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Who do we call human?


I’m writing this post with so much emotion. I feel so much pain for the subject – a fish that has been caught and cut to pieces and laid out in the bowl to fry. Let me hold my emotion and let me give you the background.

My survey team is now in Punakha. We got here on 17th evening. We are put up at an apartment at Jigmethang. We got a comfortable accommodation here because our next-door neighbor is my friend Ugyen, who works as Kidu Officer. Last night she went to a remote Nunnery and did not return – thus having to sleep alone at her house – a bit sleepless because it was my first night and did not feel much at home. Because of that lack of sleep, I had to sleep this evening at 3:30 p.m. I had a very repulsive smell of meat being cooked that it woke me up. In half sleep I asked the girls in the same room with me if someone was preparing a meat curry. They said yes.

I woke up and went to the kitchen to find those pieces of fish in the bowl. One boy frying them in hot, hot oil, one boy squatting on the floor, squashing the spices to add to the fried fish. I must tell you, this brought in me such big pity. I call it pity because it was mixed with distaste. I asked, ‘where did you get it from?’ and the boy frying it told me that uncle (one of the drivers) caught it from a pond. I expressed a bit of the upset in me and left. Then in the one minute I was in the toilet, it occurred to me that they had killed a fish on the 30th of the Bhutanese month, which is considered auspicious. Moreover today is the 9th death anniversary of my father and my visit to the Machen at the Punakha Dzong this morning to offer prayer was made to seem so fruitless. I have been wondering about the unequal capability of feeling for others for quite sometime now. I have been blind to believe that all Bhutanese have some faith in Buddhism.

I did not become a vegetarian because of my compassion for the animals. I bore distaste to the taste of meat since I was a child. But thinking about it, even if I did not have that distaste, I would have become a vegetarian as I grew up and understood the equality of pain and fear of death, the equal preciousness of life – for both human and animals.  By saying this, I do not mean to be contemptuous – there is no feeling of superiority for being vegetarian. It is my deepest wish that once we have been born as human, all of us had the same capacity to for others. And others don’t have to be just human beings. I am sad. Really sad. Why did the fish have to die for our desire for a better meal? We are not going to die even if we are not fed meat. Is it too hard to put ourselves in the place of the animal we want to eat? How hard is it to think that the fish in the bowl, the pieces of its body fried in the boiling oil is you?


I tell you this: if there is no good you can do, better not do any harm.

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