From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:
KOLKATA, CAPE TOWN, LOS ANGELES–Challenging public animal
sacrifice at the Kailghat Temple in Kolkata since 2000,
Compassionate Crusaders Trust founder Debasis Chakrabarti won a
September 15, 2006 verdict from the Calcutta High Court that the
ritual killings may no longer be conducted in open public view.
The 200-year-old Kalighat temple, beside the Hoogly River,
is among the most visited sites of sacrifice to the blood goddess
Kali. Chakrabarti previously tried to persuade devotees that
donating blood to hospital blood drives would be as acceptable to the
Anti-sacrifice demonstrations and the blood drives helped to
reduce the numbers of sacrifices, Chakrabarti told news media.
Moving sacrifice inside the temple walls, Chakrabarti hopes, will
reinforce the message that it is not acceptable in modern India.
But the message and reality are somewhat at odds. Karnataka,
Gujarat, Orissa, Himachal, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh states
prohibit animal sacrifice. Yet sacrifice is exempted from coverage
by the federal Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, in effect since
1960, and the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
The traditionally lesser educated castes who eat meat and
practice animal sacrifice have had a much higher birth rate in recent
decades than the traditionally better educated vegetarian castes.
Seventy years after the caste system was officially abolished, caste
lines have blurred to the point that lower caste origins are no
longer an obstacle to winning economic and political success, and in
some districts are even an advantage. Vegetarianism is still widely
professed, but the population balance in India has shifted in the
space of a generation from approximately half to less than a third
actually not eating meat.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:
NEW DELHI–“There is a great need to cleanse Hinduism” of
animal sacrifice, “and the time is now,” editorialized the October
2003 edition of The Organizer, the official publication of the
hardline Hindu nationalist volunteer corps Rashtriya Swayamsewak
The RSS is often described as the ideological arm of the
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Organizer strongly praised former actress Jayalitha
Jayaram, now chief minister of Tamil Nadu state, for ordering
police to halt animal sacrifices on August 28. After three men were
arrested the next day for sacrificing goats and hens at Madurai, no
more sacrifices were reported for a week.
Members of the People’s Art & Literary Association and
Revolutionary Students & Youth Front then defied Jayalitha (usually
called by just her first name) by staging sacrifices in Tirunelveli
and Tiruchirapalli. Police detained but did not charge the suspected
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:
NEW DELHI–“What I expected has finally happened. I have
lost the MInistry today,” People for Animals founder Maneka Gandhi
e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on July 2, nearly four years after
becoming the first Minister for Animal Welfare in the cabinet of any
Elected as an independent member of the parliament of India,
Mrs. Gandhi asked Prime Minister A.P. Vajpayee to create the animal
welfare ministry for her in 1998 as the price of her joining the
ruling coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party.
Vajpayee complied by making animal welfare part of the mandate of the
Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, the portfolio Mrs.
Gandhi held from August 1998 until early 2001.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
NEW DELHI–“I am again, in a battle for my life!” Indian
minister of state for animal welfare Maneka Gandhi e-mailed to ANIMAL
PEOPLE on May 24.
“We raided the premier AIDs research lab in India last week
and found a chamber of horrors, rescued the animals, and took them
away. We found starving monkeys with no fingers and teeth, bleeding
from their bottoms, with maggots in any food they had. Now Health
Minister C.P. Thakur and many scientists and journalists are
denouncing me all over the place,” Mrs. Gandhi elaborated.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
SEOUL–Former South Korean commandos outraged by the April 21
visit of Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo shrine
honoring 14 war criminals, among other World War II dead, on April
23 “hacked to death a squealing pig daubed with the name ‘Koizumi,'”
Reuters and Agence France Presse reported. The men intended to kill
the pig at the Japanese embassy, but were stopped by riot police,
so stabbed the pig repeatedly inside a van.
“They then shoved the still shrieking animal into the road
some 200 meters away from the Japanese embassy,” Reuters said. “The
riot police struggled to stuff the badly bleeding pig into a sack.
The pig soon fell silent and died.”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2002:
DHARAMSALA, India–Making perhaps his strongest statement
yet on behalf of animals, the Dalai Lama on March 29 reminded
Buddhists that sport hunting is contrary to the teachings of the
The Dalai Lama had been asked to address the growth of trophy
hunting in Mongolia by Fund for Animals spiritual outreach director
Norm Phelps, who practices Tibetan Buddhism. Phelps outlined the
recent heavy investment of trophy hunting outfitters in promoting
safaris to kill argali sheep, snow leopards, Bactrian camels and
other species, many of which may not be legally hunted anywhere else.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2002:
SEATTLE, AHMEDABAD– With smoke still rising from the ruins
of Muslim neighborhoods in Ahmedabad, India, neither the McDonald’s
Corporation nor Seattle attorney Harish Bharti and his 12 Hindu,
Sikh, and vegetarian clients wanted any more trouble.
