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Ritual Remains Retrieved From Rubbish

A box of severed animal heads was found on Church Street, near Harvard Yard, on March 31.
A box of severed animal heads was found on Church Street, near Harvard Yard, on March 31. By Awnit Singh Marta
By Isabel M. Kendall and Paul D. Tamburro, Crimson Staff Writers

Several animal heads discovered in a trash can on Church St. on March 31 appear to have been used in a religious ritual and are not being investigated as a crime, according to the Cambridge Police Department.

According to the official Cambridge police report, three boxes containing three pig heads, deer heads, and a bird, were found near the trash barrels on the street. The officer on duty at the time notified both animal control and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The remains were later removed by the Department of Public Waste.

“The pig heads also had what appeared to be incense sticks driven into them with leftover ash on their faces,” officer Joseph Crowley wrote in the official police report.

Crowley wrote that the remains likely played a role in some sort of religious ritual.

“In Thailand, Buddhists place pig heads on tables with incense sticks in them as food offering shrines,” Crowley wrote.

“The incident does not appear to be a crime and the practice of rituals such as the one described above as part of religion is protected by the first amendment,” the report further read.

Janet Gyatso, a professor of Buddhist studies at the Divinity School, said she did not know what the animal remains might have been used for.

“As an animal ethicist I am dismayed at the horrible and cruel use of animals in this way,” Gyatso said. “I have heard that there may indeed be such rituals in Thailand, although I don’t know anything about it.”

—Staff writer Isabel M. Kendall can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @IsabelMKendall.

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