Saturday, November 21, 2009

Don't blame the buffalo

With its unmatched strength and ability to plough the muddy rice paddies, the Thai buffalo is the traditional heart and soul of the rice farming industry. These beasts of burden are quite often on the receiving end of Thai jokes and in this culture, calling someone a buffalo is rather an insult because the beasts are considered unintelligent and stubborn. Nevertheless, the Thai buffalo is not a laughing matter, especially since throughout the years it has been the traditional backbone of the farming industry.

Weighing up to 900 kilograms and measuring up to two meters tall, the buffaloes in Asia have been domesticated for 5,000 years. There are variations of wild buffaloes as well; however these are becoming rarer as they are being cross-bred with domesticated buffaloes.

In Thailand, the number of these beasts is on the decline, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). This is due in part to the shift in the way of life of the Thai people. Thailand, originally an agriculture-based society, is shifting toward a Western-style society, and people are moving from the countryside in search of fortune in the big cities, namely Bangkok and Chiang Mai, for example. Furthermore, machines are replacing farm animals for work purposes, as farmers are being introduced to new technology. Farmers are finding that new equipment is faster and more efficient than the traditional, stubborn buffalo, and they can turn higher profits with the new farm equipment.

Nevertheless, the Thai buffalo is not going to disappear and most likely will stay around for generations to come. One of the most famous Thai music groups, Carabao, has modeled their logo after the buffalo. Their band was molded after the symbol of the carabao (as it is referred to in the Philippines). They look at the symbol of the buffalo in another way: as a sign of courage, strength, and power, and their logo is known to all Thais and foreigners alike.

Therefore, we should not watch the Thai buffalo go out of style. Buffaloes are the soul of Thai country life, and we should keep them that way. We should not fall to our knees and sink to the levels of heavy machinery taking over the rice fields. In a land where there is no rush for anything, why are we in such a hurry?

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