As Ahmedabad cremated the remains of 56 Hindus killed when
Muslim militants torched a train on March 1, and buried the remains
of more than 400 Muslims killed the next day in retaliatory attacks
by Hindu mobs, McDonald’s agreed to pay $6 million to vegetarian
groups, yet to be named, and $4 million to charities serving
Hindus, Sikhs, children’s nutritional needs, and kosher dietary
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2001:
NEW DELHI–Lashing racehorses with “jockey bats” is now illegal in India, Indian Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Maneka Gandhi declared on February 20. The announcement, issued at the presentation ceremony for the Vanu Menon Animal Allies Awards, inadvertantly upstaged news media recognition of the winners. One winner was Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep Kumar Nath, familiar to ANIMAL PEOPLE readers from coverage of his work on behalf of nesting sea turtles, cattle rescued from the illegal slaughter traffic, and street dogs and cats.
The banned whips are defined by the 1998 edition of The Whole Horse Catalog as “heavy sticks, made of plastic or fiberglass [now, formerly made from whalebone] coated with leather or thread and furnished with leather, tape, or rubber handles,” with “wide leather ‘poppers,’ or flaps, to make a noise when slapped against the horse’s flank.”
Indian jockeys may still use lightweight rubber whips, Mrs. Gandhi stated, as Animal Welfare Board of India chair and retired judge Guman Mal Lodha clarified the details. But the rubber whips may be used only to signal to the horses, not to do them injury, Mrs. Gandhi stipulated. Mrs. Gandhi said that beatings with jockey bats had blinded many horses and sometimes caused horses to develop dangerous blood clots on their heads, beneath the skin.
“There have been several instances in which whipping has inflicted serious injury on horses,” Justice Lodha confirmed,
adding “I see no reason why we should tolerate this.”Delhi Race Club manager Kulwant Singh told Arun Kumar Das of
the Times of India that, “We have placed orders for the import of 15 whips from England,” and said that the race club would “propose to initiate action against jockeys who violate the order.” Agreed Delhi Race Club president P.S. Bedi, “We will embrace rubber whips as soon as they arrive.”
Mrs. Gandhi herself was 10 days later named winner of the prestigious Aadishakti Puraskar award, to be presented in April by singer Lata Mangeshkar on behalf of Dinath Mangeshkar Smruti Pratishthan, “in appreciation of her remarkable contribution in the field of environmental protection and animal welfare,” the announcement said.
But handing out and receiving laurels were not among Mrs. Gandhi’s uppermost concerns. Her top political priorities during a hectic February and March were dealing with the aftermath of the January 26 Gujarat earthquake and a cabinet crisis occasioned when a corruption scandal forced the resignation of Defense Minister George Fernandes and other ranking officials.
Mrs. Gandhi found time in between to interrupt the scheduled South African National Park Service massacre of the last 31 feral Himalayan tahrs left on Table Mountain, near Cape Town, offering them sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh. The tahrs established themselves on the mountain after a pair escaped from the Groote Schnur Zoo in Cape Town. They had arrived in 1935 from a zoo in Pretoria. Unwanted in South Africa, Himalayan tahrs are highly endangered in
their native India, with only a few hundred believed to remain in the wild.
The South African government on March 23 suspended the massacre for six months to give Mrs. Gandhi, the Wildlife Trust of India, and Friends of the Tahr time to arrange for the tahrs to be net-gunned from helicopters by a New Zealand team and flown to India–and to seek funding for the work. A last-minute complication was the risk that quarantines on the movement of all hooved stock, meant to slow the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease, might cause delay.
A further complication may be reported objections from the World Conservation Union that the Table Mountain tahrs are “invasive,” should therefore be removed immediately, and should not be allowed to mix with the remaining wild tahrs lest they carry negative inbred genetic traits.
Never one to spare the verbal lash against cruelty and corruption, Mrs. Gandhi also found time to demand that Karnataka state minister for primary and secondary education H. Vishwanath be criminally prosecuted for attending an allegedly illegal sacrifice of two rams on February 16.
“The minister’s cousin reportedly bought the animals and kept them in a police officer’s house before sacrificing them,” the Times of India reported. “The minister attended the prayer service, but did not witness the sacrificial ceremony. He left the place only after the rituals of sacrifice were over. Chamarajnagar Deputy Commissioner Bhimaiah and Police Superintendent Anne Gowda reportedly accompanied the minister. It is learnt,” the Times of India continued, “that the minister spurned the invitation of his cousin to partake of the rams’ meat.” Mrs. Gandhi demanded that Vish-wanath be prosecuted.
Reported the Deccan Herald of Mysore on March 3, “A public interest litigation petition will be filed in the High Court against Viswanath, said Progressive Organ-ization convenor K. Ramadas.” A noted rationalist author, Ramadas made the sacrifices public knowledge by confronting Vishwanath as Vishwanath prepared to speak on “Anthropology in the service of humankind” at the Fine Arts College for Women in Manasagangothri.
A prominent member of the Congress Party, which ruled India from 1947 to 1998, Vishwanath was defended by Congress officials who accused Ramadas of “abusing Vishwanath by caste name.” Ramadas said he would apologize if anyone could produce evidence that he had done it.
