~ 10 minute read
Trigger warning : couple of photos in the blog include pictures of dead animals.
We keep posting a lot of happy stories about the farm life and the domesticated animals we rear. But the complete picture is more uglier than the image social media prods us to create. We want to do justice to the complete picture as much as possible, by sharing more sad incidents from the farm. Sugarcoating is easy, the complete truth is rarely convenient.
Even with the noblest of intention of protecting wild life, our way of life causes quite some harm. Here are 3 examples :
As you know, we rear dogs at the farm. We want dogs around in order to protect us from ill meaning humans and wild animals that might endanger our domesticated animals. Their number keeps varying. Some have gotten snatched by leopards. Some have been poisoned by neighbouring farmers. But 2 of them, Suli and Paani have stayed with us for the last 2 years.
They occasionally hunt wild birds, hares and even some of the chicken we rear. They along with more dogs from the nearby village have even hunted down Sambhar deer calves. The adults are too large in comparison to our indie canines. The conservation status of Sambhar deers is Vulnerable. While the deers end up winning the chase in most of the cases, when the pack of dogs hunting is large, on rare occasions, they end up being the hunted. The dogs mostly don’t feast on their kills. Their wild instinct has been tamed by all the cooked food they are assured by us. They end up killing nevertheless.
India’s Revered Pachyderm
Elephants are classified as Endangered in their conservation status. We aren’t in the route of any old elephant corridor. But, for the first time in known history of this village, elephants have started turning up in and around farms of Vikramasingapuram for the last 3 years from the nearby Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR). They feast on coconut and palmyra leaves, banana trees, bamboo, sugarcane and the likes. From the main road to our farm, there are a total of 5 farms, including ours. We are the last one down the road. The farm borders the reserve forest on the west. We have an electrified solar fence around half of the farm. The penultimate farm on the road, is owned by Chellakutti, an old farmer who resides in the neighbouring village. He used to cultivate sugarcane and rice predominantly among other crops. The common animals that feast on these crops are sambhar deers. He couldn’t afford to employ people round the clock to protect his crop, nor did he have the wealth to install a legal low-power electrified fence. (More on how the electric fence works in the next story). In order to protect his sugarcane crop, he and his son used an illegal method of drawing power from the motor room for the pump in his well and connected them to GI wires which he used to fence the sugarcane crop. The smell of the sugarcane crop lured a stray female elephant to his land. The stray elephant got electrocuted and died on the spot. Chellakutti was arrested and fined. He is now out on bail. But he has not practiced farming ever since.
Who do you think is at fault here for this incident?
1. The farmer because he didn’t follow the law?
2. The forest department for failing to have reduced man-animal conflicts?
3. Or all of us humans, present and past, collectively, because we have disconnected our lives from land and food, enabling the system where very few people grow our food, shifting the intensity of violence of agriculture from the many to the few, burdening them and trapping them.
Indian Pangolin / அழுங்கு/ எறும்பு தின்னி
The land that we own had not been used for agriculture for several years and the wilderness had captured parts of it. When we bought land so close to the forest, to tame the land for our humane and organic food forest, we knew that we would have to fence the land to grow perennial or annual crops. The choice for the fence was between
1. a live fence with thorny species – most humane, but takes several years and lots of observeation & effort to establish
2. a barbed wire or meshed fence – can be built immediately, but can be trespassed easily by burrowing animals and animals that can climb trees
3. an electrified fence – can be built immediately, cannot be trespassed easily, but least eco-friendly, given dependence on battery replacement every 5 years, and solar panels every 20 years
The fence around our farm is a 6 feet tall one with 9 GI wires running parallel to each other. 7 of these are electrified by a battery, which is charged by a solar panel. The energiser from the battery converts the power into a millisecond long DC pulse every second. The current passing is not a high power AC current which is the case with the illegal electrified fence in the above incident. This is not supposed to cause any major injury. The electricity passing through is supposed to only act as a deterrent to any human or animal trying to trespass the demarcated fence. Our dogs, puppies and we have gotten hit accidentally by the fence several times. Other than a momentary sensation of pain, there isn’t any other adverse impact on mammals usually. At least, that’s what we thought so.
3 years after installing the fence, we had observed only ants, frogs and crabs dying from the shock, that too rarely. So, it came as a shock to us, when we found an Indian Pangolin dead on one of the lower wires. Pangolin are nocturnal animals. They are an endangered species, mostly on account of poaching and habitat loss. We keep the electrified fence on between 6 pm and 6 am when all of us, esp. cows and dogs, are back to the domus. It seemed like the Pangolin tried to enter the fence middle of the night. Pangolins, like ant-eaters, feed on ants and termites. They prefer tree shade and shrubs where it is easy to dig. Given our non-violent zero-till system of cultivating perennial crops (fruit & timber trees) in more than 80% of our fenced area, our area has been getting rich in all of these. A pangolin died on the day of writing this blog – that’s what prompted me to write this blog. I felt tremendous grief because this was the first occasion I had encountered this beautiful animal ever and it’s death was my way of encountering it.
It would be easy to dismiss these incidents as a cycle of life and death in the wild, in nature. But it is not morally easy dealing with the death of wild animals; especially after having read so much about the ethics around agriculture and the incidental violence that is endured by other species by the intensive practice of growing food. After having gained the knowledge about how fragile ecosystems that we depend on for our survival are, how they are dependent on a delicate balance of populations of plants-animals-microbes, it pains us when our action of growing & protecting a selective few crops, killed animals which didn’t mean us harm. The movement of sustainability needs us to recognize humanity’s dependence on all other life on earth. That’s why we started organic farming – because it is more humane than the conventional industrial ways of farming. Our diets already involve a lot of violence. We wanted to switch to a rural way of life to reduce the violence caused by our lives, not increase it.
What are your thoughts around man-animal conflict on account of agriculture, industralization etc.? Please share in comments below or write to us over email firstname.lastname@example.org