Saturday, April 29, 2006

If pigs have a say, they would sue the mayor

(Written, May 2005, when the pig menace at its peak, rather activists-group generated media noise was loud. The then mayor had made it his crusade to banish pigs from Mysore city limits. Nothing much came of it. I don’t suppose the Mysore pigs have a grouse against the present mayor.)

If pigs in Mysore are allowed to have their say, they would bring a class action suit against the city mayor, for his threat to liquidate them. If, by divine intervention or through Hollywood special-effects, they acquire the power of speech, our city-bred pigs would rush to the media and hold a press conference, lashing out at the Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP). Dubbed a consumer 'anarchist' group in some quarters, MGP has been pressing for action against, what they call, the pig menace. Pigs are not amused at such activism.

And then pigs need to counter the scare-mongers who cry ‘encephalitis’. If they can learn to write, the pigs would e-mail a forceful op-ed piece or send a ‘mother-of-all’ letter-to-the-editor to local media to put an end to all letters from health alarmists who drop unpronounceable medical names and drip like a tap with their unending grouse against neighbourhood pigs.

In view of the incessant complaints from anti-pig residents and the MGP's unceasing call for action, the municipal corporation has resolved to combat the menace on a war footing. It is reckoned that Mysore has a pig population exceeding 18,000. And for years they have been accustomed to having the run of the streets, working the garbage dumps, thoughtfully left un-emptied and overflowing by municipal sanitation staff.

We have it from a Siddharthanagar resident that our pigs are accomplished trench diggers as well. With their sharp teeth and strong jaws, pigs work close to people's compound walls to tunnel their way under the wall into residential compounds. They fancy electrical insulation material. Pigs dig holes around electricity poles to be able to chew on the casing and cable insulation.

The city mayor has notified a shoot-at-sight order against pigs found on streets after June 1 (or is it June 15?). If pigs don't seem particularly perturbed, it may be because of our civic body's poor credibility among people. Perhaps even pigs don't take their pronouncements seriously.A few weeks back the mayor had declared that special squads were out on the streets, rounding up pigs and holding them at a specially designated pen outside the city. A pig squad seen at work in the city provided a photo opportunity for local papers.

A week after 'Operation Pig' got under way, some MGP members along with a few media men visited the place to see how the pigs were doing in captivity. But there was not a soul to be found in the pen.The city mayor was quick with an explanation. There had been a glitch in the choice of location and the civic body was looking at another site for the pig rehab centre. The mayor, however, refuted any suggestion that the civic body played out a 'farce' that was billed ‘Operation Pig’.

The mayor's shoot-at-sight order is the latest in the ongoing pig story.But then other municipalities elsewhere in the country had announced such radical measures and invited trouble from animal rights activists. The Mumbai city corporation notified some time back that stray pigs in Mumbai would be killed at the rate of 1000 per week. This was to prevent spread of infection from the Japanese encephalitis virus. It is a mosquito-borne disease that hits animals and humans alike. Mosquitoes that feed on pigs infected with the virus transmit it to humans.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) advanced the argument that the answer to the virus was vaccination, and not annihilation. PETA has it that the encephalitis virus has been contained through vaccine, not pig killings, in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. PETA campaigned among Mumbaikars, with a plea that they flood the city corporation with letters, asking how they could think of killing pigs as an option when vaccine was available.Relocating city pigs raised the issue of animal rights abuse.

Pigs, like most of us, are said to be sensitive to withdrawal of long-enjoyed benefits and privileges, such as unfettered freedom of movement on the city streets. How could the municipal corporation now talk of driving them off their familiar environs? No self-respecting pig can be expected to put up with this. The authorities also expose themselves to the charge of discrimination. They want to drive pigs out of the city streets, while no one is calling for action against cows and other livestock that roam the city streets.Such blatant discrimination by humans would not go well with pigs.

Animal experts would have us believe that pigs are stubborn and headstrong, and, like many of us, they get bored easily. It is unlikely that city-bred pigs would enjoy relocation to a 'halli' setting. We are cautioned by behavioural experts that when pigs get bored they become very destructive.

Pigs may never fly. But Mysorean pigs are modest. They merely seek the power of speech from the miracle maker. So that they can have their say. And the first two words they utter may well be, “Enough’s enough”.

No comments: