Monday, 30 April 2012

Behaving like colonisers

In an important move, the ministry of environment and forests recently put an end to the inhuman practice of animal dissection. This will stop the suffering of animals and those who subject animals to this torture. The decision reflects an increasing institutional understanding in addressing the rights of animals.

But wait. Pause to reflect on our everyday practices, and how little space - physical and conceptual - we allow for living creatures other than ourselves in urban India. Think of street dogs. While a few people feed, vaccinate and take care for them, most of us try to banish them altogether. While some complain about their fierceness and propensity to bite, others are more worried about their barking and howling as it disturbs their sleep at night. But the point is how else do dogs live their dogged life? They are instinctively territorial, which makes them good guard dogs, and could be moody, given their harsh lives. Should we not tolerate this as we do with our unsociable family members? And should we not recognise that they offer us protection, company; and happen to be cohabitants of our cities?

If dogs are an easy example, consider trees. Most public work departments still cement the roads and sidewalks right up to the tree trunks. This reduces their lifespan. The civic agencies don't care. But what are we doing as citizens? Hardly anyone goes out to remove this cement or complain against this as a community. But take away a sliver of paved roadway, and outrage explodes.

You could say the same about birds. Urban India scarcely acknowledges our avian cohabitants. Contemporary architecture and landscaping ignore their needs in its design - which is why sparrows no longer find the ledges and niches they need to breed. There are few bird boxes and nests available as compensation, if any.
Despite the active presence of those who care for animals in particular and living creatures in general, for a host of reasons (from modern environmentalism to religion), the gap between how urban India really interacts with other living creatures and the progressive view of the courts is huge. Learning to exist with other living creatures is not that hard. But in cities, living creatures are seen to come in our way, because we live as colonisers. Not only do we acquire land for our own needs, but we also control as much space as possible and stamp out anything that causes us inconvenience. 

India is rapidly urbanising. This will reduce the habitat for many smaller creatures and birds. Our urban history shows  us that we have destroyed the forest patches where jackals, foxes and hare once lived.
The ministry's decision must run deep into our urban fabric through fundamental shifts in self-perception and activism for communities that are flexible and able to share space with others. Most importantly, the dominant discourse must stop colonising urban spaces and getting rid of indigenous life with such disgust.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/ColumnsOthers/Behaving-like-colonisers/Article1-848156.aspx

Pet-iquette: Exotic birds are poached in their own countries

Q: Why is animal testing still carried out on such a high scale even with the number of alternatives now present?
A: Intellectual laziness by the teacher community. I had to face a lot of opposition when I stopped dissection in schools — now it is clear it was never needed and all those frogs and rats were killed for no reason. Now the UGC, which is the apex educational body, has ordered dissection to be stopped in all college undergraduate life sciences, which is wonderful. But it has taken years to get them to that place. The next step is to stop it in pharmacology and to look at all the senseless experiments carried out by medical undergraduates simply to get funding from the government. The Bharatidasan University in Tamil Nadu has got special degrees in alternatives and I would recommend all universities to send their heads of departments to be trained there.

Q: How can one stop the poaching of exotic birds and what laws pertain to it?
A: Exotic birds are poached in their own countries and then smuggled into India, where they are sold openly. They come in containers in ships through Kolkata and Chennai and most customs officials are aware of the trade and profit from it. The trade is run by mafia that makes crores. The birds are smuggled across the country in trains, mislabeled as goods. The railways promised not to allow any live cargo but so many railway station masters are on the take. It is up to NGOs to keep a vigil on the railways. The law regarding exotic birds is very odd and encourages poaching as only ‘Indian’ birds can be caught under the Wildlife Protection Act. Shops selling Macaws and Cockatiels are never asked for any import licences or international permissions by either the forest department or the police, so this murderous trade carries on openly.

Q; The Indian Air Force shoots stray dogs in officer living areas. Is there any way to put a stop to this practice?
A; It is illegal for the armed forces to kill dogs. A circular to that effect was sent some years ago by the government. The armed forces are issued guns and bullets to kill anti national elements, not Indian dogs. Every time some officer is caught issuing these commands, action is taken by the Defence Ministry, so if you know of any Cantonments doing this, let me know.

Q: Is it true that chicken are injected with hormones to make them lay more eggs and grow bigger?
A: Yes, chickens are kept on a constant feed of hormones and antibioticsall of which passes on to you, making this one of the most dangerous foods on the planet.

Q: Is it true that holding kittens and puppies in ones arm too often makes them sickly?
A: It depends on how you hold them. If you put pressure on the stomach or let their legs dangle, or hold them upside down on their backs, then, yes you will hurt them in many ways that will reveal themselves as they grow. You will give them slip discs and pull their joints out of their sockets. Learn how to hold them. And play with them on the ground. Pups and kittens tire easily so don’t overdo it.

Q: I can’t afford dog biscuits, is it ok to feed my dog plain, regular biscuits?
A: No. Normal biscuits are just white flour, sugar, flavouring and salt. These biscuits are good to keep in your pocket and give to street animals because they act like instant pick-me-ups in terms of energy, but not regularly. Make biscuits at home with atta, vanilla essence and a tiny bit of gur. Bake in the oven till they are strong and crisp. They cost nothing and your dog will love them.

Q: How healthy is milk for adult animals?

A: Milk has no value at all. Not even for cats, most of whom are allergic to it. You can still give it, but I would recommend it in the form of curd for dogs.

http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/column_pet-iquette-exotic-birds-are-poached-in-their-own-countries_1682463 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Coconut plucking could be monkey business in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, April 29 (IANS) Can a monkey do a man's job? Yes, when it comes to climbing tall coconut trees and plucking its fruits - a skill that has been hit by labour shortage, say the Kerala authorities.
 
