The Environment Ministry’s permission to ‘cull’ animals in few Indian states has got a mixed response across the country. Culling is an action where humans are allowed to kill the animals that cause inconveniences legally.
Farmers find it a curing medicine to the damages caused by wildlife, while wildlife activists see it as a curse to the rich wildlife in our country. This issue has got dividends within the Union Cabinet as Minister of Women and Child Development Ms. Menaka Gandhi has opposed Environmental Minister Prakash Javadekar’s order.
Environmental Ministry has granted permission to ‘cull’ Rhesus macaque (a monkey species) in Himachal Pradesh and Nilgai in Bihar. Ms.Gandhi charged the Environmental Ministry saying,“The Environment Ministry here is writing to every state asking them which animal they want to kill and they will grant permission. In Bengal, they gave permission to kill elephants. In Himachal, they gave permission to kill monkeys. In Goa, they gave permission to kill peacocks.”
Javadekar responded to the charge, saying “I will not react to who said what. But as per the law, we must help the farmers whose crops get ruined. The state government sends us a proposal and only then we initiate a step for a specific region and for a specific period of time keeping scientific facts in mind.”
Environmental Minister thus conveyed that culling will not take place forever. The hunting will take place until the problems caused by wild animals are controlled. It is not done to destroy a particular species.
Law and History:
Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 classifies animals into four schedules, each getting various levels of protection. Except schedule 1(tiger is included in this schedule), animals under all other schedules can be temporarily slotted as Schedule-5 or ‘Vermin’. Nilgai and Rhesus macaque are under schedules 2 and 3 respectively.
History has seen the slaughter of donkeys and pigs in bulk as they were found to cause some health issues. The killing of street dogs still happens in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. ‘Man-eating’ lions at the Gir national park have been life sentenced at zoos recently.
Himachal Pradesh farmers welcomed the move and also criticized Menaka Gandhi for being more concerned about animals than humans. Complains of crop damages by wild animals is common in our country. The government even pays compensations to few of those losses. But with serious drought in many parts of the country, farmers cannot afford to lose the limited income they get because of these wild animals.
Alternate solutions like electric fencing did not get a positive response from farmers. They argue electric fence can save a farm or two from being damaged. The farmers who cannot afford for electric fence, the issue remains unsolved. They find ‘culling’ as the most suitable solution to the problem.
Culling is not new and is practiced in many parts of the world. But most of the countries have official monitoring to culling. Each death has to be registered so that officials will be able to maintain a male-female ratio of the species thus ensuring the dynamic population.
Some countries even maintain age wise population of species that can be culled. Wildlife activists want such rules to be framed in our country. The fact that 565 mammal species have become extinct in the past 50 years in our country supports their warning.
The fence of the human habitat is getting wider and is eating the grasses of the forests. It is found that most of the Man-Animal conflicts occur in the core residential areas of the so-called ‘vermin’ animals. Animals that cause trouble and annoyance to humans are labeled as vermin. The fault lies in humans as we are exploiting the animals’ residences for our selfish reasons.
Activists urge scientific management to be implemented. This includes an electric fence, the study of animal movement, their breeding places, and food habits. They never say animal life is their top priority, but they want to convey the fact that their loss will inevitably affect humans.
Living a peaceful life is not getting socialized with fellow people and country. Socialization is not done for peace; it’s done because we are social animals. Signing MoUs with all countries is not going to bring harmony. There is something mightier than all called Nature.
It has punished humans time and again for their misbehavior. It is important to find a balance between natural wealth and human development to make the world a more peaceful place to live in.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.