Animal Domestication: A Naga Perspective
The recent proposition of Ajit Singh Mofar, "We can make arrangements to catch such dogs ... send them to Nagaland, Mizoram and China where they are more needed," has sparkled a lot of issues. Besides, his prejudice may also disseminate. In this light it is important to make ‘others’ understand Naga eating habits and their culture of animal domestication.
Since time immemorial of the Nagas, they hunt, domesticate and eat meat. It is primarily because of abundant availability of wild animals (especially during their times of yore) and unfavourable geographical conditions (topography, climate, soil, etc) that restrict cultivation of vegetables. Like any other meat eating community, hunting and domestication of livestock are intrinsic to the tradition and nutrition of Nagas. Nagas also have traditionally defined community hunting. Such community meat would be equally shared among all village members and through traditional meat smoking and storing technique, the meat would last for weeks and even months. Smoked meat is stored in the same spirit as the mainstream Indians store wheat and rice. Many ‘outsiders’ who haven’t really seen and experienced Naga ways may relate it to gluttony but it is an intrinsic aspect of Naga culture of nourishment. However, due to awareness of wildlife conservation, except for fish, wild animals are not hunted through individual or organized community activity.
Domestication of dog, cattle, pig and chicken in Nagaland is a part of their animal husbandry. It is simply an extension of every school student’s essay - ‘Domestic Animal’. Every household in Nagaland domesticate some or at least one of these livestock. For those who don’t eat, it is a financial source as for instance a piglet is sold at about Rs. 2000 while a pup costs about Rs 500. As such, domestication of animals serves two fold purposes - food and money. While pork, fish, chicken and beef are popular delicacies, dog meat is consumed only by few. Those families that domesticate dogs as pet give them proper nutrition, love and care. In fact, Nagas are very well aware of the nature of love and affection they get from their pet dogs. Whether one gets back from tiring day’s work or from long absence, pet dogs welcome you home – they run around you wagging their tails as a sign of their immense unconditional love for their owners. They are very much a part of family and home for those who domesticate. In most homes in Nagaland, dogs are fed with the same food the owners eat - they only have separate plate and dining space.
North-East India (Particularly Nagaland and Mizoram) don’t seem to have space in their streets or stomach for stray dogs of other states. It is to be made very clear that while very few eat dog meat in Nagaland, it is unimaginable for these few to have a try on stray dogs. Believe it or not, dog meat is not a delicacy in any household and does find place in any menu of hotel or restaurant in Nagaland. In fact, many Nagas don’t eat pork and beef sold in metro cities because of the unhygienic ways in which pigs and cattle are raised. The disgusting sight of unattended stray cattle and pigs in the cities and the kind of food they feed on makes it unimaginable for human consumption. There cannot be a better testament of Naga eating habits.
Having said these, far from being ‘derogatory’, Ajit Singh Mofar’s proposition to send stray dogs to Nagaland only surface his sheer ignorance of Naga Culture and his bankruptcy of ideas to tackle his state created ‘menace’ of stray dogs. Of course, the states of Nagaland and Mizoram, if approached in an amicable manner, may give practical training in animal domestication to any other state in India. Some families may also be ready to adopt them as pets and give care, love and proper nutrition.
(The writer can be reached at email@example.com)
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