With fewer people in the state willing to take up the arduous and risky job, the coconut business has taken a beating. To keep up the supply of the fruit, trained monkeys seem to be the best alternative, feels the state's agriculture department.
 
"Coconuts are essential to the traditional lifestyle and livelihood of the people of Kerala. However, the coconut business has dropped drastically due a shortage of tree climbers," K.R. Vijayakumar, deputy director of the Kerala agriculture department, told IANS here.
 
"So we have a proposal where monkeys can be trained to carry out the task of plucking coconuts. The animals can be better than humans in coconut plucking. And it will also be cost effective."
 
The proposal is not new since monkeys are being used for plucking coconuts in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, he said.
 
But if implemented in India, he foresees animal activists protesting against the move.
 
"Due to animal cruelty laws, animal rights groups may protest against the move. So we have not been able to pursue the proposal," Vijayakumar said.
 
However, he said like elephants are trained to pick up logs and ox trained to plough, monkeys too can be trained to pluck coconuts.
 
"Monkeys are smart animals and can get nuts from even tall and slender trees. Plucking coconuts is not a simple task," he said.
 
Kerala has more than 15 million coconut trees and requires at least 40,000 climbers to pick the fruits, according to data from Coconut Development Board in Kochi.
 
However, with rising literacy rate and immigration to the Gulf, few people in Kerala are interested making a living by climbing coconut trees all day, he said.
 
"A trained monkey can climb 500 coconut trees a day. A human cannot climb more than 50 trees a day since it takes a person over 10 minutes to climb. This also involves a lot of risk," he said.
 
He said a training centre for monkeys could be set up where trainers from Indonesia and Thailand teach some monkeys on a trial basis and make them pick coconuts.
 
However, others differ.
 
"A coconut tree produce about 60 nuts every 45 days and as it flowers continuously, the nuts ripen at different times. Monkeys being monkeys cannot decide whether a nut is ready to be plucked or not," said a member of the Coconut Development Board who did not want to named.
 
The member, instead, favoured robots over animals when it came to picking climbing trees and picking coconuts.
 
However, an agriculture department official countered the objection, saying that the board's efforts to use climbing equipments, including robots, for the job, and setting up a coconut climbing training institute had not worked out.
 
"We are facing an acute shortage of coconut tree climbers and we need to address the issue as since sale of coconut is one of our important industries," said Biju Mathew, a coconut farmer.
 
"When the government can start a $20,000 competition to develop three coconut-picking machines, why can't it accept the idea of monkeys climbing coconut trees?"

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/04/29/113--Coconut-plucking-could-be-monkey-business-in-Kerala-.html 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Scientists take on activists, want ban on live testing on animals lifted

NEW DELHI: The right to life of laboratory animals has become a point of contention between scientists and animal rights activists. Recent guidelines issued by University Grants Commission (UGC) banning the age-old practice of using lab animals for research has not gone down well with scientists from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Indian National Science Academy (INSA) has compiled a report on the views of scientists and animal rights activists on the matter. The report will be submitted to the ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) next month.

Scientists feel a complete ban on the usage of animals in labs and universities could have a detrimental effect on students' understanding of the subject. K Muralidhar, professor, department of zoology and hormone research laboratory, DU, said that last July, the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh had floated a draft bill on the use animals for teaching and research. "The secret copies of the draft bill were circulated among various ministries, including the health ministry. When we got to know about the contents of the draft, we thought it would have serious repercussions on life sciences courses, so we asked for a discussion," he said. A discussion was organized by INSA in September 2011 where scientists, doctors and activists from various institutions presented their views. "We will release a compilation next month. The ministry should take a decision after hearing all stakeholders," Muralidhar said. "I feel UGC's guidelines are a result of misplaced emotions," he said.

Muralidhar, who claimed to be an animal lover himself, felt there was a lot of room to reduce the use of animals in universities. "Animals have to be used for teaching basic biology and are needed as models for health research. However, they can be handled in a humane way and their usage can be reduced. But students need to learn to handle animals at least once, to get hands-on experience," he added.

While PETA activists have suggested computer simulations and mannequins as alternatives for dissection, scientists say that nothing can replace practical knowledge. A cancer biologist and professor at School of Life Sciences (SLS), JNU Rana P Singh said, "Working with a live animal is very different. At least, at the masters level students should be exposed to the practice. When they go on to pursue M Phil or Phd, they will have some idea of anatomy," he said.
Professor of zoology and director of Delhi University (South Campus), Umesh Rai seems to agree. "Research cannot be compromised. How can one experiment without animals? Animals are needed even for chemical sciences research. However, their usage can be minimized," Rai said.

Though scientists may have slammed the move, animal lovers have welcomed it with open arms. "If universities in UK and US can do with out animals, why not us? We held a number of demonstrations in medical colleges and universities, including AIIMS on computer-aided learning methods. These can be used by pharmacology and physiology students easily. Research or experiments can be done through in-vitro methods instead of in-vivo methods which require use of an animal. India is the first country to issue such guidelines and we should be proud of it," said Science Policy Advisor, PETA India, Chaitanya Koduri. Peta has submitted a dossier of alternative methods to the president of Medical Council of India (MCI).

"The guidelines are very progressive. We hope that similar rules are issued for toxicity testing of drugs on animals. Alternatives like cell culture, use of human cells and robotics can be used," said Alokparna Sengupta, coordinator, animal experimentation campaign, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO).

