No Comment: Cow Dung Capitalism

“Unadulterated cow urine and dung have always been procured from cow-shelters by the traditional for use at home and in temple pujas. What’s recent is the array of therapeutic and beauty products flooding the market that use these as ingredients. There are face packs, bath scrubbers, mosquito coils and incense sticks that contain cow dung. There are creams, cough syrups, body oils, health tonics, weight-loss tonics, and floor disinfectants that contain distilled cow urine. You name it, they have it. And the names of gau mutra or gau arka (cow urine) or cow dung are not hidden away in long lists of fine print on the packages. It is star-lighted right up front as the chief ingredient in bold letters. You can go to a neighbourhood shop and buy it, or drop by a fancy mall and have it bar-code billed before it’s popped into your shopping bag. And, if you so wish, you can even go online and click—or finger tap—yourself a delivery…

….When Laxmi Rao, a 63-year-old corporate trainer in Delhi, first raised a glass filled one- fourth with a mixture of one drop of gau ark (distilled cow urine) and water to her lips, she didn’t feel the slightest twinge of nausea. She has an interest in alternate forms of therapy and had been suffering from knee pain and acidity for several years. A recommendation from a friend and some quick online research on the medicinal attributes of cow urine led her to give the mixture a shot. “I wasn’t queasy at all,” she says. “I was more like, ‘What the hell, let me give this a try’.” She knocked back the concoction in almost one whole gulp.”

-Lhendup G Bhutia, “Cow Dung Capitalism.” Open. September 16, 2016

Book Review: Every Twelve Seconds by Timothy Pachirat

Highly recommended. Describes in detail the operation of an industrialized slaughterhouse, from the front office to the delivery of cattle and back again. While it is clear the process is inhumane and unsanitary, the working conditions of the employees are the focus. Even if the ethics of killing animals for food is not an issue for you, a system that has one person kill 2,500 cattle, every work day, in order to put meat on your plate has qualities reminiscent of the hypothetical posed in Le Guin’s, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Horrifying, but a book everyone that buys and eats meat in cellophane packaging should read.

“Like its more self-evidently political analogues—the prison, the hospital, the nursing home, the psychiatric ward, the refugee camp, the detention center, the interrogation room, the execution chamber, the extermination camp—the modern industrialized slaughterhouse is a ‘zone of confinement,’ a ‘segregated and isolated territory,’ in the words of sociologist Zygmunt Bagman, ‘invisible’ and ‘on the whole inaccessible to ordinary members of society.’ Close attention to how the work of industrialized killing is performed might thus illuminate not only how the realities of industrialized animal slaughter are made tolerable but the ways distance and concealment operate in analogous social processes: war executed by volunteer armies; the subcontracting of organized terror to mercenaries; and the violence underlying the manufacturing of thousands of items and components we make contact with in our everyday lives…

You may find the descriptions in the pages ahead both physically and morally repugnant. Recognize, however, that this reaction of disgust, this impulse to thumb through the pages so as to locate, separate, and segregate the sterile, abstract arguments from the flat, ugly day-in, day-out, minutiae of the work of killing, is the same impulse that isolates the slaughterhouse from society as a whole and, indeed, that sequesters and neutralizes the work of killing even for those who work in the slaughterhouse itself. The detailed accounts that follow are not merely incidential to or illustrative of a more important theoretical argument about how distance and concealment operate as mechanisms of power in contemporary society. They are the argument.”

—Pachirat, Timothy. “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.