To kill a baby

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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Nothing is sweeter than a baby of any species: Nothing angers us more than when a human baby is killed. The waste of a life, the cruelty on an innocent being, shocks us.

But we do not apply the same sensitivities or principles to other babies. During this COVID period, when people have become meaner and less tolerant, so many newly born puppies and kittens have been put in sacks and thrown into sewers, ponds, and garbage. The only difference now is that whenever a litter has disappeared, angry animal welfare people have gone looking for it and have complained to the police.

There are people who celebrate events by eating babies. Pigs are as intelligent as humans and very close to them genetically. But piglets suckling on their mother’s milk are slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks and eaten for important occasions – wedding dinners or a party for a baby’s completion of its first month of life. The suckling pig is a popular dish in the Southern US. The Cochon de Lait festival is held annually in Louisiana where suckling pigs are roasted alive. How are these little babies killed? Because the eater wants to see the head as well, they are killed in pig farms by repeatedly swinging them by their hind legs and thumping them against a concrete wall – in front of their mothers.

The word veal means baby cow. There are so many kinds of veal. One is Bob veal where the calf is slaughtered two hours to two days after its birth, without feeding him or letting him drink water. The meat is almost white and is completely tasteless. Another kind is slink veal. This comes from unborn, premature (induced labour), or stillborn calves. It is banned but it is still sold both for leather and for meat. Then is veal which is sold all over the world and is one of the most cruel dishes to be served, eaten by the sickest of people. The male baby is separated from the mother at birth, placed in an extremely tight crate where he cannot even turn around or move at all. The baby is fed no solid food, just an artificial mixture of chemicals (milk replacer) that keep it just alive for 18-22 weeks. Its flesh, deprived of all minerals and solid food, remains pale and tender. These crates do not allow calves to turn around, much less walk, run, play, or socialise with other animals. They cannot lie down comfortably, or even clean themselves. One video on YouTube shows workers, at a major Canadian veal supplier, kicking, punching, and beating baby calves, and babies suffering from open wounds, without any veterinary care.

Squids are tubular, multi armed, intelligent animals of the sea. Pregnant squid mothers dive from the shallow waters where they live to great depths. They carry this huge bag of eggs for up to nine months, taking great care of the developing babies. Baby squids are then gathered by people and the dishes, calamari in Italian or puntillitas in Spain, are made from them. Battered and fried baby squid is puntillitas. Squid stewed in its own black ink is called calamares en su tinta or chipirones en su tinta – a black stew-like dish in which squid meat is very tender, and is accompanied by a thick black sauce usually made with onion, tomato, and the squid ink of
the mother.

The saddest mummy story is that of the octopus mother. She remains pregnant for four-five months, then she starts expelling her eggs into the water, one at a time over a month. She stitches these into hanging braids, like a bead curtain. Then she retreats into her cave and hangs them up. She sits guard for months protecting her children and constantly waving her arms, making sure that nothing harmful settles on them. She fights with potential predators, keeping them away from the eggs. For six months she never eats and, by the time the offspring emerge, she has nearly starved to death. With her last bit of energy she blows all her babies out of the den into the open water. Once they are gone she dies. Then we take the babies and kill them, dip them in sauce and eat them as snacks with cocktails. How many of 56,000 babies make it to adulthood? Perhaps two.

Baby eels, the most mysterious creatures on earth, are only born in the Sargasso Sea, from where they drift thousands of miles to reach Europe, where they turn into transparent glass eels who travel up brooks and rivers to change into their third avatar of the yellow eel. These eels live up to 200 years if we let them. But people catch the babies and eat them. And now eels are in a very rapid decline: your children will probably never see them.

There is a special dish which originated in Spain – the country whose name means Rabbit. It is ‘Noisettes de lapereau sauce cacao’. It means baby rabbits cooked in chocolate sauce. In China, baby mice are drowned in wine and left there for a year. The wine is sold as
a health tonic.

Hitler’s favourite food was squab. Baby pigeons. The lifespan of a pigeon is about six years and they are very family minded. They feed and look after their children till they are adults. Squabs are raised until they are roughly a month old and still cannot fly. Then they are strangled and cooked into tiny mouthfuls. Squab meat has its origin in Roman cooking and is now part of the cuisine of many countries.

Lamb, or the baby of a sheep or goat, is a common dish. Sweetbread is a name for the throat, gullet, neck or pancreas of a lamb or calf. Sweetbreads can also be the tongue or testicles of these babies. A veal tongue is often put into Russian salad. In Japan, the tongues of baby cows are grilled into a dish called gyutan. The spinal marrow is taken from the bones of young calves, and their feet are used for soup. Baby lamb kidneys and liver are special delicacies. Many years ago I did an advertisement for the Amul owned Safal. I held a lamb in my arms and other lambs milled around. They were all going for slaughter after the shooting and, as part of the payment for the ad, I took the entire herd. (The rest of the payment was a year’s supply of peashells to feed the cows in my hospital!)

A turkey lives 10 years. But babies just eight weeks old are a must at Thanksgiving dinners. Little baby ducks, barely out of their sweet yellow fuzzy fur, are also eaten.

What a wretched species we are that we do not spare even the babies of our
co-inhabitants.