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/Scientists-take-on-activists-want-ban-on-live-testing-on-animals-lifted/articleshow/12896560.cms 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

SC slaps 50 lakh Guj govt, animal rights activist

New Delhi: The Gujarat government and an animal rights activist have been jointly imposed a whopping Rs 50 lakh fine by the Supreme Court for wrongly seizing an exporter's buffalo meat container on the allegation that it was carrying banned cow meat.

A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar ordered animal right activist Rajesh Hastimal Shah and the Gujarat Government to pay Rs 25 lakh each as fine to Royal Exports, which had claimed a loss of over Rs one crore due to the seizure.

The apex court passed the order on the basis of a report by the Forensic Science Laboratory, Delhi that the seized samples of the meat was that of buffalo and not of cow.

The bench passed the order, dismissing Shah's appeal against a Gujarat High Court order, directing the state police to release the export firm's truck, seized on the activist's complaint who also claimed to be an animal welfare officer of the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory advisory body to the Union government.

Shah had come to the apex court saying the high court had directed the Gujarat police to release the vehicles containing the consignment of cow meat meant for export on January 25.

It was his contention that although the Forensic Science Lab, Surat's report on January 30, had shown that the samples seized from the container contained cow meat mixed with buffalo meat, the high court directed the release on the basis of another report submitted by the FSL Maharashtra which had stated that it was buffalo meat.

http://zeenews.india.com/news/gujarat/sc-slaps-50lon-guj-govt-animal-rights-activist_771538.html  

‘Animal experimentation should be minimised'

 National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Director B. Sesikeran,V.M. Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) M.N.Sastry CEO Bioserve and Amala Akkineni, founder of Blue Cross, during the World Laboratory Animal Day celebrations in Hyderabad on Tuesday.Photo:Nagara Gopal

On the one hand while humans are selling themselves to take part in clinical trials for major drug companies humans are also using animals as lab rats. It becomes a big issue when clinical trials on humans fail, but nobody seems to care when animal experiments fail. There is an element of hypocrisy in this, said Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr. V.M. Katoch.

“Eventually, animal experimentation in laboratories has to be minimised. Animals cannot express themselves and persons in-charge of the experiment should take responsibility. Basic rights of animals have to be protected,” Dr. Katoch said during World Laboratory Animal Day celebrations at National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) on Tuesday. 

Director of Animal Welfare Board of India, Anjani Kumar said that there was a need to stop experimenting with live animals in educational institutions. “We are putting a lot of effort to convince authorities to stop using live animals up to UG level,” he said. 

Speakers also suggested use of new technologies to replace live animals in laboratories. “New technologies that can simulate animal experiments have come up in the US. Such technology can eliminate use of live animals in laboratories. There are instances of computers giving better results than live animals,” said founder of Blue Cross, Hyderabad, Amala Akkineni, while interacting with press persons.

She highlighted the need to regulate use of live animals for research in cosmetics. “There are stringent regulations over the use of live animals in cosmetic research in Western countries. That's why such research is picking up in India,” she added. Eminent researchers in animal laboratory science were felicitated on the occasion.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Raising a voice for animal rights

Animal activists on Monday protested against putting down of dogs in pounds and harassment of other animals at the hands of different agencies. Activists from PETA and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) demonstrated at Jantar Mantar, raising concern at the treatment of the canines at dog pounds in different cities.

They alleged that a dog is usually put down if it does not find a home within two weeks of its arrival at the pound. They also demanded rules and procedures, seeking to improve the conditions in which cattle is transported.

They demanded that scientific methods should be devised so that animals could be kept out of the clinical trials and other experiments.“It is time make the animal movement mainstream,” said Rukmini Shekhar, a social welfare activist. She added that stray cows should be given proper shelter, as they are prone to chew hazardous material such as plastic.

The animal welfare activists were unanimous that instead of working in confrontation with the government, they should engage the authorities to ensure better policies and their effective implementation.They also called for an effective implementation of the animal birth control programme and stressed that animal welfare organisations should be engaged during such campaigns.

“We have been demanding the enactment of the animal protection law as soon as possible. We have approached the ministry of environment and forests,” said Anjali Sharma, executive committee member, Animal Welfare Board of India. Social activist, Swami Agnivesh, and musicians from different bands and talent shows also participated in the protest.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Soon, civic body SMS alert system to help city protect its flora, fauna

Pune The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is all set to launch its SMS alert system that will bring about citizens’ involvement in saving trees and rescuing animals and birds. The system will also help the civic administration in spotting and stopping illegal tree felling and helping injured wild animals in the city.
The latest technology-based system will bring in accountability among civic staff and ensure quick response to the information or complaint forwarded to them.

“The PMC alert system is undergoing trial to ensure its effective implementation. It is a citizen-friendly system wherein anyone with a mobile or an Internet connection can make use of it to get a quick response from the civic administration,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Naresh Zurmure.

In case of tree alert, information provided by people will be forwarded to respective PMC Garden Department staff for further action. In case of snake, bird and wild animal alert, information provided will be forwarded to the Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre of the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park & Wildlife Research Centre, PMC.

The web-based tool will be accessible from most of the smart phones and latest Internet browsers. “The PMC will also provide a toll-free mobile number on which a citizen can message information in a specific format. The citizen would also get an acknowledgement with details of the complaint sent and a message about a civic staff getting in touch to address the complaint,” Zurmure said.

