It is all too often that we see instances of indifference in society when it comes to choosing the protection of our environment over personal satisfaction. One such example is the prestige associated with owning and wearing the rare shahtoosh shawls, made with fur from the endangered Tibetan antelope also known locally as the chiru. Production and distribution of shahtoosh shawls is illegal in Pakistan, but since when has that stopped anyone? Smuggled from Kashmir, the shawls are then sold under the counter in many shops all over the capital.

Our country is also the signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species under which the hunting or the trade of any animals deemed endangered is outlawed. Extinction is certainly not a myth. It is a very real possibility. These animals are on the list for a reason. Instead, the people that trade shahtoosh shawls are commended for their vision and not frowned upon for being directly involved in the wiping out of an entire genus.

These shawls, worn at formal events such as weddings, are often the cause of envy and can mysteriously disappear if left unattended. It is funny how much value is given to something which has so little utility and practical use. Sweaters, jackets and shawls made from other types of wool are also just as good, if not better alternatives to keep the cold out. Yet, the blood of the chiru is somehow better draped over the shoulders of the rich than inside the animal itself. 

Those that wear the shawls are proud to do so. Concern for the antelopes that die in the process is minimal, and most people would brush off the issue as if doesn’t even exist. Some claim that the ones they wear are not pure shahtoosh, and hence should not be the cause of an outcry. Regardless of what they believe, the chiru is being killed for their insensitive and myopic views about nature. The world is bigger than the selfish perspective of an individual. We all need to look past ourselves and preserve the earth, for so far, we only know of one such miracle.