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DateLine Tuesday, 22 January 2008

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Helping the younger generation

I would like to suggest to the Department of Education to grant permission for schools to have their own dairy farms, poultry houses, hatcheries and fresh water fish tanks or at least one of them for school practical work, maintained with the help of school Development Societies and schoolchildren from Grade Six upwards.

This would not be a burden to the state. And encourage them to have their own poultry pens at home.

At least with 10 to 15 birds or more for their home consumption and pocket money, the schools should co-ordinate with the Department of Animal Husbandry and other relevant departments, to make this project a success. And give the children a first hand practical knowledge and new techniques and methods of getting the optimum use of the farms which they venture in.

The hatcheries would be able to supply the children with day-old chicks. Even broilers can be introduced as there is a ready market for poultry products everywhere in the country. I should not elaborate the benefits. But suppose this type of practical knowledge would help the younger generation a lot, and do some good to them.

As we all know we import a big slice of our poultry product needs from India from day-old to chicken.

This could be produced in our country, if you make the project a success, same with fresh water fish tank farming and dairy farming. They are the need of the hour. The future depends on them. But this should not be a horse deal at any cost.


A major dilemma

I refer to a television discussion on a private TV channel telecast recently. The panel comprised a popular Buddhist monk and a well-known Medical doctor. The main theme was killing of animals in particular and destruction of life in general and their impact on Buddhist culture.

They were very critical of an article which had appeared in a Sinhala newspaper on livestock farming with emphasis on raising animals for meat. I have no doubt at all about the sincerity of the two learned panellists who expressed their views through conviction. However, the discussion raised a few issues which merit rethinking.

No one irrespective of the religion he or she believes in would condone the wanton senseless killing. Killing for sport (hunting) is tolerated and accepted in certain societies where the values and beliefs are different from ours.

Even in our own society during a bygone era, some members of the 'gentry' displaced in their abodes with pride, skins, horns or antlers, tusks etc. of felled animals as trophies. They were prized possessions and proven prowess of their killing power. Fortunately the abominable practice belongs to the past.

Agriculture is no more a past time or a hobby. It is a vocation like any other where the bottom line is profit. It broadly has two sectors, crop husbandry and animal husbandry. Very often in modern agriculture they are not dissociated from each other.

On the contrary, they are integrated and compliment each other. During the course of the discussion, it appeared there was a notion that crop husbandry does not entail any destruction of life as opposed to livestock farming where animals are raised for meat production.

Let's look at dairy farming which according to most people is a wholesome activity. Many people believe that Sri Lanka could be made self sufficient in milk with obvious benefits to the economy of the country. For this goal to be achieved, a paradigm shift towards a large scale dairy farming has to be made. The chances of a calf born being male or female are 50:50.

All animal husbandry men know that male calves cannot be retained in a herd. They are unproductive and can weaken the future progeny due to in breeding. Hence they have to be eliminated. But how? Use of bulls in haulage and tillage is limited. They necessarily have to be culled meaning slaughter. This is a Buddhist country where over 75 per cent of the population is Buddhist.

Does not the desire or the attempt to reach self sufficiency in milk lead to cattle slaughter without which the industry is not viable or sustainable? Can honest Buddhists get involved in an industry where killing becomes mandatory?

The same goes for all other types of livestock farming too (poultry, piggery, goats etc.) Malnutrition and protein deficiency are supposed to be widespread among children and young mothers in the rural sector. One remedy is to promote inland fisheries which again lead to the same dilemma.

What is the situation with crop husbandry considered 'cleaner' or devoid of destruction of life? In the event of a serious insect attack on a crop, there are no harmless alternatives to the use of insecticides.

Millions and millions of insects have to be killed to save a crop from total destruction. Indiscriminate and overuse of insecticides are also a problem in agriculture needing the attention of agriculturists. But more often than not, they are a necessary evil.

The discussion also highlighted the killing of bedbugs. If there is a very serious and chronic bug infestation like the one the writer has experienced, what does one do but kill them. We lived in school quarters for many years and the bugs were a constant menace.

One can talk of sanitation, good habits etc. but some times things go out of hand. Then there are other household pests like cockroaches, rats etc.

What do the Buddhists do? Do they have to live with them? What about poisonous snakes and rabid dogs capable of causing fatalities among humans? Treatment of diseases where the pathogen is a microbe or a parasite can raise eyebrows.

Treatment of a malarial patient is not considered very sinful because the disease causing organism is tiny, it is microscopic.

Can the same be said of the control of the vector, the mosquito which is not microscopic? The more sensible thing to do is the prevention of the disease rather than its cure. Another example which comes to mind is treatment of round worm and flat worm infestations which if left untreated can be life threatening. The parasites are visible to the naked eye.

Some people refrain from killing not out of fear of hell or what would happen in the next birth but out of upbringing, culture, nature etc. Nevertheless sometimes circumstances are such they are even unwillingly driven towards it.

This is not a challenge but a humble attempt by a worried layman to seek an answer. How does a Buddhists exist being honest and sincere to his faith in a living, dynamic environment without compromise and sacrifice and still remain competitive enough to survive?


Education through tabloids

There is no medicine for foolishness. You just step into any stall where they sell newspapers. You would be wondered to see the so called educational tabloids from pre-school children up to grades even unknown to them. They are full of multi-coloured pictures of various kinds, sizes and motives.

Parents as well as schoolchildren rush to them and ask whether there is a sticker or a coloured picture of some creature on earth or unknown.

If the seller nods yes they buy them. If not they vanish.

You see the motive of buying a paper is to collect stickers, or pictures. But not to read and understand or gather knowledge or anything else. These are business tactics.

On the other hand, do they serve any purpose.

They buy them to escape from children's troubling. Do the parents or any elder go through these tabloids. No, never, do the children understand anything in the papers. No, these tabloids have become playthings for children.

If the children cannot study or learn their three R's under the guidance of teachers, how could they depend on a tabloid without any meaning at all, standard, quality or motivation.

Some parents boast that they buy all kinds of tabloids, CD's based on education. Still their children are unable to compete in examinations. Just buying this and that cannot make a good citizen.

Supervision, guidance and motivation are the cornerstones of education, so good luck to educational tabloids. And only the blessings of the luck to the people who tend to buy tabloids to see that their children succeed in their lives, through education.


Animal slaughter

Let me first commend D. M. P. B. Dissanayake (DN Jan. 17) for his excellent piece of writing on the wisdom of animal slaughter. His balanced approach is refreshing from the beaten path of radical idealism, prejudices and innuendoes.

I am writing this letter to correct an error. Mr. Dissanayake said that there are no restrictions on eating meat according to Buddhism and Christianity unlike Islam and Hinduism. This is not totally correct.

In Buddhism, there are restrictions as to what type of meats you can eat: the flesh of human beings, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas (panthers).

In Christianity, the Bible says: "And the pig... it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." (Leviticus, 11: 7-8).

True compassion starts with understanding other's views. Mr. Dissanayake's ability to navigate the minefield of this sensitive subject with simplicity and common sense is admirable.



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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