He said the acknowledgement would also provide a mobile emergency number so that citizens can call if there is no immediate call from the civic staff. The accountability of the civic staff would be at test as their response time would be tracked in the system and anyone delaying action will face disciplinary action, Zurmure said.

For mobile, a person has to merely send a message in a specific format like ALERT A for rescue of animals. For birds it should be B, D for dangerous tree, F for fallen tree, S for Snakes and T for illegally felling of tree.
There will be provision for uploading pictures so that it will work as a proof of the incident, he said, adding that details of those providing information would not be made public.


Through the system, people can also provide information about the overflow of garbage bin in their respective area. “Garbage containers in each location is given a code. Citizens messaging ALERT C with the container code would enable the administration to locate the appropriate container to pick it up within six hours of the complaint,” said Zurmure. 

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/soon-civic-body-sms-alert-system-to-help-city-protect-its-flora-fauna/939968/  

PCCF to Press Council: Ban wild animals on TV shows



 
A still from a reality show where a woman is seen praying to a cobra. 


The Karnataka Forest Department has written to the Press Council of India to ban display of wild animals and snakes on television channels.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) B.K. Singh has written to Justice Markandeya Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India, stating that the possession of wild animals for television shows is a crime under the Wildlife Protection Act and channels with such shows must be warned.

Last month, officials of the CID Forest Cell raided a Kannada TV channel and arrested three persons for carrying cobras. They raided Rockline studio in Nagasandra near Tumkur Road where shooting for a reality show using snakes was going on. A notice was also served to the show producers and the channel management.

“Displaying any wildlife under controlled conditions for commercial use is banned. The animals undergo tremendous stress in front of light and people around them. The possession of any wildlife is illegal if not certified by the department. We have no facility to rent out wild animals for TV shows,” said Mr B K Singh.
He noted that an amendment will be sought to restrict street shows involving animals and snakes.
“Dancing bears/ monkey and snake charmers are banned under the law. But snake charmers surface around temples. They supply snakes to reality shows and film shootings,” he added. 

Wildlife expert Praveen Bhargav said mere possession of any wildlife is an offence under law. “Be it a wild animal or a dead specimen, it requires a possession certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden. If there is no such certificate and, worse, the animals are badly handled, it is an offence. There are instances where one can possess a wildlife article unknowingly. But showing them on screen should be avoided. More awareness is required in this regard,” he said.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/node/115341

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Supreme Court to decide in September whether stray dogs can be exterminated

The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted to September for final hearing on whether stray dogs can be exterminated by authorities if they caused "nuisance" to people.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan told senior counsel Raj Panjwani appearing for Animal Welfare Board of India and others that it would hear the matter at length and pass appropriate orders.

The apex court had on January 23, 2009 stayed a Bombay High Court judgement which had allowed municipal authorities in Maharashtra to kill stray dogs causing "nuisance". The board in its appeal had maintained that unless the term "nuisance" was clearly defined the order of the high court cannot be implemented.
It was pointed out that two sets of legislations existed on treatment of stray dogs in Mumbai. The Animal Birth Control Rules (ABC rules) formulated under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 mandated killing of only rabid, incurably ill or mortally wounded dogs. On the other hand, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act gave discretion to the civic commissioner to exterminate the animals.

Counsel for the board had argued that there are broad apex court guidelines for resorting to killing stray canines. It was contended that if a dog is rabid or mortally wounded or incurably ill it has to be taken and euthanised by the authorities by following the rules and guidelines. Further it was submitted that stay dogs biting people should be sterilised and not exterminated.

The high court had passed the impugned order on a petition filed by a Goa-based organisation People for Elimination of Stray Troubles which had sought killing of stray dogs to rid the society of their menace. 

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/supreme-court-to-decide-in-september-whether-stray-dogs-can-be-exterminated-198712
 

Govt bans use of live animals for education, research

MUMBAI: The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has banned the use of live animals in dissection and other experiments in educational and research institutions. But scientists conducting new molecular research will be exempted from the ban.

Based on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), the MoEF has issued guidelines to the University Grants Commission, ministry of health and family welfare, Pharmacy Council of India and the Medical Council of India to discontinue dissection and experiments with live animals in universities, colleges, research institutes, hospitals, laboratories and instead use alternatives like computer simulation.

The MoEF says that the central government is duty-bound to use alternatives to avoid unnecessary suffering or pain to animals.

It states that effective alternatives in the form of CDs, computer simulations and mannequin models are available; they are not only effective as absolute replacements for animals in teaching anatomy or physiology but are also superior learning tools in teaching of pharmacy or life sciences.

The guidelines were framed based on the duties of the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments and Animals (CPCSEA), which has been constituted under the provisions of Section 15 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).

The committee comprises seven nominees - three nominees appointed by CPCSEA and the rem-aining four from educa-tional institutes.

"The animal experiments should be stopped in all institutes except for the purpose of new molecular research. Sometimes, in laboratories, a lot of work is repeated and animals become unnecessary victims. Only scientists researching on a new molecular theory can experiment on animals. In medical and pharmacy colleges, there is unwanted cruelty towards animals which can be avoided. These guidelines mention imprisonment for five years and monetary penalty," said Mangal Jain, a nominee of the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC), which is appointed by CPCSEA.

Hoshang Bilimoria, also a nominee appointed by the CPCSEA, said the guidelines were a welcome change.

