giant rain clouds loom over the people of tampaksiring, as they prepare for a big festival in march. one entrance to the road is blocked with a massive bamboo structure. men and women are busily working their nimble fingers into weaving the coconut leaves into delicate patterns. in our homestay, fat brown hens are busy pecking around. the slight drizzle does not bother them. the little white dog is also in the yard.
for me the impending gloom is not due to the rain. i know more. i am watching them and i feel queasy. in a few days the festivities will include a ritual animal sacrifice. our host tells us that the festival comes once in thirty years, and that the villagers will make offerings of buffaloes, monkeys, chickens and dogs. “dogs?” i ask, naively hoping for an answer that will make me feel better. “they won’t be killed will they?”. our host is quick to clear any doubt. “oh yes, kill” he says, matter-of-factly. “it’s culture’ he adds, rubbing salt on my wound. i feel so sick i have to sit down.
in all honesty, in my selfish mind i am more worried about the dogs than any other. but i realize it is as bad for everyone else. these are all harmless animals and unless in self defense, would never hurt us. my mind is troubled. throughout my stay here the thought kept coming back to bother me. MD shares my anxiety, but he does not show it. i text my mother, but i still do not feel better.
then i realize that while this kind of sacrifice takes place once in 30 years, we cruelly breed, cage and slaughter millions of fish, chickens, cows, pigs, goats and turkeys for christmas every year. the only difference is that our dogs spend the holiday with us, not for us. i was shaken and troubled because i thought of my dogs and how much they love and trust me. but it is the same for any animal.
i may not value the dog and the chickens in this picture equally, but they are both sentient beings. our stupid excuses of culture and religion and our greed for a tasty meal does not lessen their fear and pain. religion and culture is fine, but the extent of it is another person’s comfort. if our decisions cause someone pain, then it is time we rethink what we've been taught.