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Opinion

Debate over cattle slaughter

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By Dr D. Chandraratna

The proposed ban on cattle slaughter by the Prime Minister has little ethical merit in it. The only purpose it serves, if at all, is that a majority of Sri Lankans will ‘feel good’ of having moved their abattoirs overseas; out of sight, out of mind. But the demerits of the proposal are many. This proposal will pump ammunition to the cynics who see politics in a poor light. Saving unproductive cattle only adds to the dwindling pastureland to feed the bovines, and as Dr Waidyanatha has pointed out in a recent article ‘total banning of cattle slaughter would with time drag the country into a serious dilemma of increased competition between productive cattle such as cows and draft bulls and unproductive ones, bulls and old cattle, for limited pasture and fodder’. Furthermore, we are bound to see many of the unproductive cattle slaughtered in the illegal meat market. Nicely packaged imported beef can also increase the numbers of beefeaters.

However, the Prime Minister must be thanked for opening up a public debate over the much more important issue of the welfare of animals. The practice of eating meat or not eating it is a different issue and the moral protest is a salutary signal to highlight cruelty to other species in this world, for we humans owe it to those who cannot protest. As a civilized nation, we have to control the tyranny of humans over non-human animals. The suffering that we cause to the voiceless animals is abominable and to call ourselves civilized by the same breath is laughable.

The debate is also sidetracked by those numerous animal lovers because ‘they also have two cats and a dog’. Then there are the Buddhists (monks included) who preach that consuming the flesh of animals is blameworthy only if the animals were killed specially for you. That kind of defence not only trivialises the issue but also irritates reasonable minds. Those Buddhists refuse to understand the laws of supply and demand and are quite happy to pass over the moral responsibility to breeders and slaughterers. That is a disservice to a mostly rational doctrine.

What may have prompted the PM may be his sympathetic emotions to the plight of cattle that are killed in so many cruel ways. Australia once had to ban the live export of cattle and sheep due to public protests, after the Australian TV channels aired the inhuman killing of these animals in foreign lands. Australian inspectors were flown to many of these foreign lands to educate the abattoir workers on humane methods less stressful to the animals. Whether the countries changed the cruel practices is another matter. Unfortunately, many cultural and religious proclivities stand in the way of science and ethics.

The issue has to be disabused by taking out the emotional, sentimental arguments of animal lovers. Sri Lankans only know of a few horror stories about the treatment of animals but even in this country, hot iron branding, castration, dehorning are carried out under most barbaric conditions, when science is at hand to prevent such unnecessary cruelty. An Animal Welfare bill is a welcome consequence of the Prime Minister’s interest if such eventuate from this public debate. Legal monitoring of large-scale production of animals, breeding centres and abattoirs, by compassionate honest officers of the crown, and occasional boycotts of those who contravene good practices are morally justified for the sake of animals.

The environmentalist has better arguments for the culpability of the meat industry in the world for the damage that it does to the planet earth. Cattle ranching in Brazil has contributed to the reduction of rain forest cover with dire climate change consequences. A single kilo of meat requires nine kilos of grain, and given that the US alone slaughters in excess of 10 billion cattle in one year, this shows what a luxury diet meat is on this crowded planet. The lives of billions of people and other species are threatened for the insatiable taste of a hamburger. It is a huge cost that should stir the conscience of the world.

To be rational and pragmatic, it is well nigh impossible to stop humans eating beef, pork, chicken, and rabbits and, for that matter, any that walks, flies and slithers. All that well meaning civilised people can and should do is to stop the cruelty, avoidable cruelty, to animals killed either for consumption or other benefits.

In Sri Lanka, the manner in which animals are usually handled, transported and slaughtered is often very cruel and disgusting. It would be a great relief if there are at least humane methods of slaughter in place as in developed countries, and laws regulating slaughter technology are of extreme importance. We, as consumers, are indirectly responsible for the existence of cruel practices involved in producing meat of many kinds.