The incident stimulated reportage all over India about ongoing open defiance of the 1960 national prohibition of animal
sacrifice–and was scarcely the first time Mrs. Gandhi denounced influential politicians for tolerating it. In April 2000, for
instance, she fingered Andhra Pradesh chief executive N. Chandrababu Naidu.
“Andhra is the only state where animals are sacrificed on the premises of the Legislative Assembly in what they claim are purification exercises,” Mrs. Gandhi told Asian Age. “My ministry has received letters from all over the state informing us about animal sacrifices and the complete ignorance and, in some cases, connivance of local authorities. We have set up a fact-finding committee,” she said, “to inquire into these complaints and identify the areas where action is necessary.”
Asian Age published details furnished by Mrs. Gandhi including calendars of sacrifices at prominent temples and a
description of a rite in Medak in which day-old lambs are reportedly killed by the priests’ teeth.
“In most cases,” Mrs. Gandhi charged, “there is a nexus among the temple priest, the village moneylender, and the butcher, wherein the priest concocts a reason for a particular sacrifice, the moneylender steps in to provide the money, and then the priest sells the carcass to the butcher at the wholesale price. This is the reason why most temples have meat markets behind them. It is absolutely obscene.”
The only animal sacrifices specifically exempted from the 1960 law are the sheep and goat slaughters undertaken by Muslims at Ramadan, called Bakr-Id in India–but Mrs. Gandhi said there is no effective enforcement of the restriction on which species may be killed, nor of the requirement that the slaughtering be done only at designated locations, in the prescribed Halal manner.
Other mass ritual killings are commonly reported. At Kushtagi, for instance, 80,000 people reportedly attended three
days of sacrifices that began on February 25. “Despite heavy police presence, 1,000 buffaloes were reportedly killed and 10,000 sheep,” said the Deccan Herald. “The police are said to have left utterly helpless.”
At Pauri Garwhal in December 2000, 40,000 people watched the sacrifice of “76 male buffaloes and an endless number of goats and rams,” according to Aarti Aggarwal of the Times of India. “The swinging axes, the bleating of the animals, the frenzied worshippers created a sickening scene. The carcasses were eventually thrown off a mountaintop, creating a virtual mountain by themselves. The stench was unbearable. By evening the earth was as red as the
setting sun. Vultures blanketed the sky.”
But animal welfare activists and civic authorities claimed a victory of sorts, in that the number of buffaloes killed has fallen annually since 1998, when 150 were killed. More successes–but involving much smaller numbers of animals–are claimed in halting “sacrifices” and other ritual use of wildlife. Many of the events are just thinly disguised destruction of animals who may raid crops or attack livestock, and fade as wildlife populations diminish.
The biggest single-day ritual killing of wildlife in India, however, appears to occur each August at Nagapanchami, the snake festival, when most participants appear to believe they are doing cobras and rock pythons a kindness by feeding them milk, butter, and sweetened rice–paying snake charmers for the privilege. The captures, defanging, mouth-stitching, and other procedures done by the charmers to make the feedings possible, however, kill an estimated 50,000 snakes per year. ANIMAL PEOPLE receives reports of ritual wildlife abuses being interrupted or halted by activists at the rate of about one case per week.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2001:
LONDON–A combination of misplaced faiths brought the world the widest outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease ever– and the most virulent known strain:
* Millions of Islamic faithful mistakenly believe that the Koran commands them to kill a hooved animal at the yearly Feast of Atonement, and give two-thirds of the meat to the poor.
* Millions of British residents mistakenly believed–until late February 2001–that the English Channel, having protected them against Napoleon, Hitler, and canine rabies, protects them as well against other invaders and diseases.
* Millions of Europeans mistakenly believed back in 1992 that abandoning livestock vaccination against hoof-and-mouth disease would reduce meat prices. Therefore, under the Single Europe Act, the European Union forced eight member nations to repeal as purported artificial trade barriers their national laws requiring that hooved
animals be vaccinated.
Instead, the entire EU adopted the British, American, and Japanese requirement that infected and exposed herds must be killed, on the theory that the highly contagious and easily transported hoof-and-mouth virus could be totally eradicated. Vaccinated animals are considered “exposed,” because the vaccination causes them to produce false positive results in standard testing, and– whether infected or not–vaccinated animals can still be immune carriers.
Now struggling to meet the EU standard, English and Scots officials had by March 28 condemned 719,000 animals–far more than the 480,000 who were killed in the 1967-68 hoof-and-mouth episode that had been Britain’s worst. Incomplete species totals included 420,519 sheep, 118,627 cattle, 46,021 pigs, and 261 goats.Just 728 animals were found to be infected within the first month of the outbreak arriving in Britain, but 441,640 animals had already been killed.
Epidemiologists commissioned by the British government forecast on March 23 that more than 4,400 animals would eventually be infected, twice as many as in 1967-68, without the “immediate slaughter of all susceptible species around infected farms.” British authorities are still traumatized by the ongoing global blame-throwing over their failure to contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Better known as “mad cow disease,” BSE emerged circa 1980, and in 1996 was found to have jumped into humans as the brain-destroying new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Ensuing trade bans devastated the British livestock export industry, once Europe’s largest.
