Attention to the Ass
Editorial

Attention to the Ass

December 28, 2019

Both the physical features and behaviour of human beings are often likened to the looks and activities of animals, often to berate both species and occasionally bestowing adoration for the animals for their superior features. The vision of the eagle sighting its prey on the ground while flying at dizzy heights in the sky, describing a courageous person as one with the heart of a lion, comparing the melodious voice of a singer to that of the cuckoo and so on seem to present both human beings and the speechless species on a high pedestal. Those who dare not dare their wives being written off as hen-pecked, many who wilfully dominate others both verbally and physically being compared to the bull (bully) and so on don’t see either species in good light. The dog figuring in the expression dog’s life, the pig known as the animal each with litters brimming with piglets in double figures and so are cases of hurling insults on these species according to those who empathise with animals. The donkey gives them august company for good reasons.

Poets have taken fancy to portray animals in humorous tone while taunting the species in veiled manner. The uncharming physical features of the camel (ushtra) and the ear rattling sound of the braying of the donkey (gaardhaba) is humorously stated in the line ushtraanaancha vivaaheshu geetham gaayanthi gaardabhaha (Donkeys render songs in the weddings of camels).

The elderly residents of Mysuru can recollect the scenes of dhobis coming to their patrons’ homes from nearby villages such as Belagola along with their donkeys with heavy load of both soiled clothes heading for laundering and delivery of neatly pressed clothes. Thanks to change over from the donkey as a carrier of load to the motorised transport, including all types of two-wheelers and three-wheelers, the donkey seems to have earned a well-deserved reprieve. However, threat to the species is looming large as the animals are being traded for producing a traditional medicine called Ejiao in China from the hide of the animal. In the mid 2010s, the price of donkeys began to rise sharply around the world amid Chinese herbalism demands. Eyewitnesses have reported baby donkeys being bludgeoned to death with sledge hammers or killed by having their throats cut according to the agency PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals).

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Decreased use of donkeys for short distance transport in the country’s hinterland and global trading in the species through illegal channels have resulted in a steady decline in the population of donkeys in India, currently estimated at 1,20,000. The plight of the donkeys by inflicting inhuman ways of transporting the species and killing them brutally is a shame on human species.

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