The question we need to address is the welfare of animals in general, and the prevention of unnecessary cruelty and stress of any kind. To assist, appease or please any community or economic interest group is miniaturizing our civility. In this modern era, science and rationality must dictate how we treat members of species other than ours.

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Opinion

Covid-19 – a cause for grave world concern;

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Some thoughts and reminiscences

By Dr. V.J.M. de Silva

There is no doubt about the gravity and world concern about this serious disease. Every newspaper devotes a lot of space to it. Intellectuals and world leaders talk about it. Unlike in past pandemics, it has spread even to Arctica and Antarctica – almost every country in the world is affected – (even Greenland, though no deaths have been reported). It is, however, not as bad as previous pandemics, like the Bubonic Plague of the 14th century, when nearly 50% of Europe was wiped out.

All information given herein is from the Internet and is up-to-date. In passing, I would like to mention that I am now 91-years-old and all this information was collected throughout the last several years. The world today is at a ‘standstill’ due to control measures taken. Nonetheless, I would like to present some facts which I think would give readers some food for thought. India, our nearest neighbour, has a population of 1,360,000,000 (1 trillion, 360 million – a little over 13 million). This is six times the population of Sri Lanka. From these statistics, we should have about 1 million cases and 20,000 deaths (not 9,000 cases and 19 deaths). The Maldive Islands, also a neighbouring country, with a population of 1,300,000, however, has 11,600 Covid cases and 37 deaths. The island of Villivaru has been turned into the ‘world’s first Coronavirus resort’ with 2,500 beds, where patients enjoy a luxurious stay and free medical care! (Wikipedia).

I will give a few facts for the sake of comparison with Sri Lanka. From this it appears that India has a mortality of 15%, the USA 3% , Thailand 8%

From this table, Sri Lanka seems to be the safest country in the world to live in today. Obviously, Sri Lankans seem to have some sort of immunity. Various explanations have been given for this immunity. The most plausible is that our children have all been given BCG immunization.

We have undergone, and are still undergoing severe hardships due to the measures that the health authorities have, understandably, taken. The problem is, the symptoms of the disease caused by the Covid-19 virus, is so common, that it is not easily recognized, unless the specific diagnostic test is done. The cases of the disease in India and the Maldive Islands have increased. As of the end of October, the cases in India have risen to about 790,000 with 119,700 deaths – 677,000 have recovered. The population in India is about six times that of Sri Lanka. Going by these statistics, Sri Lanka should have about 20,000 deaths, not nineteen as is the case.

Globally, there are about 44,000,000 cases and 1,165,000 deaths. The USA has the highest number of cases – about 6,000,000 cases with 240,000 deaths. The worst affected country seems to be Thailand, which has a death rate of 8% (i.e if 100 people get the disease, 8 will die ).

This immunity may be something similar to Yellow Fever. Although we have the insect vector, Aedes aegypti, which spreads yellow fever, no one in Sri Lanka has ever had yellow fever, though it is a menace in North and South America, and Africa. This mosquito also spreads Dengue. This is also a reminder of the Yellow Fever epidemics in 1900. The Americans, who were interested in completing the work on the Panama Canal (about 50 miles long and 100 ft. wide), connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, spent a lot on men and material. The Isthmus of Panama, separates North and South America. Several scientists sacrificed their lives doing research on the diseases preventing its construction. It has been called the greatest achievement of the 20th century.

In conclusion, I would like to quote the words of Max Theiler in his speech at the Nobel Prize banquet. “I like to feel that in honouring me, you are honouring all workers in the laboratory, field and jungle, who have contributed so much, often under conditions of hardship and danger, to the understanding of this disease. I would also like to feel that you are honouring those who have given their lives in gaining knowledge which was of inestimable value. They were truly martyrs of science, who died that others might live.”

