The slaughter of the badger

The long day of yesterday left me completely exhausted. It was not just the climb to the mountain top, the rush to the sky burial and lots of walking that did the job, but the altitude of this place that put a strain on the body even performing usual activities. I was so excited about exploring this place that I didn’t care to check my enthusiasm and kept gambolling around all day.

As if it was not enough, we spent the last hour of sunlight at the temple on one of the highest points. Devout worshipper were performing their prostrations or spinning the prayer wheels around the building, which were all provided with dynamos and attached by a cable to collect the power generated.

The bus leaves at 6 in the chilly hours before dawn and follows a magnificent itinerary along beautiful valleys, grasslands, later covered by a rich vegetation of fir trees, often alongside streams or rivers. In the early afternoon we get dumped at a crossroads at the entrance of a tunnel where the highway branches.

We find a minivan to Jinchuan that starts its journey crossing an incredible amount of brand new tunnels dug in what seems to have been a playground for civil engineers. From the moving minibus we sight a badger walking on the lane, moments before it hides into the bush. Even from the back seat I could spot the characteristic white stripe across its back.

The car screeches to a halt and three very excited passengers get off. It doesn’t take them long to ferret out the pretty creature, which at first I thought they wanted to see from close and fondle. However it soon turns out to be a cruel hunting party, because, regardless of my angry protests, the driver is holding it by the neck while a passenger smashes its head with a big stone. I can’t believe such uncivilised barbarity could happen under my averted gaze.

The agonising animal is placed between the feet of the woman at the front who is already japping in glee for the catch. But, when after some time the stunned animal starts coming round and give signs of life, the woman takes fright and wants to get rid of the beast from between her feet. They think better to stove it at the back of the van, on the backpacks behind our neck.

But enough is enough. If I couldn’t stop their goings-on earlier, I may well say I am not going to accept the bleeding body on my luggage behind my head. I threaten to alight here and now and I am very adamant.  Far from suspecting the reason for our indignation, they exchange some blank looks and let the poor animal lurch back into the woods.

I was indignant when they smashed the badger’s skull, but when they set it free after hurting it I was all the more outraged. In a fit of anger I ape their giggling and shout at them despisingly, saying that this is just “Chinese culture”, i.e. utter disrespect for animal life and even other people, as you can see from various aspects of social life, not least the very frequent unflushed toilets so that the next comer can fully enjoy the former occupant’s residues. I must have hit the mark because everybody stops short laughing and the only one left sniggering is the Tibetan bloke.