Aquamation: the eco-friendly goodbye for pets
Singapore, May 16 (EFE) .- Santhiya cremated a deceased pet years ago and it was said that she would not repeat the experience.
The Singaporean now says goodbye to her toy poodle in a way that is more in line with her beliefs: with the “aquamation,” which replaces fire with water and makes her feel “more at peace, and is good with the environment atmosphere.”
“I had a pet that I cremated in the past and I didn’t like it, the process was very fast, I didn’t have time to assimilate it. Also, I try to be respectful of the environment in my daily life in general,” 31-year-old Santhiya told EFE.
The woman, of Indian ethnicity (one of the three largest in Singapore, after Malay and Chinese), had gone with her mother Kalavathi and her grandmother Leichumy to say goodbye to “Carpet” a toy poodle who died at almost 17 to “The Green Mortician,” the first water cremation service for pets in the city-state.
While the fire cremation of her pet seemed too fleeting and impersonal, the goodbye to “Carpet” seems the opposite: it is a long and ceremonious farewell, which begins with the dog lying on her mattress in a loft decorated with flowers of a warm funeral home room. It serves as a wake, surrounded by Santhiya and her relatives.
The Singaporeans administer milk in the snout of the deceased poodle and spend a few hours with her before the aquamation begins.
“In Indian culture we believe that this is how the cycle of life is closed, leaving with the same food that we received when we arrived in the world,” Santhiya said.
Technically called alkaline hydrolysis, the method recreates in an accelerated way the decomposition of a body with the help of potassium hydroxide and water at a temperature of about 150C. The body is introduced into a metal chamber, so that the only thing that remains at finalizing the process, which can take between 20 and 24 hours, are the bones of the animal.
“Many people don’t like the idea of fire, it’s depressing. We’ve already had about 40 clients, and we also organized a small funeral for them,” said Yang Loo, who founded “The Green Mortician” in March.
Loo then handles the process of powdering the bones, which takes another day or two, so that they are turned into ashes similar to those resulting from combustion with fire, which are delivered to the family.
A 28-year-old former DJ, Loo had become an environmental project entrepreneur when a friend told him about aquamation, practiced in the United States for pets for some three decades, as well as in other countries, although its use has been spreading little by little, also for people.
One of the most relevant and recent examples was the aquamation last year of South African Archbishop Desmund Tutu, a method the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his opposition to apartheid had chosen to record his commitment to environmentalism.
Because it does not require combustion, experts say aquamation reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 35 percent, in addition to requiring about 90 percent less energy than burning by ignition, which takes two to four hours.
Loo said he is “surprised” by the good reception of his business in Singapore, an island of some 5.6 million inhabitants with hardly any undeveloped space, which makes traditional or water cremations even more necessary.
“People are very receptive,” said the young man, adding that he does not charge more than what a traditional cremation for pets would cost, about $400 and $800, depending on the size of the animal, having cremated everything from birds and hamsters to dogs and cats.
The founder of “The Green Mortician,” a space with the air of a spa, decorated with Scandinavian-style furniture and enlivened with a piped-in zen music, affirms that part of his motivation came from his rejection of traditional funerals.
“they are too sad,” Loo said.
His next objective is to convince Singaporean authorities to be able to reuse the water used in the process (about 800 liters, being able to cremate several animals at the same time in different compartments), since now he has to store and process it, which significantly increases operating cost.
Loo said the cost of the process, with the specialized machine invoiced at about $ 150,000, is the biggest obstacle for not expanding the business yet, although he is clear about the evolution he would like.
“The next step is humans. There is no space in Singapore, and cremations are not sustainable,” he told EFE.