Generous and gracious words, indeed. Would there be scientists like that today! Alas, they are no more!, That generation has passed away. If I may mention their names – the team was led by Dr Walter Reed, well known for his work on infectious diseases. Others were James Carroll, Jesse James Lazier, Adrian Stokes, W.A.Young, Hideyo Nagushi (a Japanese American) and a nurse, Clara Maass. They were all ‘martyrs’ for science.

 

 

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Opinion

A bouquet to President and his team

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It was great to see Valaichchenai producing paper once again. Thanks to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his team, including Minister Wimal Weerawamsa, officials of the Paper Mill and the armed forces that contributed to reviving the factory.

Two years ago, I spent a few nights at Bay Vista in Arugam Bay, I made a detour to see what was left of the Valaichchenai Paper Mill, one of my favourite haunts during previous visits to the area. The gates were shut, held firmly by trees and shrubs. I alighted from my car, walked up to the gates, and looked at that factory which had gone to rack and ruin. That saddened me beyond measure.

We were lost in the jungle, near Tantirimale, recently when motoring to the Sandamal Eliya temple to donate a wheelchair. I had known the areas previously, but could not find the way in an illuk (spear grass) jungle at Mahawilachchiya. That was where I had led the Agrarian Services personnel on a national mission to make the country self-sufficient in paddy, but new roads had come up. Finally, when we reached Sandamal Eliya, I inquired from Ven Sangarakkita about the illuk grass. He said it was a nuisance and nobody knew what to do with it.

On our way back, I happened to recall that originally the Valaichchenai Paper Mill machinery was intended to make paper from illuk, which is a stronger product than straw, and did provide both the long and short fibre needed for paper making. The Valaichchenai mill devoured all the illuk within a few years. All was thought to be lost, but thanks to the ingenuity of our engineers and scientists, another raw material was found. They discovered that straw could be used as a substitute. It was then that I came on the scene, going behind the straw lorries for miles on end on my way to the East. The straw provided only the short fibre, and we had to import paper pulp to mix with the straw. Even then we produced paper. The production came to a standstill due to LTTE terrorism.

The irony is that we, who found how to make paper out of straw, stopped producing paper, while China and India went ahead with paper making.

I have, in my papers, suggested that a few small paper mills be imported from China or India, set them up in Padaviya, Tissa and Mahawilachchiya, and turn our straw into paper. The cost of the paper machines and installing can be recouped in one year from the savings from the curtailment of paper imports. Actually, we need not import any paper, from the end of 2021, if the government imports three small scale mills, costing less than a fifth of the cost of paper imports a year.

An article I wrote about illuk was published in The Isalnd on 29 Sept. 2020, under the caption “Illuk can reduce poverty and save foreign exchange”.

The Divisional Secretary, at Kotmale, once set up a small industry to make paper out of waste paper. It was a great success. It is sad to note that Sri Lanka is, perhaps, the only country in the entire world that wastes its waste paper, not making paper out of it. Go about anywhere in Colombo and one can see people collecting waste paper and waste cardboard. We do not process it to paper. Instead we export some 30 tons of waste paper a month to India, and the ridiculous part of it is that we buy paper and board from India. Truly we need to have our heads examined.

I remember that a few youth on my Youth Self Employment Programme, in Bangladesh, were collecting waste paper to make paper and they earned a decent income.

Installing a small scale paper mill, at Sandamal Eliya, can be done in three months, working at the speed I did once in 1971 in establishing the Mechanized Boatyard at Matara. Then my team found how to make crayons with experiments done at the science lab of Rahula College, Matara. Sumanapala Dahanayake the Member of Parliament, at Deniyaya, in his capacity of the President of the Morawak Korale Coop Union, established the handmade crayon factory, working day and night, in two weeks, and that Coop Crayon Factory provided all the crayons we needed. Harry Guneratne, the Import Controller, cancelled the import of all crayons, and Coop Crayon flourished until President Jayewardene’s government closed the factory, in 1978. That was the “development” that the UNP brought to our country!

I can only hope this note will reach the President.

