Early Autumn is the time that most animals are brought to market. It is then – after feeding on lush and abundant grasses all summer – that they are their fattest and draw the highest price. Farmers and ranchers, and families with a yak or two line up outside the slaughterhouse and await their turn to sell their animals.
Coming from many valleys throughout Eastern Tibet, these large animals are already stressed out when they arrive, many having been crowded into the backs of trucks for the long ride to the slaughterhouse. But their terror is unequaled as they wait in line to be bought, listening to screams spilling from the bowels of the death house, the smell of blood hanging in the air. Their eyes wide with fright, they are difficult to contain. Some tremble; others cower in a corner or where they stand; still others run in circles, as if they might get somewhere. Powerless over their destinies, they seem to know there is no escape.
This year, thanks to the generous support of our donors, we had the fortune of saving and releasing 21 yaks, dzo, oxen, and cows. The rescue of each of these animals makes us feel good. Those waiting outside the slaughterhouse for entry are less expensive, as the seller makes quick cash without a long wait. But the rescue of the more expensive animals purchased from the inside of the death house – those who have been deprived of food and water for a week or longer while stuffed alongside their brethren in a crowded and stinking pen only to meet a brutal death – feels heroic.
The first order of business is to rehydrate these animals. They run from the confines of the slaughterhouse and we give them as much water as they will take. How wonderful it is to watch them drink in life with such thirst! We feed them corn, apples, potatoes. They feel much better. Having been scared almost to death, many of them are aggressive at first, but I think they realize they are going to a better place, and they calm down, little by little.
Then we walk them about 40 minutes to the village. There, the horns of these large creatures are painted a beautiful red and yellow, heralding their protected status. In joy, some of the paint is spilled and ends up smeared on their magnificent bodies.
Seven monks perform an hour-long ceremony, chanting, reciting mantras and prayers. They bless the animals, wishing them a peaceful walk on the path to an auspicious life in which they will have the opportunity to become enlightened beings.
Next, they are taken to Tsethar’s sanctuary – about a 5 hour walk from the village. Released into safely, they wander about in a band, taking in the views, smelling the clean air, nibbling on fresh grass. Then they scatter. This – the vast Tibetan plain – is their home now. Here they will live their lives undisturbed until a natural death takes them.
The tsethar of these beings is not possible without your support. Thank you for this opportunity!
Executive Director, Tsethar International