"CPCSEA should give the nominees the power to inspect animals housed in educational institutes, experimentation centres or technical laboratories without prior intimation to the institutes. Cross-checks should also be maintained through other members," said Bilimoria.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Govt-bans-use-of-live-animals-for-education-research/articleshow/12696452.cms 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Food connoisseurs go nuts over veg food in Malpe

The vegetarian food festival on the shores of Malpe displaying the age old cuisines of traditional Udupi was indeed a crowd puller on Sunday afternoon.

The beach food festival was organised by District Youth Brahmin Parishat as a part of the Parishat’s silver jubilee celebrations.

The food buffs from across the city had a fun-filled weekend tickling their taste buds with varieties of traditional dishes that are hardly served during recent days. The lengthy queues before the food stalls showed the interests of the people to taste traditional cuisines in the era of North Indian dishes, Chinese and other varieties of transcontinental dishes.      

Traditional cuisines of Udupi were displayed. Cuisines like “sevige kurma”, “gunda menskai”, “mude kodekena”, “biscut rotti”, “avalakki pulav”, “pundi gatti”, “bisibelebath”, “pathrode”, “sheera”, “halbai”, “sukurunde”, “goli baje”, “maddi”, “balehannu rasayana”, “mavinahanu rasayana”, “hesarubele payasa”, “chattambade”, “thuppa dose”, “masala dose”, “yellu juice”, “buns”, “dry jamun”, “halasina appa”, “nippattu”, “ebbula rasayana” and “tomato bath” were all part of the menu. These mouth watering, lip smacking delicacies were available at the cost of Rs 10 and Rs 20 to the visitors.

Youth were seen in large numbers and more interestingly they were mesmerized with the items like “ebbula rasayana” “maddi” “halbai” “gunda menskai” “mude kodekena” etc, which they said they had never heard of before.

Pavana, a localite said “it is a pleasant change to taste something different. We rarely get all these dishes to taste and it is also rarely prepared at homes. I feel I have entered a different culinary era” she said

Pizzas, Burgers and pastas were sidelined for at least some hours especially by youth this weekend. Definitely these people had a slice of incredible India through traditional dishes that were served and also displayed in a traditional way.

Food festival was inaugurated by Shiroor mutt seer Sri Laxmivaratheertha Swamiji. Cultural programmes were also part of one day beach food festival.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/240621/food-connoisseurs-go-nuts-over.html
 

Shahtoosh: Can the prized industry be revived again?

New Delhi: Shahtoosh, the very very name signifies royalty and kingship, a Farsi word meaning `King of Wools`. And each shawl, delicate and ethereal, costs hundreds of thousands of rupees in the illegal market. But can the shahtoosh industry, banned in India, be revived again by rearing the delicate Chiru antelopes in farms and obtaining their prized fur without killing the animals?
While the artisans from Jammu and Kashmir, who are in danger of forgetting the age-old weaving craft for the shahtoosh, say that the ban should be lifted, the state government does not seem to have done much to revive an art form that could fetch it good money.

Earlier, the wool for Shahtoosh was obtained non-violently. The Chiru antelope would shed its hairs, which were procured by locals, who then sold it to weavers. Shahtoosh products were an important cottage industry in the Kashmir Valley.

But, pushed by the lure of modern consumerism, the wait for the Chiru to shed its hairs naturally in the early summer months was bid adieu, and indiscriminate killing ensued. The Chiru became the target of poachers.

"It takes five dead Chirus to make one shahtoosh shawl," Poorva Joshipura, chief functionary of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) India, told reporters.

The numbers of the timid and delicate antelope, found in the desolate vastness of the Tibet, Xinjiang and Ladakh regions, began to dwindle alarmingly.

The killing of the Chiru, a Schedule I animal according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, is banned in India.

"Processing or wearing shahtoosh is a punishable offence. Chiru is on the Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), meaning that international trade is prohibited. It also means hefty fines or even jail for those who carry the shawls," says Joshipura.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the imprisonment for killing a Chiru is one to three years, with a proposed fine of Rs.5,000 to Rs.25,000, says Bashir Ahmed War, retired senior veterinarian of the Jammu and Kashmir Animal Husbandry department.

"The `Chiru` or Tibetan Antelope (Panthalops Hodgsoni) is an inhabitant of Tibet. It migrates to Ladakh in the summer and remains there from May to July," says War.

But despite the controls, the illegal trade continues.

"Shahtoosh continues to be a high value product in the wildlife market. Seizures of shahtoosh shawls are made regularly by agencies like Customs, CBI and the WCCB, pointing to the fact that the trade is alive," Samir Sinha, head of WWF-Traffic India, told reporters.

And how much does a shahtoosh shawl cost? "All I would say is that they can be worth several lakhs each," says Sinha.

While he could not say how many shahtoosh shawls were being made illegally, he said, "It is likely that stockpiled shawls may be finding their way gradually into the markets". Asked to point out the likely markets, he said they were the "fashion markets in the US, Europe and Southeast Asia".

But while the ban on the shahtoosh continues, the weaving industry in Kashmir has suffered collateral damage.

"We have been hurt the most. The ban has been a kick on our stomachs. We have pleaded to the government of India to rethink the ban. But it has mostly fallen on deaf ears," Gawhar Maqbool, a wool exporter from Srinagar, told reporters.

Can the government not find a middle ground?

Laila Tyabji, chairperson of handicrafts society, Dastkar, says that if procured humanely, shahtoosh would be acceptable. Tyabji told reporters: "Sufficient research has not been done in India on finding ways of domestically rearing the Chiru and shearing and spinning its wool without killing it."