Politicians and public officials who took a decade to respond decisively to BSE lost no time implementing whole-herd slaughters in response to hoof-and-mouth. Indeed, some initiated killing animals so enthusiastically that they created a whole new health problem.
Concerned that decomposition in the soil might cause water pollution, British government veterinarians initially tried to burn the fast-accumulating corpses. Rehearsing for just such a disaster, government purchasing agents solicited bids on firewood and coal to stoke bonfires of dead livestock shortly before Christmas. But burning the animals proved too slow, at three days per pyre, while a 10-day backlog of bodies festered, and merely piling the remains up with fuel gave badgers, foxes, feral pigs, birds, insects, and other carrion-eaters ample time to spread the hoof-and-mouth virus farther.
Agriculture minister Jim Scudamore delayed action on National Pig Association and British Wild Boar Association recommendations that the feral pigs and boars be killed–perhaps because no one, anywhere, has ever succeeded in eradicating feral swine from a land mass larger than the Catalina Islands, off southern California. Several advisors reportedly told Scudamore that it probably could not be done with the resources available.
Soldiers finally excavated pits to hold up to half a million dead animals at the abandoned Great Orton military airfield in northern England, and Scotland called out the Highlanders 1st Battalion to dig holes for a quarter million more at Brickshaw Forest, near Locherbie. Almost 100,000 bodies remained unburied as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, and the Agriculture Ministry was considering a suggestion from Nevada Department of Agriculture expert Ron Anderson that they should incinerate them with napalm. Anderson said napalm had served him well against an August 2000 outbreak of anthrax.
The London Zoo and the 61-member Federation of Zoos unsuccessfully petitioned the Ministry of Agriculture for exemptions from mandatory slaughter of hooved animals, and asked to be allowed to vaccinate their rare and endangered species instead. At risk were elephants, bison, rhinos, hippos, okapi, antelope, camels, deer, and 48 of the last 59 Northumber-land cattle, whose herd has lived within the same 300-acre walled enclosure at Chillingham since
approximately 1300. Doomed were the almost equally rare Herdwick sheep of Lake District National Park, after the hoof-and-mouth virus was apparently carried 20 miles on the wind to infect cattle pastured nearby.
“There are grounds for arguing that the slaughter policy is misconceived,” opined BBC News environment correspondent Alex Kirby as early as February 25. “It is not strictly necessary, as the disease poses no real risk to human health. At most, it can lead to a mild infection, and it is not invariably fatal to the animals. In adult cattle only a small minority succumbs, though the death rate can be much higher in younger animals and pigs.” The major effect of hoof-and-mouth, Kirby explained, is that afflicted animals suffer weight loss, producing less meat and milk.
“But whether that would leave farmers worse off than they are already is debatable,” Kirby said. “The last hoof-and-mouth outbreak in the U.K. was in 1981, which leads the government to argue that slaughtering has worked. But it is at least as logical to say that the U.K. has for 20 years been lucky. The uncomfortable truth is that the day the U.K. is declared free of hoof-and-mouth again, the risk of another outbreak will remain just as high.”
“Once the virus is here,” Kirby continued, “modern farming as good as rolls out the red carpet to greet it. Animals kept in close confinement, reared in close quarters, will inevitably infect one another very quickly.”
Commented virologist Fred Brown, of the USDA Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located in Long Island Sound, “It’s quite clear that if you stop vaccinating, you’re vulnerable.” Brown explained to Los Angeles Times staff writer Emily Green that since 1997 a new test has been developed, but not widely deployed, which can distinguish the false positive result caused by vaccination from the actual disease. Britain and other nations, as well as consumers’ groups, opposed mandatory vaccination because of the anticipated cost: more than $900 million per year in Britain alone, estimated British agriculture minister Nick Brown.
But insuring British farmers against losses comparable to those resulting from the hoof-and-mouth outbreak would cost $800 million. Currently, only 10% have insurance against disease outbreaks, in part because the cull of 4.7 million cattle in the thus-far futile effort to eradicate “mad cow disease” sent the premiums soaring. $900 million is, coincidentally, approximately the same amount as has been budgeted by the European Union to combat BSE. About 300 million animals within the EU might be potentially vulnerable to hoof-and-mouth.
“In light of the questions now being asked in Britain and the rest of Europe about whether non-vaccination strategies are really worth the occasional massive slip-up,” commented New Scientist European correspondent Debora MacKenzie in a comparison of notes with ANIMAL PEOPLE, “I am trying to re-examine such policies. While I
understand the reasons for them, I wonder if both the risks and the technology have not moved on, and made it time for a re-think.
“The whole system rests on the possibility of keeping pathogens out of an area post-eradication and post-vaccination. But it seems to me the risk of introducing pathogens has increased substantially recently with increased global trade and travel, while the impact of introduction has also increased along with livestock density. Has the cost-benefit ratio favouring the maintenance of large numbers of un-immunised animals perhaps shifted against non-vaccination as a result of this?
