Image by The Field Museum Library (source: Flickr)

Popularity and consumption are strange things. No one can deny they go hand in hand, since at least to some degree that which is popular is, in fact, consumable. Consumerism… I hate the word. According to Wikipedia it “is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts.” I agree. Consumption is based on the ever-growing desire to have and to own, at any cost, without reflection on the consequences; and yes to me that’s a bad thing.

But what does consumption have to do with Harry Potter? At first glance, I would say kids want to consume the Harry Potter books from J.K. Rowling, or go see the movies based on those books. Then maybe they want to own Harry Potter merchandise. For me, although this is already a big no-no when it comes to carbon footprints, at this point I can still cope. Unfortunately, as with all things where consumption is concerned, the story doesn’t end there. Indian children are responsible for a serious decrease in the wild own population of India, according to Jairam Ramesh (Indian Environmental minister) as a direct result of the popularity of the Harry Potter movies amongst the Indian community.

Since the Harry Potter movies became popular in India, more and more parents have granted their kids the wish to follow in Harry Potter’s footsteps (who owns a snow owl named Hedwig) by allowing them to have their own white owl. An increasing number of people have been reported to buy owls from illegal bird and wildlife traders, who see the financial benefits of the trade but forget the importance of the wild owls for India’s fragile eco-systems.

Unfortunately this is not the only treat to the owl population in India. Tomorrow, November 5th, marks the start of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights in India. This 5-day festival is considered one of the most important festivals in India and doesn’t go by without a good dose of superstition or magic practice. Black magic practitioners for instance advise the use of owls and their body parts for ceremonial rituals during the festival. Because of these cruel sacrifices thousands of owls are killed every year.

Poor owls. They’ll be in my thoughts when the Diwali festival starts tomorrow and at the end of the month, when the latest Harry Potter movie hits the Indian theaters.

Additional information:
For more information about Diwali and the owl population in India visit Delhi Greens.