It is not that the Kashmir government has not thought of the idea. "In 2004-2005, the state government had a conceptual plan to make some enclosures in Ladakh for retaining some of the migratory Chiru that would cross over during summer from Tibet and China. The idea was to rear these Chiru for gathering shahtoosh fleece, but the plan has not been implemented till date," Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, Wildlife Warden (Central Kashmir), told reporters.

But Lone feels the weaving tradition for shahtoosh would be lost forever if the ban continues.

"Shahtoosh shawl-making involves special looms and weavers who were skilled in the family tradition over centuries. After the ban, this tradition has been lost and there is no possibility of its revival as the law stands on it now," says Lone.

Many weavers have switched to pashmina to keep their hearths running.

"We are supporting a campaign to advocate pashmina (another fine Kashmiri wool) as an alternative to shahtoosh. Craftspeople who thus earlier used to make shahtoosh products can now switch over to Pashmina and retain their livelihoods," says Tyabji.

According to Lone, many shahtoosh weavers have fully switched to pashmina. "In 2005, we had estimates of about 45,000 families of shahtosh weavers, who were directly or indirectly connected with the trade. After the ban, the families gradually shifted their livelihoods to Pashmina shawl weaving and have now fully migrated to their new trade," said Lone.

But, in the meantime, the craft form stands in danger of vanishing altogether.

Warns Tyabji: "Something must be done. Or else, India would have lost an extraordinary and unique textile tradition."

http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/art-and-theatre/shahtoosh-can-the-prized-industry-be-revived-again_109204.htm 
 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

IANS scribe among 20 awardees selected by NGO

Jaipur, April 7 (IANS) Activist Anna Hazare, union minister Jairam Ramesh and 11 journalist, including Anil Sharma who writes for Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) from Jaipur, have been selected for awards by an international NGO working for animal rights, environment and public health, a representative said Saturday.
 
International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA), affiliated to the UN department of public information, selected the 20 awardees for the year 2011-12 for their contribution in the fields of politics, social work and media, said a statement by the NGO whose head office is in Italy.
  
The award in the area of politics would go jointly to union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and activist Anna Hazare.
  
Anil Sharma, who writes for IANS, was honoured along with 10 other journalists.
  
Other mediapersons who would be honoured by the NGO are: Vijay Pinjarkar of The Times of India, Nagpur; P. Naveen of Daily News and Analysis, Bhopal; Navin Dhamija of Punjab Kesri, Faridabad; Narender Verma of Shukrawar magazine; Shashank Shekhar of Mid-Day, Delhi; Anupam Thapa of Mail Today, Delhi; Manish Sirhindi of The Tribune, Panipat; Rajesh Moudgil of The Hindustan Times, Chandigarh; Yadram Bansal of Danik Tribune, Gurgaon; and Hemant Atray of Danik Bhaskar, Haryana.
  
Those selected from the fields of social work and animal rights are: Karnataka Goshala Mahasangh president S.K. Mittal, OIPA media adviser in India Abhishek Kadyan, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals representative Anil Katariya, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, and Vikramaditya Singh Bushahr of Delhi University.

Alarming sea animal deaths on India's west coast


Mumbai/Ratnagiri: Two giant Baleen humpback whale sharks washed up dead on the Mumbai and Thane beaches in separate incidents last week. This was preceded by a Bryde's whale shark getting washed ashore at a beach in Ratnagiri, around 250 km south of Mumbai.

In the past couple of months alone, over a dozen dead dolphins, usually seen frolicking in the calm blue-green Konkan coast waters, washed up on different virgin beaches in the region.

Conservationists suspect chemical or oil poisoning.

"All these instances are not natural. There's something more serious than we are aware of and it needs a detailed probe," said a visibly disturbed Vishwas (Bhau) Katdare, who is spearheading conservation efforts for turtles, vultures and other animals in the Konkan through the NGO Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra (SNM).

Most of them are saved as the fishermen disentangle them and release them back into the sea and hardly one or two of the unlucky ones may succumb. We get one or two such instances in a month," Katdare explained.

But the alarm bells rang when in late March, a dozen big and small Olive Ridley turtles were found dead on various Konkan beaches. This was in addition to over five dozen turtles of different varieties being reported dead on Konkan beaches, right from Ratnagiri to Thane, in the past month or so.

A shocking incident was reported Friday from Velas in Ratnagiri district by a school teacher and an amateur conservationist, Mohan Upadhye.

"I had taken my two pet dogs to the beach for their morning walk. There, out of curiosity, they happened to lick a carcass of a turtle lying on the beach. Around three hours later, they both mysteriously died at my home. I have no clue as to what happened," Upadhye told IANS.

Last month, at least two full-grown cows which had strayed on the beaches in Shriwardhan and Dive-agar had unwittingly licked turtle carcasses and fell dead after a few hours in the village, Upadhye said.

Expressing outrage, Himanshu Shah, director, Nature and Adventure Centre of the prestigious Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai, said, "This reeks of chemical or oil poisoning.

"In the past few years, Mumbai and surrounding coasts have witnessed many sunken ships, oil spills and other forms of assaults by humans on nature. This could be one of the reasons for the large number of sea animal deaths on beaches and a warning that we cannot continue to tamper with the natural surroundings," Shah said.

Katdare said SNM has already informed the authorities about the ongoing developments in the Konkan region and if necessary, he plans to write to the state and central governments on the issue.

"The worst aspect is that the scientific autopsies of these dead creatures are not being carried out to ascertain what could have caused so many deaths in such a short period, whether it is pollution or chemical poisoning or some other reasons," Katdare pointed out.