“Marker vaccines,” which can be distinguished from the actual illness, “and molecular surveillance,” permitting early
discovery of hoof-and-mouth, “may allow vaccinating and detecting the pathogen well enough,” MacKenzie suggested, “to prevent infection without risking an epidemic.”
The EU on March 24 authorized the Netherlands to make limited use of vaccination, if the Dutch government cannot kill animals fast enough to halt the spread of hoof-and-mouth. But disposing of remains is expected to be the biggest problem for the Dutch, whose low land and high water table make burial out of the question. Also lacking safe places to maintain long-burning bonfires, the Nether-lands may just have to use napalm.
The cost of the epidemic was evident even in the U.S., where suspected hoof-and-mouth outbreaks have recently occurred only in Idaho. Hoof-and-mouth was officially eradicated from the U.S. in 1929 and from all of North America by 1952, Associated Press farm writer Philip Brasher reported. The U.S. has prohibited imports of hooved animals from any nation with hoof-and-mouth or which vaccinates hooved animals against hoof-and-mouth since 1930.
But Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman complained to Brasher on March 27 that the meat industry is suffering nonetheless, in part because American consumers, she said, are confusing hoof-and-mouth with BSE. BSE, in the mutated form of nv-CJD, has killed at least 86 people–but has never been found within U.S. cattle. Veneman spoke, however, less than a week after a new report by the Food and Drug Administ-ration found that nearly 700 of the
2,500-odd U.S. rendering plants and animal feed meals have inadequate controls to keep mammalian meat and bone meal out of food meant for cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and elk –the species believed vulnerable to getting BSE as result of eating the remains of sheep infected by scrapie. Maybe Americans were not so confused after all.
Renewed BSE scares in Europe combined with concern about hoof-and-mouth to bring a 10% sales decline at European franchises of McDonald’s restaurants –“no small amount,” reported Daryl Lindsey of Salon.com/news, “considering that the company derives as much as 36% of its operating income from the continent.”Lindsey said that McDonald’s was being forced to “fast-track the mainstreaming” of vegetarian products test-marketed in New York,
Amsterdam, and India.
The role of faith in bringing on the animal massacres might have come to fore when 5,000 sheep and cattle belonging to farmer John Fisher were burned over a week’s time at Arthuret Knowes. On March 16, Matthew Engel of The Guardian watched the pyre from a sign commemorating the Battle of Aedderyd in 573. “On this spot,” Engel wrote, “the pagans of Strathclyde were slaughtered by the Christians of Cumbria. Though the pagan king Gwenddolau had Merlin [of Arthurian legend] to encourage him, 80,000 humans were killed.” Their remains too were burned.
But religions and ancient beliefs other than Christianity and nature-worship were most involved in spreading hoof-and-mouth. The pan-Asia hoof-and-mouth strain responsible for the current global epidemic already afflicted hooved animals in at least 25 nations before it hit Britain. Following the same trade routes that the world’s major religions did long ago, the pan-Asia strain may have come south at some point from Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Georgia, but was first identified in northern India in 1990, according to epidemiologist Nick J. Knowles, of the Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright Laboratory in England.
In succession the pan-Asia strain infected the Hindu world, the Buddhist world, and now the Judeo-Christian/Islamic world. “From India the pan-Asia strain spread east and west: to Nepal in 1993-1994, Bhutan in 1998, and Tibet and Hainan province, China, by 1999,” reported London Times health editor Nigel Hawkes on the morning after the Feast of Atone-ment. “It reached Kinmen Island, between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Before anyone realized it was there,” Hawkes continued, “cattle had been moved to Taiwan, carrying the infection with them. The strain has also
hit Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thai-land, Malaysia, Laos, the Philip-pines, Korea,” which had been free of
hoof-and-mouth since 1934, “and Japan,” free of hoof-and-mouth since 1908.
Seventeen outbreaks afflicted 2,152 pigs in Hong Kong, killing 464, during the last four months of 2000, acknowledged
Leslie Sims, assistant director of the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department. Waste from an Asian freighter, fed to pigs on a farm near Durban, South Africa, took the pan-Asian strain of hoof-and-mouth on to other African nations. Durban is a major port of call for freighters in the live animal export trade–and an alleged hub of accidental hoof-and-mouth exports. A shipment of 24 giraffes and three rhinos sent from Durban to Spanish exhibition facilities on October 5, 2000, was refused and returned to Durban after 40 days at sea from fear that they might
have hoof-and-mouth. Two of the giraffes died during the journey.
National SPCA of South Africa senior inspector Morgane James warned again of the disease risk inherent in shipping live animals as recently as February 27, after discovering 34 sick animals among a cargo of 1,500 goats and 10,000 sheep who were en route via Durban from Namibia to Saudi Arabia aboard the livestock carrier Holstein Express. About 15 animals had already died, James said; 10 were euthanized aboard the ship, and two dozen were treated.
Namibian environment and tourism minister Tangeni Erkana on March 16 banned live exports of native wildlife, as a conservation measure, but the livestock traffic was not affected.
Meanwhile, Hawkes of the London Times explained, based on Knowles’ findings, hoof-and-mouth “spread to Saudi Arabia, probably through the trade in live sheep and goats, and then into Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria” by 1996. It went on to afflict Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and the kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula–possibly carried by Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca, who might have transported the hardy virus unaware of having ever
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif formed a special commission to fight hoof-and-mouth in mid-March 2001, amid new
outbreaks in and around the cities of Jeddah, Yanbu, and Kamis Mush-yat, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Other outbreaks appearing within 10 days of the Feast of Atonement hit Iran and Sri Lanka. By then, the disease could have come from almost any direction.
On February 22, 11 days before the Feast of Atonement, hoof-and-mouth apparently entered the Netherlands with 230 calves brought from Ireland by way of Mayenne, France. In Mayenne they were in proximity to the sheep who suffered the first French outbreak of pan-Asian hoof-and-mouth. The strain then broke out on all three Dutch farms which received some of the infected calves. More than 20,000 animals including 662 farmed deer were killed to try to stop the Dutch outbreak. Year-round, the Netherlands imports about 25% of all the livestock shipped from Britain, then re-exports most of them.
At least some of the animals imported in late February are believed to have been imported for resale to the Halal butchers serving the sizeable Dutch Muslim minority. The Netherlands ruled much of largely Muslim Indonesia for nearly 300 years, and did not surrender its last holding, the island of Irian Jawa, until 1962. Sheep imported from Britain during the same time frame are believed to have taken hoof-and-mouth to Germany, where Islamic immigrants from Turkey form the largest ethnic minority. The exact means by which the pan-Asian strain travels are still unknown. Saudi experts, frustrated by repeated failures of quarantine, think it might be carried by dirty shoes. Pigs were the
suspected major carriers in southeast Asia and Britain, but are rarely kept in the Islamic world because Muslims do not eat pork.
Islamic health authorities anticipated that the public animal massacres held on March 5 to mark the annual Feast of Atonement might bring epidemics. Like the feast itself, marking the end of the Islamic equivalent of Lent and the reputed day on which Abraham sacrificed a ram allegedly sent by God instead of his son Isaac, disease outbreaks linked to the killing are an annual event.
A thousand years ago Islamic physicians were the world leaders in medical knowledge and research. They knew even then that epidemics can be spread by pilgrimages, mass movements of stressed animal herds, and the rotting remains of animals left in streets. For centuries, Islamic medical experts have tried with limited success to temper the zeal of the faithful for killing which is not demanded anywhere in the Koran, yet is almost universally believed to be a religious duty.
“My grandfather and grandmother always used to say it was important to let blood flow inside the house at least once a year,” Damascus housewife Ilham Abdi, 41, explained to New York Times correspondent Neil Mac-Farquhar. “It’s a blessing for the family. It keeps away sickness and the evil eye,” Abdi insisted. But if anything associated with the killing protected her household, it was the vigorous post-slaughter clean-up. MacFarquhar also noted fly infestations following the disposal of offal in the streets, and the incidence of self-inflicted accidental knife wounds among men attempting to do their own Halal slaughtering. In 2001, as always in recent years, Islamic health experts struggled to head off disaster.
Responding to apparently false reports of “mad cow disease” appearing in Thailand, Malaysia on February 14 banned the import of Thai cattle. Fighting anthrax outbreaks since January, agriculture officials in West Java, Indonesia, distributed 130,000 free vaccinations to owners of cattle and goats. In Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, news media urged the faithful to heed governmental pleas to do their slaughtering at officially approved sites, where hygienic conditions could be monitored.
In Britain, Halal Food Authority president Masood Khawaja urged Muslims to “send equivalent money that would be spent on the sacrifice to underprivileged countries.”
The term “sacrifice” is actually a misnomer. Animal sacrifice is no more a part of Islam than it is of Judaism or
Christianity. The Feast of Atonement is a meal held in conjunction with a religious occasion, like the Seder at Passover and Easter Sunday dinners, but it is not a religious rite in itself. Further, although the killing is customarily done as a
public display of appreciation for good fortune, it is not actually an event that many people choose to watch.
Public officials in Tereng-ganu, Indonesia, this year misunderstood the reason for the killing being done in public, and
tried to promote the Halal-style massacre of 1,000 cattle as a tourist attraction, using the motto “Tour Kuala Terengganu and perform your religious obligation.” They cancelled the event on March 1, after selling just 70 tickets.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban mullah Mohammed Omar, 40, on March 16 ordered a second round of slaughter, reportedly to atone for the slowness with which Taliban troops destroyed two gigantic statues of Buddha carved into cliffs in the Bamiyan Pass during the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D. Taliban spokesperson Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, 24, told
Barbara Crossette of The New York Times that the statues were destroyed as false idols because a delegation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cul-tural Organization offered funds to protect and maintain the statues, but refused to lift economic sanctions imposed against the Taliban because it has sheltered international terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban had asked for food aid, amid winter famine. The 100 cattle who were killed in the Bamiyan atonement exercise were butchered and distributed to hungry Afghanis, but did not go far. Muslims are asked to help the poor as a central feature of the Feast of Atonement. As the poor rarely could afford meat in ancient times, and winter feed stocks often ran thin before spring, herding peoples came to mark the occasion by culling their camels, sheep, goats, or cattle, and giving the remains to the starving.
