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Can the Roaring Tiger be Replaced by Amiable Cow as National Animal?

A day after the Tamil Nadu High Court stayed the Centre’s new rules to impose a blanket prohibition on the slaughtering of cattle (cows, bulls, buffaloes, camels, heifers) brought from animal markets, ‘cow’ was in the spotlight yet again before another high court on Wednesday.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:May 31, 2017, 4:00 PM IST
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Can the Roaring Tiger be Replaced by Amiable Cow as National Animal?
Representative Image. (Photo: Reuters)

New Delhi: A day after the Tamil Nadu High Court stayed the Centre’s new rules to impose a blanket prohibition on the slaughtering of cattle (cows, bulls, buffaloes, camels, heifers) brought from animal markets, ‘cow’ was in the spotlight yet again before another high court on Wednesday.

The Rajasthan High Court has now recommended that the Central government should make ‘cow’ the national animal of India, apart from making laws that could entail punishment up to life imprisonment for the culling.

The suggestion could just be an innocent observation made by the HC, while it was wrapping up a PIL seeking protection of the bovine but apparently it tends to overlook the criteria required for designating an animal as a ‘national animal’.

So what does it take to assign the ‘national animal’ status?

A national animal, for a country, is one of the emblematic representations of its fauna and natural abundance. This choice is based on various criteria, the most important of which is how well this animal can be symbolic of a country’s history, heritage and culture, and can also exude certain characteristics that a nation would want to be identified with. Usually, a national animal is in plenty within the country and is an indigenous species.

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These criteria would explain red kangaroo being the national animal of Australia; kiwi in New Zealand, bear in Russia and springbok in South Africa as the national animals of the countries respectively.

The Royal Bengal Tiger has been India’s national animal since 1972 – the year when the Wildlife Protection Act was passed by the parliament. A committee in the government had evaluated various choices before recommending that the Royal Bengal tiger should be the country’s national animal.

The Royal Bengal tiger symbolised a combination of strength, agility and elegance. Not just the Royal Bengal tiger was a source of visual beauty as one of the most handsome and regal carnivores among the Indian fauna, the species also radiated unparalleled strength.

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The Scientific name for the Royal Bengal Tiger is Panthera tigris and it is the largest of the four big cats under the genus Panthera (Lion, Tiger, Jaguars and Leopards). The Royal Bengal tiger is among the eight varieties of tigers found in India.

Another vital consideration in the selection pertained to the conservation status of the Royal Bengal tiger. It was decided that designating it as the national animal will give a boost to better efforts towards its continued survival.

Soon after the official status, Project Tiger was launched in 1973 to ensure their conservation and to increase their numbers. Dedicated tiger reserves (now 48 in number) were established across the country under this project to provide a viable environment to the big cat. Ranthambore National Park is a fine example of this exercise.

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It is thus a grave question if the ‘cow’ can ever be assigned the official status of the national animal when the convention prescribes a detailed exercise and specific reasons to grant this position. The HC’s suggestion may also not sit well with the conservation status of the bovine — a criterion explicitly considered when the Royal Bengal Tiger was given the official status.

At a time when the slaughter rules are already being questioned by several states, any move to elevate the official status of ‘cow’ is also likely to kick up a political storm, amid arguments over one’s right to eat food of his choice and the commercial consequences should the bovine be declared as the national animal.

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| Edited by: Puja Menon
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