Thursday, February 05, 2004
Redwood Dragon: January 25, 2004 - January 31, 2004 Archives:
"Unintended Consequences

In Bombay, the Towers of Silence stand abandoned, victims of a drug's side effect.

The Towers of Silence (the phrase itself is surely one of the most evocative in the world of religion) are part of the tradition of the Parsis, a Zoroastrian sect who, to avoid contaminating earth, fire, or water, expose the bodies of their dead to the air in tall stone towers. The bodies are laid on a grate and consumed by vultures, after which the bones fall through into the ossuary below.

Or so it was before widespread use of the drug diclofenac, an inexpensive, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is widely used in India and throughout the Third World to treat lameness and fever in livestock, which can be devastating to small farmers with only a few animals.

But, it turns out, the diclofenac residual in dead livestock cause acute kidney failure in several species of vulture in South Asia, three of which now stand at the brink of extinction.

And so a tradition that has endured for millenia vanishes, and the towers stand abandoned in the sun."

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