Long after the ancient practices lost their original meaning, they continue. And, though Masood Khawaja only asked Muslims to do exactly what Mohammed originally wanted–to help the poor, not kill animals per se–a shortage of Halal-slaughtered meat in British stores and a shortage of animals to buy for custom slaughter is suspected of contributing to the illicit traffic in uninspected livestock which is believed to have had a major role in distributing the pan-Asia strain of hoof-and-mouth, as the current epidemic is called, around the world.
There are three semi-permanent reservoirs of hoof-and-mouth disease, all in areas associated with clandestine cattle
trafficking: South America, eastern Africa, and India. University of Manchester veterinarian and historian Abigail Wood traces the first British outbreak to cattle brought from Argentina in 1839. British troops may then have taken hoof-and-mouth to Kenya and India.
“Reluctant to undermine a renaissance of Argentine steak on world markets, the Argentine government hid an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth for months,” Washing-on Post correspondent Anthony Faiola disclosed on March 17. Rancher Enrique Klein told Faoila that the outbreak appeared in the Santa Fe region, 170 miles northwest of
Buenos Aires, in early January. Klein said he had 300 cases in his own herd alone. He reported the outbreak promptly, he said, and the National Sanitary and Agricultural Quality Control Service responded with aggressive vaccination, but did not disclose the outbreak to world health monitors.
By March 22, Argentina was fighting as many as 53 hoof-and-mouth outbreaks in four provinces. Relying on vaccination, and knowing that beef export markets had been lost for years to come, Argentine officials said they would not resort to mass slaughter. But if slaughter brokers couldn’t ship Argentine cattle to Europe, they speculated, perhaps they could ship horses. Coinciding with slumping beef sales, European buyers nearly doubled the price paid for Canadian horseflesh between mid-January and mid-March, Claude Bouvry of Bouvry Exports told Vancouver-based
author Nich-olas Read. Reputedly selling mainly foals born to mares used on pregnant mare’s urine production lines, in connection with making the Wyeth-Ayerst estrogen supplement Pre-marin, Bouvry owns three slaughterhouses in Quebec and Alberta.
The high prices apparently inspired one Argentinian broker to batch 700 horses in Buenos Aires and 200 more in Uruguay, obtained on the pretext of needing carriage horses and riding horses in Italy. They were to be shipped aboard the Holstein Express (the same transporter that carried sick animals from Namibia en route to Saudi Arabia but was intercepted by the National SPCA of South Africa), and were to be landed at La Spezzia, near a horse slaughtering plant which is reputedly among the major sources in the world for ponyskin.
Martha Gutierrez of the Buenos Aires-based Asociacion para la Defensa de los Derechos del Animal was at deadline trying to stop the shipment, but found that international animal protection charities including Compassion In World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals were not very helpful. “The export of the horses is legal, as the buyer says they are going for riding and not for slaughter,” WSPA representative John Walsh told Gutierrez. “Therefore, all we can do is prove in Italy that they will actually be slaughtered.”
The Masai, of Kenya, herd a rugged breed of cattle with strong resistance to hoof-and-mouth –which the Masai call by the same word they use for the common cold, according to Associated Press correspondent Alexandra Zavis. The Masai, whose herds have been diminished by drought over the past year, are “deeply disturbed by the news that hundreds of thousands of livestock have been killed in Britain to stamp out hoof-and-mouth,” Zavis wrote in a March 23
“Tribal tradition holds that these herders are the true custodians of all the world’s cows,” Zavis continued, “and the notion of a mass slaughter of otherwise healthy animals is not only horrifying in theory; they take it very personally. ‘If the European people were here in Africa, we could have raided them for this,’ Nicholas Tanyai said angrily,” at a cattle sale in Susua, 50 miles northwest of Nairobi. “‘Just bring those animals that you are killing, and we will buy them.'” Masai cattle enter global commerce mainly when rustled by Somalian militias. That brings the cattle–or their meat–into
proximity with smugglers and arms traders, just a short sail from much of the Middle East.
Masai cattle are only a minor part of the livestock traffic associated with the Feast of Atonement. Indian cattle, on the other hand, often laundered through Bangladesh, are probably the largest illegally trafficked portion. “Under the Cattle Preservation Act, it is illegal to transport cattle across state borders for slaughter,” explained Indian minister for social justice and empowerment Maneka Gandhi. in a recent guest essay for The Times of India. “Cow transportation is
permissible only for draft use or for milking. Since Kerala and West Bengal are the only states where cow slaughter is not banned, it is intriguing that 100% of the cattle transported by train from Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan are taken toward West Bengal. Does West Bengal alone have a scarcity of milk cows? Clearly, the movement of cattle toward West Bengal is not for the ostensible purpose of milking, but is rather to feed the smuggling of cattle to Bangladesh,” just across a long open border.
