There are two issues that affect me the most about the opening of slaughterhouses in Bhutan that go beyond hypocrisy, and individual right and wrong:
- If self- sufficiency is our goal, why are we harbouring the ambition to export meat to Singapore, Malaysia, and Hyderabad?
- Where is evidence that this was done through public consultation, and this is what people want?
The Kuensel report To meat a demand says, “the processing unit in Thimphu will adhere to the highest nutrition and safety standards, added Tshewang Tashi (DoL). The processing plant will process at least 10 to 15 pigs and 500 to 800 chickens per week.”
Let me break that down now:
-Nutrition? Meat is not the only source of protein. In fact, there is substantial medical and scientific research that has been done in recent times that actually confirm that meat is not the best protein option. I am told Bhutan was once abundant in pulses, especially in soyabean which is rich in protein. How much protein does one person need to be healthy? Can that protein be produced with the least harm and at minimal cost? Yes. And the answer, as is obvious is not a slaughterhouse.
This brings me to the second point.
-Safety Standards? Not long ago, sometime in 2011/2012 (trying to access an NEC report on the unit while I write this), there was a meat processing unit in Phuentshogling- a tiny place compared to the “meat processing units” (megafarms is the right word) in Serbithang and Samrang. It shut down after compromising on several standards. If there was tried and tested, this is an example. It failed.
– Self-sufficiency? 10-15 pigs and 500-800 chickens per week is quite a damp towel then. There are 7,00,000 plus Bhutanese (only a few hundred must be vegetarian), and I’m assuming the first choice of service for the Serbithang slaughterhouse is to Thimphu residents, and we are already 100,000 plus. What is the definition of sufficiency when it is based on individuals? Without even being able to address the problem of local need, one wants to think about exporting meat. So what is it going to be? Bhutanese or foreign consumers? One at the cost of the other? Or is the “Bhutanese need” a convenient argument parading as a compelling reason when the end is really export? In whose interests are the slaughterhouses really being opened?
-Residents protested in Samrang against the 800 acre meat farm. Why was/is this protest not covered by the media? Where is information on public consultations? I am assuming there were consultations because we live in a democratic country. No?
Some other observations:
-Let’s go through Bhutan’s commodity list. Aren’t we importing many other things at the same or at even more cost? Beverages? Junk? Bricks? Etc. “Import of meat is a priority area because of its contribution to trade deficit?” Must applaud our Bhutanese ability to come up with such a creative solution. Already, there is a problem. 11 megafarms will not be enough to feed the ever-increasing appetite for meat. How many more before we are self-sufficient? How many more before we manage export?
– We are so proud of living in a country where GNH is our development philosophy. But we must have a slaughterhouse for ECONOMIC reasons. If I am not mistaken, isn’t one of our pillars SOCIO-ECONOMIC development (and not just economics)? Okay. Let’s look at the four pillars of GNH:
- Equitable and equal socio-economic development
- Preservation and promotion of cultural and spiritual heritage
- Conservation of environment and
- Good governance
And a slaughterhouse fits in how?
– I have not even touched on the environmental cost. Let me give you a small but significant example: It takes 7,956 litres of water to produce half a kg of beef- a beef steak on your plate. Don’t forget our water problems in the country. “Be frugal with water, use water wisely, turn off your taps when not in use”, they said. Dear Agriculture Ministry, why have Social Forestry Day? Doesn’t that contradict the path you’ve set yourself so doggedly on? How many hundreds of acres of (forested) land will we clear before self-sufficiency?
– Shouldn’t our focus be on increasing our own free-ranging indigenous breeds? I am told we have about 4,00,000 cattle; 4,00,000 chickens, and only about 20,000 yaks (we’re eating them to extinction by the way) in the country at the moment. This is not enough to realise self- sufficiency. Are we going to import cattle from Bihar and Bengal when sustainability issues arise? What of Bhutan’s ecology then?
-Why are we doing something that is dividing Bhutanese when one could have focused on healthy eating/ healthy food (less consumption of meat)? That is affordable, sustainable, guilt and controversy-free? Aren’t the Health and Agriculture Ministries allowed to talk to each other? It is common knowledge that we indulge our love for meat. Our need is already defined naturally by our body: A human needs only about 70 gms of protein per day, way less than what an average Bhutanese consumes unthinkingly.
– We have been taking stands on moral grounds. Let us not forget that whether we import or kill at home, it is harming of life. A precept that every Buddhist must try and practice is not to kill. India will produce meat for consumption whether Bhutan imports or not, their main export is to the Middle-East. We have been doing what the Buddha preached in a way: The killing was not for us alone. It was not our demand alone. The karmic negativity is therefore lessened. By condoning slaughterhouses that will not be able to produce enough and safely, is standing on a slippery slope . And a slow descent into violence. We will justify violence, as we are doing already.
There will be more from me. This is just the start.
I say No to slaughterhouses. #whosehappiness #gnhcankissmyass