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Just two kilometres from my home we have a sanctuary for horses. It is something you would never have envisaged existing two or three decades ago. On a much smaller scale, we did have places for retired working horses (those that went down coalmines for example) but there was never a need to save horses that were loved by the families that owned them as the continued to care for their welfare long after they were used for riding.
The problem arose when parents felt rich enough to buy horses for their children. With the recession of 2008 these same people began to unload these self-same horses, finding they were costly to maintain. Many found it impossible to dispose of them; no one wanted to buy them at any price, ,and so began a very unpleasant process of discovering abandoned horses in distress, unwell and starving on wasteland and in other places around our countryside.
The problem was so severe that the daughter of our Queen, the Princess Royal, who knows a thing or two about horses, went public with the view that it would be good if in the UK there was a market for horse meat since that would mean that horses would have some value that would ensure someone would look after their welfare and see they had a humane end to life.
In India millions of animals end their lives in misery
Our friends in India need to think about this, as their recent ruling to ban the sale of cattle for slaughter appears certain to lead to animals ending their lives in misery. It is already being said that tens of millions of unproductive animals will now be turned out on the streets.
The decision also bizarrely includes buffaloes which is odd as it supposed to be on based on a religious belief that cows are sacred, which does not include the buffalo. It is all very odd to the outsider as all the evidence is that in olden times Hindus were hearty beef eaters, today some 20% of them still are with the sacred view being very much a northern Indian thing. India is a Federal country so making these rules in the centre is unexpected and in many ways, appears to be an attack on the lower castes, Christian and the Muslim community who are involved in the cattle trade, and of course as we know well are the backbone of the Tamil Nadu leather industry. Given the importance of the beef and leather industry in terms of exports and employment all this seems to imply that politics is dominating both human good and animal welfare.
We have seen PETA videos about slaughter in India for many years, and much of the problem comes from the fact that when the slaughter is illegal it ends up happening in secret and the animals suffer. Adding the sale of animals that might end up slaughtered and, mysteriously adding the huge buffalo industry in as an afterthought, just exacerbates the problem.
India has many thousands of unlicensed slaughterhouses. Rather than trying to close these down, a serious intent would be to provide for proper animal welfare and a lifetime of good husbandry with a supply chain that is properly licensed, modernised and regulated.
Just like the horses in the UK that are treated as pets and then discarded into misery, whatever status is given to cattle they should not be left to final years in pain and distress. That would be progress for all.
7th June 2017
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