Nagaland is a northeastern Indian state that has instituted a recent ban on the dog meat trade. The state isn’t named for the mythological creatures with serpentine characteristics. Instead, it is named for the Naga people who inhabit northeastern India as well as northwestern Myanmar. As for how the Naga people became known as the Naga people, there is speculation that it is the Burmese term for “people with earrings.” On the whole, Nagaland is one of India’s poorer states. To an extent, this is because it was a peripheral region even before Indian independence. However, there was a long-running conflict in the subsequent decades as well, which has made for a precarious peace in the present time. Regardless, the result is a state that is still very reliant on agriculture, so much so that it makes up more than 70 percent of Nagaland’s economy.
Why Do People in Nagaland Eat Dog Meat?
There is a wide range of reasons why a particular culture might eat dog meat. However, it is important to note that not all of these reasons are applicable to all of the dog-eating cultures that can be found out there. For starters, different cultures can see the same animals in very different ways. Those of us in the western world see dogs as beloved companions, so much so that it is common for us to consider them full-fledged family members in their own right. However, there are other cultures that do not see dogs in the same light. Indeed, there have been entire regions that perceived dogs as livestock in the same way that we perceive pigs and cattle to be livestock, with one example being Mesoamerica and another example being Polynesia. For that matter, there have been and continue to be cultures that see no issues with keeping animals as companions for a time before slaughtering them when certain criteria have been met in spite of the seeming contradiction.
Moving on, there are other potential factors behind the consumption of dog meat. Sometimes, people eat dog meat because of economic reasons. For instance, it is no coincidence that people who are both poor and rural have a reputation for being willing to make use of a wider range of food sources. One, hunger can be very persuasive. Two, being in a rural region makes it possible for them to utilize food sources that cannot be found in urban environments. Having said that, it is interesting to note that increasing wealth can cause people to eat dog meat as well, as shown by stories that rising incomes have caused some Indonesians to eat more dog meat because it is a cheaper meat than beef. In any case, there are also people who eat dog meat because of custom, which can be very old in some cases but much more recent in others. For instance, there are some places where people continue eating dog meat because they have developed a taste for it after sampling it during a famine.
In Nagaland, the dog meat trade seems to be rooted in local culture. Apparently, some of the Naga people as well as other Tibeto-Burman communities in Northeast India see dog meat as a delicacy. On top of that, there are individuals who believe that its consumption has medical benefits, which is something seen in other dog-eating regions as well.
What Is the Legal Status of the Dog Meat Trade in Nagaland?
There are some people who have argued that wider Indian law means that the dog meat trade should be illegal in Nagaland. However, if that is indeed the case, that hasn’t prevented people in the state from eating dog meat. Now, Nagaland authorities have instituted their own ban on the dog meat trade, which covers everything from the trading of dogs for said purpose to the trading of both cooked and uncooked dog meat.
As for why that has happened, the reason isn’t exactly mysterious. Like other dog-eating regions, Nagaland has taken some serious PR hits because of the practice. This is because a very influential swathe of the world sees the dog meat trade as barbaric with the result that they see dog meat eaters as barbarians. Moreover, there is an association of the dog meat trade with backwardness, which is not the kind of image that most regions want for themselves. Combined, these factors mean that the dog meat trade can have a very real effect on a region’s reputation, which in turn, impacts more factors than what can be listed in the space of a single article. Of course, there are also plenty of people from Nagaland who support the banning of the dog meat trade, as shown by their efforts to raise awareness of the issue both inside and outside of the state. Something that undoubtedly played an important role in securing this outcome.
Having said that, there are a couple of factors that still need to be considered. One, there is the matter of enforcement. Two, there is the concern of the ban being seen as an encroachment on local culture.
First, the institution of a ban is a start rather than an end to the matter. There are some people who will listen to the authorities as soon as the ban comes in, but there are also some people who will not, thus creating a need for enforcement. On top of that, there are plenty of people who will need to be informed about the change because most people don’t keep up with every single one of the changes made by the authorities, meaning that it is perfectly possible for someone to miss something like this. Suffice to say that all of these things will require effort as well as other resources to be carred out, which in turn, requires strong institutions.
Second, there is the concern that the ban could be seen as a “civilizing mission,” which is a very loaded term to say the least. As stated earlier, Nagaland was seen as a peripheral region even before Indian independence, with the result that there are still some very negative stereotypes at work when it comes to how the Naga people are perceived as well as how the Naga people are treated. For instance, the foods of the Naga people are often seen as disgusting by mainsteam India, which is by no means limited to the consumption of dog meat. As such, the ban is bound to cause some upset, though time will tell how such sentiments will express themselves as well as how such sentiments will be managed by the authorities.