Like Our Own Children


A larger picture of Lejeng and her three monkeys. (36K, JPEG)

""Even though I already have three monkeys, I'm still trying to get more, because I really love animals. I still want to get more. And even though I am not strong, when I am on the trail and I look at my animals, they make me strong again, they give me the strength to walk on again...

"Even if our domestic animals are fat and healthy, we still never kill them and eat them. If we happen to kill a mother animal in the forest, we will eat it; but once we have made her baby into a pet, we will never eat it, no matter how fat and healthy it may become. We never eat animals which we have raised, because we think of them as our own children. And our pet animals that die, even if they are fat, we will not eat them; we make them a grave in the forest. And sometimes when they die, we weep for them, just as we would weep for a human being; that is why we don't want to eat them. And from our origins, we have never eaten our domestic animals. Our parents and our grandparents never ate their pets, and so we won't eat ours. And when they are alive, they live with us, and sometimes they even eat with us, so that's why we can't eat them when they are dead.


"With all these animals of ours, when we go out for food, we bring them food, like sago, and fruits. And when some fruits are ripe, they are very happy, and they climb up to them, and they drop them down to us, and we eat them down here on the ground, and we're very content, because it is they who climb up for them. And also, when we go out walking with our animals, like the long-tailed macaques and the pig-tailed macaques, it's really good, and we're very glad to have them along, because they are like people, and they climb up and get fruits for us to eat down here on the ground. When we are walking, if we should come across a snake, or something else that is dangerous, they will discover it before we do, and so we're lucky, because in this way they protect us from harm. And if we should encounter evil people, either in front of us or behind us, they notice them first, because their eyes are very sharp, and their hearing is good too, so they notice right away. These are some of the benefits we get from our animals."

Lejeng Kusin, Ubong River, May 1993

A larger picture of Lejeng's pet medok (pig-tailed macaque) eating sago. (21 K, JPEG)

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