A zoonotic thorn in the flesh
COVID-19 has sparked a debate about whether public health should supersede food choices and local culture. We get into the (bush)meat of the matter
Roshni P. Nair
15 April 2020
2
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Six months from now, a village near the Indo-Myanmar border will celebrate an annual ritual Indians aren’t prepared to hear about. The village is Mimi, and it is home to three clans of the Longpfurii Yimchunger tribe. Nearby is the Sukhayap or “Lover’s Paradise” cliff, the 200 ft high Wawade waterfalls, and a spectacular complex of limestone caves. The Bommr people, one of Mimi’s three clans, are the sole custodians of these caves. They flock here every October for the ritual at least seven generations old, one that was established to appease ancestral spirits.

It starts with the blocking of cave entrances. The clansmen stoke fires inside and wait as bats, thousands and thousands of them, either suffocate or are flushed out. The ones trying to escape are welcomed by the Bommrs, who use sticks to finish the job. Some men are bitten or scratched, others are exposed to bat guano, urine or saliva while treading in the caves. The clan handles the animals

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