The Oxford dictionary defines the word inhumane as ‘without compassion for misery or suffering‘. An interpretation could be that the need of compassion holds applicable only to humans. Does ill-treating and abusing an animal qualify for ‘inhumane’? The faux pas of our oversight to animals has an indirect yet intricate effect on the quality of their life, which we claim is provided rightfully by us.
Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Yansampanno, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, 3 hours west of Bangkok was opened in 1994 as a monastery whose doctrine was more or less in alignment with protection and conservation of wild animals which mostly included Indochinese tigers, classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List. The temple, a popular tourist attraction where visitors can spend time with light-headed tigers cuddling and taking photographs with them have been making a business out of it from ever since it was open with annual earnings of about $3 million.
NGOs in the past have accused the monastery of physically abusing and poorly feeding the tigers while conservation groups such as Humane Society International, World Wide Fund for Nature, etc made public outcries against the trafficking of tigers to Laos. However, the stature of the Buddhist monastery in a widely Buddhist nation and the influence of its abbot, Phra Wisutthisarathen made it difficult to present a case against the monastery thus keeping the operations behind the monastery’s system of breeding very much in the shadows.
The temple’s method of breeding endangered species and their export to private farms in Laos violates the guidelines of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty of which Thailand is a signatory.When came under the media scanner in 2006, a private investigation led by ABC weren’t able to unearth anything worth suspicion. The monastery claims the tigers are bred to be self-sustainable so that they could survive once they are dropped into the surrounding forests.
A tip from an insider led to a raid in the temple by Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant conservation on the 26th of May. As much as 70 tiger cub carcasses have been found in an industrial size freezer and more than 30 alive hornbills have been discovered in the raid. The cubs were found out to be of one to ten days old while their birth or death have been unaccounted for in the registers.
Clearly a case of illegal breeding, the government is still reluctant to act, whose incompetence even after cries and accusations from NGOs, was paid with the price of innocent lives. The monks have been choking the efforts of wildlife organizations to relocate the tigers. The fate of the remaining tigers in the temple seems uncertain as of now with the government confused to deal with the increasingly sensitive issue.
A former legal counsel to the monastery has revealed that the monastery’s abbot has raised funds to start tiger temples in Europe leaving much speculations about the monastery’s motives. Established as Tiger Temple Company Ltd. in 2015, the temple has turned into a business machine whose main commodity is tigers. Transfer of commodities in future could mean trafficking Asian tigers to European locations which in itself could turn a threat to the tigers’ lives. With ongoing legal battles between the monastery and Wildlife department, the fate of the remaining tigers is shrouded with much uncertainty.
But who will take responsibility for the reported deaths or possibly murder of about 70 cubs? We can pin it on the government’s reluctance to act or on the monastery’s cruelty and abuse. But the finger points to the collective conscience of the people as to why we allow such an institution to thrive among us? Why do visitors pay and get their selfies taken with an animal in poor health? The right place to see a tiger is the jungle. What is the point in getting your picture taken with an animal that is far from its home, stripped off of its wilderness with only desperation and longing in their eyes, probably going to die during abuse?
A right sense of coexistence can only take form if and when one stop being insensitive towards other beings for trivial motives and start acknowledging the fact that his/her life wrests the power to affect their lives either adversely or beneficially, as per one’s own choice.