“Statistics clearly indicate that Bangladesh’s leather and beef trade cannot be supported by the nation’s official cattle
population. So where do the cows come from? The railways,” which do most of the long-distance hauling, “are loathe to prohibit transportation of cattle,” Mrs. Gandhi charged. “When the cattle are unloaded at Howrah,” the even poorer
and more chaotic across-the-river twin city to Calcutta, “the dead cows are sold to the leather traders,” Mrs. Gandhi added. “The live ones, if they can walk, are taken to Bangladesh. The West Bengal government refuses to recognize this smuggling. The Bangladesh government taxes it. There are toll booths where every cow smuggler has to pay.”
Railway Traffic board member Shanti Narain professed shock at Mrs. Gandhi’s interference with the timely and profitable running of the trains. “This is giving a bad name to the entire government,” Narain said.
“The world-famous Hari-har Kshetra cattle fair at Sonepur has turned into a mammoth market for smugglers along the Indo-Bangladesh border,” Times of India correspondent Rajesh K. Thakur charged on November 15, 2000. Thakur claimed that of 667 buffaloes sold during the first five days of the fair, 300 “have allegedly been smuggled to 14 different slaughterhouses situated along the border,” among 65 slaughterhouses in the region.
As Thakur’s accusations reverberated, representatives of the Visakha SPCA and the Department of Animal Husbandry and Transport on December 4 seized 122 cattle from six trucks which were allegedly taking them from Srikakulam village, north of Viskhapatnam, to Kerala for slaughter, by way of Hyderabad. Although Kerala is diametrically opposite West Bengal, on the far side of India, the meat from the cattle would probably also have been exported to the
Middle East– in this case, over the Arabian Sea.
The case was significant to documenting the spread of hoof-and-mouth because the seized animals had it. They had either become infected at Srikakulam or aboard the smuggling vehicles. Either way, the vehicles were held just long enough for the drivers to be fined the equivalent of $2.17 apiece. More cattle could have been loaded–and inflected–within hours. And if the smugglers didn’t care to take the same route twice, instead of heading south to Kerala they could as easily put the cattle aboard a northbound train to Howrah. The journeys would be of about equal distance.
Members of People for Animals, founded by Mrs. Gandhi in 1984, intercepted three trains en route to Howrah with cattle during the last 10 days of 2000–two at Ghaziabad and one at Agra. The Agra train was finally stopped after pulling away from five previous stations when a growing mob, chasing the train from station to station, surged across the track at Yamuna bridge station and, led by Agra SPCA founder Krishana Balla, sat on the rails to keep the engineer from leaving. Agra police arrested 128 members of the train crew.
Together, the raids apprehended nearly 3,000 cattle, wrote Manjari Mishra of the Times of India. They routinely found as many as 40 cows and calves packed into cars meant to carry no more than 12. Both Agra and Ghaziabad are much closer to Haryana and Punjab, the region where the pan-Asian strain of hoof-and-mouth was first detected a decade ago, than they are to Howrah. Moreover, hoof-and-mouth is still there, occurring “almost every year,” Punjab Agriculture University pro-vice chancellor K.S. Aulakh told the Press Trust of India.
Trying to contain the most recent outbreak, nine mobile veterinary teams on March 23 began vaccinating cattle in parts of Rajasthan state adjoining Haryana.
“Illegal sales of livestock are a worldwide problem,” commented Colorado State University microbiologist Charles H.
Calisher on ProMED, the online bulletin board of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. “Hypocritical functionaries who look the other way when cattle are slaughtered [illegally] or are moved from their country to another country by train, in broad daylight, are known to operate with impunity in the name of national sovereignty. So, disgusting traditions continue without hope for abatement, and maintenance of ‘markets’ are the sine qua non of the industry and of politics.”
The pan-Asia strain is now spreading as rapidly through the Christian world as it did through the Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic worlds, with greater velocity but often through the same combination of bureaucratic ineptitude, criminality, and finger-pointing in the wrong direction as facilitates the illegal cattle traffic in India. Hoof-and-mouth was officially recognized in Ireland, for example, on March 21, a full month after Irish calves inflected France and the Netherlands.
Irish authorities blamed cattle smugglers, practitioners of an ancient pastime which reputedly supports some units of the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
About 40,000 animals were to be killed on the Cooley Peninsula, in an effort to keep the illness from spreading, but
scarcely anyone seemed optimistic that the killing would succeed. The Dublin stock exchange dropped 5% within one day of the first confirmation that hoof-and-mouth had hit.
French prime minister Lionel Jospin meanwhile blamed an alleged sheep smuggler–by name– in commenting on the discovery of hoof-and-mouth in the Mayenne region of northeastern France. Jospin was then embarrassed when Mayenne prosecutor Philippe Warin told media that there were no grounds for accusing the man, a longtime successful importer of sheep from Britain.