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excarnation, again #122327
02/08/04 02:19 AM
02/08/04 02:19 AM
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wwh Offline OP
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Up to 95% of India's vultures have died, leaving excarnated
bodies untouched and a potential source of spread of disease. Now a cause has been discovered. A painkiller drug
called diclofenac is said to be responsible. No details as to how it acts to kill the important scavengers.
"excarnation" is the (to us revolting) practice of putting dead human and animal bodies on elevated platforms
where vultures eat the flesh, leaving only the bones to be
interred. It is a faut de mieux solution because economics
prevent use of methods employed in prosperous countries.


Re: excarnation, again #122328
02/08/04 12:52 PM
02/08/04 12:52 PM
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jheem Offline
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It is a faut de mieux solution because economics
prevent use of methods employed in prosperous countries.


I'm not so sure. In respect to the disposal of the dead, you have your buriers (with optional emblaming) and your cremators. Hindus tend to cremate, Muslims bury, but Zoroastrians (aka Parsees) don't cremate (since they venerate fire). I'm not sure why they don't bury, but they expose the bodies of the deceased on so-called towers of silence. There are at most 100K parsees world-wide. A Parsee friend whose father died, about two decades ago, told me that the vultures weren't excaranting his and other exposed bodies, and so acid was brought in to help.

Now on to revolting practises. Eating up prime real estate in towns and cities with cemetaries full of dolled up corpses in huge metal containers. See E. Waugh's The Loved One and J. Mitford's The American Way of Death.


Re: excarnation, again #122329
02/08/04 02:28 PM
02/08/04 02:28 PM
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wwh Offline OP
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Dear jheem: I saw a story on Internet a couple years ago
that a Norwegian scientist has shown that immersing a body
into liquid nitrogen turned both flesh and bones into a
fine suspension that would be rapidly digested by bacteria
in a land fill. I wonder if it would be more expensive than
cremation. And if any disease agents could survive. It would be like the Allahabad method of disposing of feces,
by mixing it into the soil, facilitating detoxification.


FYI #122330
02/08/04 07:38 PM
02/08/04 07:38 PM
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Diclofenac is sold as Voltaren in US and as Voveran in Canada. It's available in lower doses in US without a prescription. It is a "non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drug" (NSAID), in the same class as ibuprofen (Motrin, and others), indomethicin (Indocin) and even butazolidine

The most common side effects of this class of drugs are stomach irritation and occasionally bleeding; rarer but more serious side effects are liver failure (especially in large doses acutely) and kidney failure (in large cumulative doses over long times).

And keep in mind that words like "large" doses and "long" periods of time are relative, and may vary greatly from person to person, reinforcing the position that the "right" dose of most medicines is "as little as you can get away with..." (Not all of them; there's another bunch whose dose is predicated on objective markers, and for these, instructions should be followed strictly!)


Re: FYI #122331
02/13/04 05:34 AM
02/13/04 05:34 AM
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So, how is this drug getting into 95% of the vultures? Are lots of Parsees taking it in their last illnesses? Even so, surely not all the vultures eat dead Parsees. Or is it that there never were all that many vultures and dead Parsee was a major item in the diet of all of them?

Bingley


Bingley
White-backed vulture (Bengal vulture) #122332
02/14/04 10:06 AM
02/14/04 10:06 AM
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shanks Offline
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Hi all

This link provides some interesting stuff about the vultures, diclofenac and excarnation.

http://www.rense.com/general38/vulture.htm

For what it's worth, the Parsees could never have been the main source of food for the vultures except, perhaps, for small populations in cities like Bombay (which contains about half of the wold's Parsees, jheem's estimate of their total numbers being about right, as far as I know).

Have just returned from a few weeks in Bombay and recall that I didn't see any vultures there (Gyps bengalensis, as I recall). The Black Kite (or Pariah Kite, Milvus migrans) seemed as ubiquitous as ever. They too are scavengers, though, as the link indicates, they aren't capable of breaking through tough animal hide.

Renal failure in vultures, eh? Who would have thought it. I shall miss the sight of them crowding roadside trees near the start of a town, presumable waiting for road-kill.

White-backed vulture, RIP.

cheer

the sunshine warrior


Re: White-backed vulture (Bengal vulture) #122333
02/17/04 07:25 PM
02/17/04 07:25 PM
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maahey Offline
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I haven't looked at your link Ravi, but the whole idea of vultures dying from Diclofenac sounds really far fetched to me. Snopes will put the matter to rest, am sure.

The Parsees so called because they came to India from Persia were Zoroastrians that fled Iran from conflict with the new Islamic fervour sweeping the region and the oppressive Jaziya tax that the new rulers imposed on non converts. In India, they have thrived for centuries and are amongst the richest and most literate communities there.
I am uncertain if ALL Zoroastrians follow the excaration that is described here, but the Parsees in India certainly do. The excarnation sites are called 'Towers of Silence' and are themselves rather expensive to build.
For Zoraoastrians the elements, fire, earth, water, wind are very sacred and this method is chosen to prevent defiling the environment. I can imagine that this will open up a Pandora of questions, but this is all I know.

I recently read a book, In search of Zarathustra. There is a lot in the book on the 'heretic' cults of Mithraism and Minocheanism (I just KNOW that I got that spelling all wrong), thier roots in Zarathushtra and the strong influence of Zoroastrianism on the religious beliefs of Europe in the middle ages. Splendid read


The towers of silence #122334
02/18/04 07:08 PM
02/18/04 07:08 PM
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shanks Offline
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Ta for that background Maahey. I'd add to that by saying that the Parsee community separates itself, generally, from other Zoroastrians, whom they tend to refer to as Iranis.

Relatives of ours lived in a high rise building on Malabar Hill (in South Bombay), on which, also, the Parsees have probably the most important Towers of Silence in the city. These structures aren't towers, by the way, but large, shallow basins with tall walls (for privacy). The bodies are laid in them ceremonially (the Agyaris, or priests of the Parsees tend to come from specific families, with the tradition passed down from father to son).

The Parsees are very protective of the Towers, and you will rarely, if ever, see a photograph of a Tower of Silence, particularly one in use.

One of the problems, even when I lived in Bombay, was the declining vulture population. The number of dead Parsees 'stacked up' a bit, and the vultures that remained had their choice of tidbits. As a consequence, my aunt and her family have, on occasion, found the odd bone discarded on the balcony by a satiated vulture that couldn't be bothered to try to crack it! As you may imagine, this caused something of a scandal, and there was talk of putting pressure on the Parsees to close their Towers - at least those in Malabar Hill, because of their proximity to humans. I can't remember what the upshot was.

Ah well...


Re: The towers of silence #122335
02/18/04 08:12 PM
02/18/04 08:12 PM
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jheem Offline
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The language of the Zoroastrian sacred texts is called Avesta and is an important language in the Indo-Iranian group of the IE family. It's related to cuneiform Old Persian, modern Farsi and Pashtu, and to Sanskrit.

Here's a website that has some example texts:

http://www.avesta.org/avesta.html



Re: The towers of silence #122336
02/18/04 08:25 PM
02/18/04 08:25 PM
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London, UK
shanks Offline
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As far as I am aware the Zend Avesta, the complete holy book of the Parsees, was lost in antiquity, and only 'fragments' of the original text survive. Enough, though, I presume, for them to conduct their religion by.


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