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Nagas’ insatiable craving for pork

Pigs, in a traditional Naga village setup, were reared in homes and unlike other animal species known for the various services and produce we extract out of, other than meat; pigs loitered freely among men, scavenging any refuse it could stomach and at last light get back only to be fed again and fallback in slumber. Indeed a rare breed that enjoyed royalty in every measure!…. Apparently children found their own amusing and mischievous ways to engage with the animal and, more often than not, unintentionally sleep alongside.
Whereas pig is termed unclean and its consumption supposedly avoided, still no meat complements Naga culinary recipe better than pork does. Sizeable number of Naga populace would express of not having had a consummate meal should four or five meals be without pork in it. This craving for pork, although, has nothing to do with a necessity arising out of weather or terrain challenges, but simply of taste that simply refuses to give in. Retail price of pork is Rs 200/- per Kg, which just caters for a single meal for a family of four. So to say, Rs 2000/- is roughly the amount that an average Naga household spends on pork in a month, excluding other variety of non-vegetarian; which is certainly lavish….
Amid this very trying time in COVID-19, pork stood to be the first commodity with provision for booking on phone and subsequently the delivery. Service provided not only by sensible entrepreneurs but also by municipal councils in respective wards, officially. Pork has become such an intrinsic part of our dietary preference that it is accepted as the simplest and the best option, irrespective of available varieties to chose from. We don’t even appreciate any likelihood of a vegetarian Naga or for that matter a non-vegetarian guest wanting to have vegetarian items for a change and which is why, vegetarian recipes will remain a gray area in our kitchens. Moreover, with various health hazards associated with non- vegetarian, people are being scrupulous and switching to healthier diet regime, to the extent of adapting to trending diets which corresponds with their lifestyle. We, Nagas’, are lackadaisical in this matter and consumption of pork continues unyielding.
My awareness about residents of Nagaland consuming 60% of pork produced in India dates back to the year 1997, this because of a vocational subject on swine production being part of the syllabus. For obvious reasons figures should still be intact, if not more…. So rampant is the rate of consumption and not the yield, with better share of the State’s revenue being expended in importing. And surprisingly pigs being imported are from State’s where its consumption is negligible. In a quest to tag Nagaland as the pork production hub of the country by 2030, the State government has envisaged at narrowing down the import level of pig to zero by 2025, attain self-sufficiency by 2026 and export surplus by 2030. While the perceived objective is commendable, taking into account the rate at which import, as against production is increasing; ‘Vision 2030’ timeline seem over optimistic.
Moral responsibility is a matter of choice that which may not be of essence to few individuals in the business community and wherein instances of sick livestock being butchered are on the rise. So whereas the lengthy process of meat quality assessment, quality assurance etc, may not be feasible considering the quantity being imported and its rapid distribution; Municipal Councils need be more pro-active in devising necessary arrangements for carrying out random checks to ensure that pigs being butchered are palatable. Also to promote cleaner environment butchery license has to be limited and meat sold only in designated locations without resorting to unnecessary display. Likewise, it is also imperative for a consumer like me to curb the pork eating spree and adapt to eating a more balanced diet.
Vincent Patton, Kohima