He said it was ironical that just as SNM and Kirat Trust had been successively involved in saving hundreds of turtle hatchlings since December 2011-March 2012, these were now dying on the beaches.

"In the past 10 years, we have managed to save over 35,000 turtle eggs from natural and human predators here and released them safely into the Arabian Sea," Katdare said.

The Konkan is one of the biggest nesting grounds for Olive Ridley, sea green and other giant and small turtles in the world, and the annual turtle festivals attract tourists and conservationists from all over the world here.

Shah called upon the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies as well as the fisherfolk to take immediate steps to ensure that ships sailing in and around the Konkan region do not discharge chemical wastes, hazardous pollutants or leak oils in the Arabian Sea. "Currently, it is these mute and innocent sea animals. The next on the list could be humans," Shah warned.

http://zeenews.india.com/news/eco-news/alarming-sea-animal-deaths-on-india-s-west-coast_768762.html 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Sea horses recovered from Agra warehouse

Agra: The owners of an Agra-based firm were taken into custody after thousands of sea snakes, sea horses and various other sea creatures, some banned under the Wild Life Act, were found in formalin-filled drums in the company's warehouse, police said here Thursday.. Ramesh Mahajan and his son Manu Mahajan, owners of Biocraft Scientific System in Nagla Padi locality here, were taken into custody Wednesday.  

On a complaint by a Delhi NGO, having links with animal welfare advocate-cum-politician Maneka Gandhi, the Agra police Wednesday raided a warehouse in Nagla Padi locality, and were shocked to find thousands of sea snakes, sea horses and various other species.

Representatives of People for Animals from Delhi, India's largest animal welfare organisation, told police that the link with this local firm was established after zoology labs of Greenfield College and Acharya Narendra Dev college in Delhi were raided in February.

This is the second major incident here of trading in wild life. 
In October 2006, a courier company was found to be sending parcels of a company run by one Upadhyaya, who had a warehouse in Kailashpuri colony. The case is still under trial.

Meanwhile, Mahajan told police that the sea creatures were procured from Mumbai and Chennai and were kept in glass jars to be supplied to educational institutions. He said his firm was legal and registered and was engaged in this work for a decade.


 

Use pictures to warn meat-eaters: Peta


Prior to the occasion of World Health Day, which falls on April 7, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has urged the Central government to introduce pictorial health warnings on the meat, poultry and other animal products.

Some of these posters include, Eating meat can cause heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer (with the picture of a man pressing his hands against the chest for relief from pain), Meat consumption may cause premature death (picture showing a patient wearing an oxygen mask), Drinking cow’s milk may cause juvenile diabetes (a girl having diabetic complications), and Egg consumption can cause heart disease (picture of the heart exposed).

Peta India staff nutritionist Bhuvaneshwari Gupta sent a letter to Union health and family welfare minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, urging the ministry to use graphic health warnings like those used on packs of cigarettes. Sample labels with a stark, but compelling, message about the alleged health dangers of meat consumption were sent to the health ministry for consideration.

“Meat, egg and dairy diets are linked to needlessly early deaths,” Ms Gupta alleged. “A mountain of studies links the consumption of animal products to India’s leading killers, including heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, stroke and obesity, Ms Gupta claimed.

The World Health Day would be the perfect time for the ministry of health and family welfare to encourage citizens to go vegan to live longer and healthier lives, said Bhuvaneshwari Gupta.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Natasha Shah on her wellness and beauty store

Young entrepreneur Natasha Shah helps you discover some of Mother nature’s finest creations at her beauty and wellness store The Nature’s Co…

Q: What does your brand The Nature’s Co stand for?
A:
Today we are all going back to doing things the natural way. Given this scenario, The Nature’s Co comes as a perfect solution for those who are on the lookout for natural and eco friendly beauty products. We are a vegan-friendly brand and don’t even use honey bee wax, milk or eggs. This has even earned us a PETA certificate. We also stay away from chemicals and use citric ingredients as preservatives instead. My brand truly appreciates, understands and celebrates nature.

Q: Your bath and body products are heavily dependant on the five elements of nature, take us through your product range …
A:
For us nature is a way of life. Air, sun, forest, earth and water thus work as the inspirations for our products that are designed to soothe your mind, body and soul.There is ‘Atmospure,’ a line of products that comes with oxygenating properties. These products help your skin breath. White flower, cotton and lilies are the common ingredients. The Starrise range nourishes your skin just like the sun does. The products also act as effective sun screens and are mainly derived from sunflower extracts. Foressence, is the most exotic line. The forest inspired products carry strong and captivating fragrances. Berries, vegetables, barks and roots are used as ingredients.

Earthborne range offers the nourishing qualities of soil. Green clay, multani mitti, coffee and barley are used to prepare the products. Lastly the Aquaspark range has aquatic plants and sea salts as its raw materials. These ingredients hydrate and replenish your skin. Body lotions, body butters, shampoos, creams, lip balms, essential oils, bath salts, moisturisers and face washes are available in all these ranges.

Wellness products and accessories like loofahs, foot files, incense sticks, cane slippers, soap dishes and eye pillows are also available.

Q: Where do you source your ingredients from?
A:
We get them from India, France, Japan and Middle East. We look at places where the particular ingredient is born as they are available in an unadulterated form there. We use around 600 ingredients but its not that we simply go about making every product out of each of them. We are not a head to toe brand and believe that each ingredient has its own purpose.

