The nilgai, or “blue bull” in Hindi, is a species of antelope native to northern India. Traditionally classified as cattle, nilgai are therefore considered sacred animals in Hindu culture, making it a grievous sin to kill them or eat their flesh. Despite this, some two hundred blue bulls have been killed just in the past several days, authorized by Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for the Environment and a spokesperson for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Naturally preyed upon by tigers, lions, and leopards, nilgai populations have multiplied due to the eradication of most large carnivores in India, while human irrigation has allowed them to expand their range into formerly inhospitable desert. This has recently put them into conflict with farmers in the Indian state of Bihar, who have demanded government action to prevent the blue bulls from eating their crops. In May 2015, Bihar’s State Board of Wild Life decided to classify nilgai as “vermin,” leading up to this week’s decision by the Environment Ministry to approve culling of blue bulls by paid hunters.
Blue bulls are not the only animals at risk of culling. The Environment Ministry has also granted permission to kill wild pigs in Bihar, and Rhesus macaques in Himachal Pradesh. Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development and an influential spokesperson for animal rights, condemns Prakash Javadekar’s “lust for killing animals” and alleges that he has also allowed slaughter of peacocks in Goa and elephants in West Bengal.
Other politicians and activists have also criticized the killings. “We never recommend animals to be killed,” says Vinod Ranjan, Additional Director General of Forests. “The entire gamut of issues linked to declaration of wild animals as vermin… ought to have been discussed by the National Board of Wildlife,” says Praveen Bhargav, a conservation activist and former board member. “However, the full NBWL has not met in two years.”
FIAPO, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, has drafted a letter of protest to the Environment Ministry, which you can sign here. Animal activist and historian Dr. Nanditha Krishna has called for a tweet storm to protest the cullings of nilgai and other wild animals across India:
“The large-scale slaughter has begun in Bihar. Please storm tweets to @PMOIndia, @narendramodi and @PrakashJavdekar. We need help to stop this horror. Please tell your governments to object. Tell travel agents to cancel India bookings. … Please tweet to @PMOIndia and @narendramodi asking him to SACK Prakash Javdekar. Javdekar has written to all the states asking them which animals they would like to declare as vermin and cull. He is terrible. He has a lust for blood.”
To read The Hindu’s coverage of the wildlife killings, see: