Deadly Predators and Virtuous Buddhists

Dog Population Control and the Politics of Ethics in Ladakh

  • Karine Gagné
Keywords: Ladakh, human-animal relations, ethics, religion, identity


The region of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas has recently seen a rise in attacks by stray dogs, some of which have been fatal. The dogs’ claims on territory have not gone uncontested in an emotional landscape fraught with anxieties over religious identities as tensions prevail between a Buddhist and a Muslim population. Consideration for the political effects of ethical discourses about dogs in Ladakh reveals how dog population control, and the intricately linked question of dog care have implications for the shaping of an animal ethics as a contentious political question. In the public sphere, some interpret matters related to dogs as a problem of human territoriality, while others foreground animal care as a virtue of Tibetan Buddhists. While these ideas about dogs and their treatment are shaped by a network of local and translocal ideas and practices about animal welfare and about religious identity, the politics of dog ethics in Ladakh is not an exclusively human product. Dogs are also agents of this politics, both in their physical capacity, to define dog-human interactions, as they are capable of being both affectionate and extremely violent, and because they have the potential to act on human’s production of meaning and exceed human expectations.

How to Cite
Gagné, K. (2019). Deadly Predators and Virtuous Buddhists. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 39(1), 9-25.
Research Articles