Saturday, 8 June 2013

A day in the life of a goat

“Every dog has his day.”

That’s what we have heard since our kindergarten. And this is what I say whenever my near and dear ones are in distress. However, when I saw 23 goats being hauled into the dark chambers of a bus, I was damn sure those poor creatures never had had their days.

More than 10 thousand goats end up being slaughtered every day in Nepal to satisfy the greedy gluttons.  According to a Heifer International study, Nepal has a goat population of 9.19 million and the total demand of goat meat in the country is about 70,307 MT. Out of the total current supply, 8,566 MT is imported and 52,809 MT (86%) is supplied from domestic production. Still, there is a gap of 8,932 MT equalling 565,300 additional goats annually (with an average carcass weight of 15.8 kg /goat).  

I encountered the cruel goat transportation while I was on my way to Kathmandu from Surkhet in a night bus. The goats were being ferried from Chhinchu, a small town in the mid-western Nepal, to Kathmandu, the capital city.

I left Surkhet at 4.30 pm. After driving for almost an hour drive the bus screeched to a halt at Chhinchu and it was time for snacks and a bio-break. Getting off the bus, I bought some oranges. While I was busy peeling off an orange, the bus headed to a nearby petrol pump. 

Then the next sight was horrendous. Three men were hauling goats inside a tiny compartment made under the bus. The goats, tagged on their horns, were bleating with pain while the men were pulling them (the goats) by their ears. I was astonished to see them haul six goats in a small compartment at the back of the bus. There was enough space only for two goats.

The 20 minutes allocated for snacks elongated to an hour’s stop. To know about the goat trade, I cracked conversation with the jolly fellow, the conductor.

“These are one of the best goats in the region,” said the boy in green shirt. “The big ones exceeding 30 Kgs in weight draw Rs 260 (1 USD = 90 Rs) per Kg and the ones below 30 Kgs fetch Rs 220 per Kg.”  He was giggling and helping the traders haul the goats into the bus.

The goats command the price as per their weight. The goat meat of the same goat is sold at Rs 650 in Kathmandu. The transportation costs Rs 280-300 per goat depending upon its weight.

While talking with them, I was clicking the pictures with my Samsung cellphone. The boy in green got closer to me. He too had a Samsung set and he wanted a favour from me. He urged to take his picture with a goat and send it via Bluetooth to his mobile. 

He posed riding a goat and I didn’t miss the moment to get further information from him. I transferred the photo to his set and waited for the right moment to get details of the goat trade from him. 

I counted the goats being thrown inside the dark chambers under the bus. All in all they adjusted 23 goats in the bus. There was no empty space, enough not even for a handful of grass. The transporters were like butchers. How can they even think of feeding the goats?

The goats were packed like sardines inside the space carved out between the four wheels of the bus and at the back of the bus. From outside it seemed nothing unusual. There was no trace of more than a score of goats being loaded in the bus. The goats bleated for few minutes and then everything was calm. The bus continued its journey to Kathmandu.

The conductor cracked jokes and entertained the passengers on the way. “I pray the Lord to keep the goats mum while passing by the police check-posts,” he joked. “Otherwise I would need to cough up few hundreds at each check-post.”

On enquiring about the legal aspects, he showed me a permission letter from the District Livestock Services Office (DLSO). The letter stated the duration between which the goats could be transported to Kathmandu for meat purposes and the goats were free of any communicable diseases. The quantity mentioned in the letter was 20 but the number of goats loaded was 23. So, he used to be extra careful while dealing with the policemen at the check-posts.

I could imagine the pain and trauma the goats were going through. Still they remained silent during the journey, bleating only at some big jolts. They had adapted well to the situation. It might be the warmth of the companionship that was keeping them intact. Outside it was cold though not freezing.

After a strenuous ride of 15 hours, we reached Kathmandu. I was eager to see the plight of the goats. As the bus stopped, a white TATA Ace mini-truck parked parallel to the bus and two young boys started pulling out the goats from the bus.

The goats were lifeless; the bus stunk of goat urine and droppings. Lifting a goat weighing 50 Kgs and throwing it to the mini-truck was a child’s play for the boys. They were used to it.

Finally, the mini-truck was full with the bleating goats. It headed towards the butcher’s. It was the goats’ last day in this world. Alas, they hadn’t had their day in their lifetime!         

The cruel goat transportation in pictures


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