Saturday Magazine
Save cattle from inhuman treatment


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The exemplary trio

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The happy family

by Godwin Witane
From the beginning man has been a hunter depending on flesh of animals besides jungle roots and tubers and wild fruit. Until recent times our Veddhas too had depended on animal flesh as revealed by Dr. R. S. Spittel who had devoted much of his leisure to rehabilitate them. The present day jungle people although they claim to be Veddhas displaying a makeshift bow and arrow along with their ever present axe hanging from their shoulder depend solely on native civilised man’s food, rice and curry. Since civilised man began to domesticate wild cattle and use them in their agricultural per-suits and also enjoy their milk as food besides harnessing them to drag wheeled carts and vehicles, they developed an affinity and regard for these animals, treated them with kindness and care. They did not destroy them for their flesh. It were the Hindus who first abstained from beef eating as they considered the cow as sacred.

From the time Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahat Mahinda during pre-Christian times the killing of any living being was prohibited by King Devanam Piyatissa. He embraced Buddhism after he was confronted by Arahat Mahinda in the wilderness of Mihintale while the King was engaged in a deer hunt. The consumption of cattle flesh was introduced by the westerners who arrived here as conquerors and traders. Before the British annexed the Kandyan Kingdom King Rajasinghe II had a coterie of captured white men including Robert Knox who were settled in the villages. They had the freedom to take Kandyan women as concubines and some of them availed of this opportunity while most Kandyan women detested them as beef eaters "Geri Mus Kanno".

However slaughter of cattle for their meat is done islandwide that people of every religious community including Muslims, Christians and even Buddhists consume beef except possibly those who follow Hinduism. There are meat stalls and abattoirs in almost all towns where cattle are brought for slaughter from remote village areas. We always hear of prosecution in Courts of Law where butchers are accused for using inhuman methods in the transport of cattle under cruel conditions. To understand and witness the cruelties and torture that this unfortunate animals undergo before slaughter at the hands of the butcher one must visit a cattle pound which is always situated adjoining the abattoir where the animals are never provided with food and water. In Sri Lanka there are numerous kind hearted people and societies that discourage the habit of beef eating. The Gel Gava Mithuro and Dr. Godamune of Kandy come to mind.

The tender minds

Three young boys of St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, Niranka Perera, Suneth Rajawasam and Shanka Manawadu residing in the suburbs of Colombo became vegetarians after listening to a sermon delivered at the Daham Pasela by an erudite Monk where the evil habit of eating animal flesh including beef was stressed. Thereafter these three children gave up eating flesh, fish and eggs in toto. Thus kindled by these thoughts on not taking the life of a living being, their tiny minds were directed to the horror of the abattoir where daily innocent cattle were slaughtered for the consumption of their flesh by humans.

Meanwhile they saw the humanitarian actions of religious people involved in the noble task of saving as many lives of unfortunate cattle as possible from the jaws of death. These blessed children pooled their pocket money, appealed to their parents, friends and relations to contribute for the merciful action of saving three heads of cattle one each, from slaughter. The parents and others lavishly fulfilled their ardent wishes. They collected a tidy sum of money sufficient for the purpose and approached the Chief Public Health Inspector of the Moratuwa Urban Council Mr. Deepananda De Silva, who was in charge of supervision of the proper working of the abattoir and sought his help to persuade the butcher to release the heads of cattle which were lined up for the day’s slaughter. It is a known fact that cattle undergo cruel handling while in transport where they are packed like sardine in trucks. The officer accompanied the boys to the slaughter house where they were given the choice of selecting three young heifers. The cost of the three animals selected being rupees twenty one thousand was handed over to the butcher.

It was a herculean task to load the frightened animals into a lorry for they were in the grips of hunger, exhaustion and thirst that they resisted being handled once again by the blood smelling workers at the place. They were brought to Huludagoda where two were unloaded while the third animal allotted to Niranka Perera was brought to Egodawatta and handed over to Simon Boteju, who himself being a cattle owner was willing to accept the animal.

No sooner the rope that was round the neck of the animal was taken by Simon than the animal at once escaped from his grips and jumping over five strands of barbed wire in the neighbouring garden scaled a high wall ran headlong joining a few more cattle tethered in an adjoining grass patch close by. This animal from the start abhorred humans and was utterly uncontrollable but with kind treatment and care given to her by Simon brought the animal to a state of tranquillity within a short period. Simon was lucky that he had access to a few acres of abandoned paddy fields close to his dwelling where he could graze his animals.

There are very many charitable people and Associations who frequently redeem cattle condemned to the abattoir that observant Buddhists express an instantaneous "Sadhu". Likewise the parents of these three kids were happy to observe how Buddhist principles and teaching had influenced their children in their tender age. Surely, these children emulated the compassionate act of Prince Siddhartha who rescued a wounded bird at the hands of Devadatta, his cousin, inspite of his protests.

Before long Simon found that this cow saved from the butcher was pregnant and within six months it produced a health female calf. Now after nearly two years there is a happy family of four heads of cattle, the mother and daughter giving birth to two more healthy calves almost simultaneously.