crops or becoming a nuisance.
Not all animals rescued, if they can talk, would say they are enjoying the freedom after the rescue. Sick, maimed, weak and hungry, infested with worms or diseases, animals, according to those who complain, are dying a slow death or being tortured to death.
As a Buddhist nation that denounces killing, tshethar tshogpa’s works were appreciated. Hundreds of cattle, pigs, goats and horses were saved from being turned into meat or the farm drudgery. What happens after the rescue has become an issue. In some places where rescued animals are released, it has become a conflict especially when the carrying capacity of tsamdros (grazing land) are under pressure.
The very purpose of rescue is defeated if post-rescue care is missing. If it is hungry animals in some, it is stray animals jostling for space with vehicles in other. Many are maimed, probably ran over by vehicles. In the capital city, stray animals, which some say are rescued, fight for space on the expressway, often getting hit or causing accidents. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the beef or pork landing on our plates are that of the rescued animals. The possibility is high with many finding the meat business lucrative and animals freely roaming around.
There are guidelines for the tshethar groups. They have to register as a civil society organisation, build shelter and feed the animals and appoint caretakers. Going by the recurring issues, it seems many are not following the guidelines. Even if the guidelines are sincerely followed, it is not the long-term solution, especially for some animals. Those who go on pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, India, know how rescuing animals work. They buy, free it only to be caught and resold again. It is a lucrative business.
Today we have people who generously donate or contribute to rescue animals from going to the slaughter houses. It is, however, not sustainable. Animals will be raised and killed for meat and money. In the meantime, many are becoming suspicious of how and where the donations are spent. Not to generalise or deride the initiatives, but there had been incidents where members of tshogpas take away animals from villagers even if they are owned or looked after well.
Another concern is the changing tone, especially among the young who are quickly getting alienated or view initiatives like saving animals more distantly than their grandparents or parents did. And then there are others who view such initiatives or projects for social recognition more than for spiritual merit.
In short, it is neither successful nor sustainable, and we have to find better solutions.