Tibetan Buddhists consider the slaughter of any living creature a sin. Yet recent reports from Tibet’s rural areas reveal that Chinese authorities are forcing Tibetan farmers and nomads to do exactly that. Lobsang Gyaltsen, a recently-arrived refugee from Tibet, report that his family and the others In his village are forced each year to kill 30 Percent of their livestock.
“We are allowed to keep only 70 percent of our animals and must kill the other 30 percent. Some animals are “worth” more than others. For example, every cow is worth six sheep and so, if we have 100 cows, we must kill 30 cows or 180 sheep,” says Lobsang, who comes from a village called Drog under Yaama township in Toe Nyabring county, Shigatse region.
“There are 25 families in my village with a population of 100 people. The killing must be done every year. There are 11 members in my family and we lead a semi-nomadic life. We were provided the land share of 8 people, but I do not know how much land this equates to. We have between 150 to 160 sheep and goats, 10 cows and 15 yaks,” says Lobsang who arrived India in late November. Thus, Lobsangs’s family was required to kill 45 sheep and goat, 3 cows and 5 yaks.
If a family refuses to kill its animals, the animals are nonetheless confiscated and the family is charged a fine of 60 yuan per animal. In addition, for every hide of the animals compulsorily killed, 1 yuan and 7 mosey must be paid to the authorities as a tax.
Lobsang believes that this policy is an attempt by Chinese authorities to exhaust the wealth of Tibetans and ultimately create a situation in which Tibetan farmers and nomads can no longer survive. Lobsang also says the increase in supply of meat has distorted the market price and the lower prices represent a further cut to farmers’ livelihood.
“The decrease in the number of the animals means we suffer from a scarcity of manure for the farm land,” says Lobsang. “We are unable to find meat, butter and cheese for our consumption and we lead a miserable life. Ultimately, we are compelled to buy butter from the Chinese authorities. They also order us to kill our horse and cow and try to force us to buy modern farming machinery to replace them. So far none of the farmers have bought any machinery other than a ploughing instrument, costing about 1700, to which the farmers all contributed. Some families are so desperate that they do not have even tsampa (roast barley flour) to eat.”
Lobsang’s family must also pay school “taxes”. He reports, “There is only one school in our town. Every family in my village is required to give the meat of a whole animal, 30 gyama of tsampa and two sacks of firewood to the school authorities, regardless of whether their children attend the school. Of the 40 children in my village only four or five have gone to school. Although the school was established by the government no funds were allotted and the students must bear all the expenses.
It is also felt that even if children receive schooling they will not get and so parents keep them at home to with farming work.
“A seven-member family is required to pay 60 gyama (30 kg) sacks of barley in tax for which they are paid only 7 mosey. The market price is 1 yuan and 5 mosey. For every animal, we must pay 1 yuan 4 mosey. We must also sell at a price which is below the actual market price for sheep and goat’s skin and pay tax on the grass.
Lobsang Gyaltsen was a former monk of the 12 monk Panggon monastery. He and a friend voluntarily left the monastery in July 1997 after “re-education” work-teams arrived in April. Four monks below 18 years of age were expelled. Lobsang believes the nearby 40-monk monastery of Chonang was closed down after the entry of the work teams in the monastery. Chonang’s spiritual head, Lama Yeshi la, reportedly disappeared after advising the monks not to ever oppose and criticise H.H the Dalai Lama religious relies, artifacts were all looted to China, leaving only the statues and idols made of mud.