GARVIN KARUNARATNE
Ph D Michigan State University
Former Government Agent, Matara

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Opinion

Mike Pompeo’s Predatory Diplomacy!

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Are we now in the Predatory Era of diplomacy?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has given us much food for thought on this. He has described China as a predator in relations with Sri Lanka. At the Joint Media briefing, with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Pompeo said about relations with Sri Lanka that “US is a partner, China is a predator”.

 “We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator, and the United States comes in a different way, we come as a friend, and as a partner,” Pompeo told a televised news conference in the capital, Colombo.

A predator is an animal that naturally preys on others. It is also a person or group that exploits others, such as sexual predators.

The predator is very much part of the socio-political trend in the US today, and Pompeo was obviously clutching this feeling. Coming here, representing President Donald Trump, who is in a largely dirty and unmasked electoral fight for the presidency, Pompeo could not have forgotten that more than a dozen US women came forward to accuse his boss, President Trump, of having groped them (an much worse, too) with headlines across the media labelling him as “Predator in Chief”.

The word predator is now widely acknowledged in the US to have racist overtones, and in the last election cycle, Hillary Clinton half-apologized for using it. She caught a break, too, as the predator label drifted away and stuck to her opponent, Trump, instead.

Way back in 1996, Hillary Clinton, in a speech supporting her husband’s 1994 anticrime bill, famously referred to a certain type of young person as a “superpredator” — a word coined by the political scientist John J. DiIulio Jr., who predicted that the nation’s inner cities would produce a generation of “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters” – the superpredators. 

It is up to the Chinese to take this non-diplomatic use of predator to describe the Chinese Communist Party, and therefore, China itself. Let’s look at the wholly racist trend in US politics and governance that has shown the predatory moves of its police and its supporters, such as President Trump.

Do we have to think a lot to recall how that non-white American, George Floyd, died after being arrested in Minneapolis, and held down by police officers, one of whom had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck. He pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

Protests broke out in cities across the US, and there were demonstrations in other parts of the world. ‘Black Lives Matter’ became a political organization with new power and meaning. The government of President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have not had any success in having a good democratic response to the anger of the people about such racist violence. 

Can we forget, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, who was shot eight times when officers raided her apartment, in Louisville, Kentucky. They were executing a search warrant as part of a drugs raid, but no drugs were found.

It has now been officially found that no policeman has been charged for this brutal shooting – but there is a charge against one police officer for  bullets striking a neighbour’s apartment!  Predatory delight.

Mike Pompeo must know very well that Breonna Taylor became a rallying cry at protests in the US, along with George Floyd, and the many other non-white, Black American persons who have been killed by these Police and State Predators. He was certainly not thinking of how Black people are much more likely to be stopped and searched, and even rapidly handcuffed by police than white people in the US. Who are the predators, if not the Police? The State Predators of the US!

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had already made his formal statement at this Joint Briefing, where Mike Pompeo came to his predatory trend in non-diplomacy. There was no opportunity for Minister Gunawardena to make any response, or is that so? Can a foreign guest, whoever he or she may be, insult a Sri Lanka friendly country in such a manner, with the least regard to proper diplomacy? Is the US in a special higher plane of international relations with Sri Lanka, than the other world power today?

Minister Gunawardena, in his diplomatic silence, may have been reminded of his father, the late Philip Gunawardena, whose move to politics here came after his studies in the US, where he became a socialist, moving with the leftist political groups there, who were in a rising movement against the capitalist powers of White supremacy.

He may have also remembered the Rubber-Rice Pact signed in 1952 when the UNP was in office, and saw the establishing of close relations with the People’s Republic of China, at a time when the US was in sway in global power.

Once he gets back to Washington, and sees Donald Trump reeling in the electoral fight with Joe Biden/Kamala Harris, he had better think more of the realities of predatory action in the US, and give thought to the possibility of the US being a ‘superpredator” in the world! 

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