By Mayuri Phadnis
USE OF ANIMALS FOR RITUALS
BNHS and NGOs write to forest ministry, asking for withdrawal of the suggestion, claiming the clause will make way for legal loopholes that will lead to its misuse
While on one hand, the BJP-led state government has banned beef slaughter, citing pollution among other reasons, on the other, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in a recent draft of its wildlife policy has added a clause to allow the use of animals for religious and cultural practices.
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and a bunch of other forest and wildlife NGOs have now written to authorities, demanding the removal of the clause. They are of the opinion that such practices are archaic and society has evolved enough to let go of the same. The BNHS also said that this clause will further encourage poaching.
Atul Sathe, communication manager at BNHS, said most of these original practices once were scientific or bore symbolic meaning of conservation. "However, these have now become unreasonable rituals based on blind faith."
Sathe cited the example of Nag Panchami, where snake charmers catch snakes, which are revered by force feeding of milk and smearing with tika. "It's actually the snake's abode which is revered —a way to thank snakes for eating rats from farms," he said.
BNHS's statement, which was released after the letter was sent to the MoEFCC, stated that controlled killing of animals has always fuelled poaching and this clause will put several threatened species, which are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, at a risk of being hunted down. Use of animals in rituals has also been proven to hamper breeding.The BNHS pointed out that it would be further difficult to monitor and protect nocturnal species like owl and pangolin as the policy suggestion will create legal loopholes.
Avniash Basker, legal consultant for the Wildlife Protection Society of India, one of the involved NGOs, felt that such an exception in the law will severely impede the implementation of the wildlife law. "The ministry and state forest departments lack manpower or training to monitor the use of protected species."
Experts have also said the exception will promote blind faith. The statement stated that practices such as ivory carving, bear dancing and use of animals for black magic is against the ideals of a progressive society.