Q: Is your packaging system eco-friendly as well?
A:
Our products are packed in plastic containers that can be recycled. To encourage recycling and help our customers turn eco friendly, we even have something called eco barrels at all our stores. Customers can drop off their empty containers and avail discounts on their next buys. We then send these containers for recycling.

Q: Summer is here, which among your products are ideal for the season?
A:
When it comes to hair care, hibiscus anti dandruff shampoo works well. It also removes the oil and dust and helps keep the scalp clean. Coming to face washes, the peppermint and cool cucumber ones serve well. Lemon and cranberry flavoured body washes are ideal for this season. Cucumber body lotion is good to dab on after a bath. Red and green tea sun screen lotion and mango lip balm are also best suited for this season.

Q: Do you offer spa facilities?
A:
On a purchase of Rs200 and above, we do offer express spa facilities at all our stores. We want our customers to forget their worries once they step into our stores. Not only have we set up shops in luxury malls that are far from the maddening crowd but also designed the interiors in such a way that people feel the calm setting in themoment they enter the store. White washed walls, lounge music, warm lighting, cane and bamboo furniture and natural aroma define our stores.

http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/interview_natasha-shah-on-her-wellness-and-beauty-store_1669327

Slender Loris on the hit list

BANGALORE: Widely known as the State animal of Karnataka (though unofficially), Slender Loris is today facing a threat to its existence with reports of this ‘slender creature of the dark’ on the hit list of poachers. Till date, there has been absolutely no field or census studies on this rare, endangered species of tiny primates which is found only in India and Sri Lanka.

Speaking to Express, B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said, “The deteriorating habitat and man’s greed to hunt these animals have added to their problems. There is a healthy population of Slender Loris in the State, however, any decision to conduct census has to be taken up by the Wildlife Institute of India, Government of India, as we have no authority to do this survey.”  Singh added, “There was a proposal to declare the Slender Loris as Karnataka’s State Animal. But it was rejected by the Wildlife Board.”

Number of Slender Lorises
Wildlife conservation groups in the State place its population anywhere between 350 and 400. Tumkur district leads in the State having more than 130 animals. “Huliyaldurga, Kunigal and Devarayanadurga have a healthy number of animals clearly indicating that there is not a big threat from poachers while Chamarajanagar, comprising more than 100 animals, has been afflicted by poaching,” B V Gundappa, a wildlife activist, said. 

Some areas of Bangalore Rural, are estimated to comprise 100 animals while in other areas like Mysore, Maddur, Ramanagaram and Kolar their number ranges between 80 and 100.

‘Exclusive Reserves Not Possible’
Regarding carving out exclusive reserves for these primates, Singh said,”It was not possible as Lorises can live in perfect harmony with several other animals. But, of late, poaching of small and big mammals like elephants has become an issue of serious concern.”

Superstitious Beliefs
There are a lot of misplaced superstitious beliefs regarding Lorises as it is reported that people use it for black magic rituals and relish its meat and eyes for its curative properties. Loris’ skin too is prized as it is used in making handbags and purses that are expensive. 

“A network of poachers operating between Karnataka and Goa is involved in the trafficking of these primates which are sold for `10,000 each,” said an activist. Three species are found in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the North East while in Sri Lanka, only two species have been identified.

If Slender Loris, comprising the Malabar and Mysore species is found in the south, Slow Loris is found in the north-east which is a smaller version with variations in its colour. Even the rare Malabar species found in the Western Ghats has not been studied and therefore, there are no proper estimates of its existence.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/slender-loris-on-the-hit-list/244968-60-115.html 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Caged rats gassed at airport, PETA peeved

MUMBAI: Caged rats are being gassed to death by various airlines to test the efficacy of their aircraft cabin fumigation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has now complained to Mumbai airport authorities to stop the 'barbaric' practice at the domestic terminal immediately.

A whistleblower in Mumbai had earlier alerted PETA about live caged rats kept inside a chamber filled with poisonous gases like methyl bromide. The fumigation was deemed to be successful if the rat suffocated and died. The whistleblower also helped the activists rescue a white rat which had been used by an airline at Mumbai airport's domestic air terminal.

PETA then fired off a letter to the Mumbai office of the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and met the regional manager to urge the agency to immediately stop testing its airplane cabin fumigation process on live rats.

"There is no excuse for suffocating rats with poisonous gas when sophisticated gas detectors have been in use for years,'' said PETA's Dr Chaitanya Koduri. "We have asked CWC to stop this barbaric and illegal practice immediately. If it refuses, we will ask the civil aviation department and AAI to force it to stop,'' he asserted.

When contacted, regional manager of the Central Warehousing Corporation Major Santokh Singh denied that live rats were used to test the fumigation process. He, however, admit to receiving PETA's complaint. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which comes under the ministry of environment and forests, has also written to the CWC on the issue.

In its letter, PETA points out that apart from breaching the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), the gassing violates the guidelines of the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage, Faridabad. The guidelines clearly state that gas-detection equipment should be used to test the effectiveness of the fumigation process. Also, under the law, it is illegal to administer an injurious drug or substance to any animal or cause an animal to suffer.

PETA has reported this violation to the director general of the civil aviation and the Airports Authority of India. It also explains that international bodies-such as NATO ( North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and WHO ( World Health Organization)-have proposed several methods of fumigation that have been tried and tested for regular use in aircraft cabins. None of these procedures requires use of live animals. 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Caged-rats-gassed-at-airport-PETA-peeved/articleshow/12497743.cms

Court clears duo arrested, humiliated for feeding dogs



Two animal lovers from Thane, who were arrested and humiliated two years ago after a stray dog they used to feed allegedly bit a resident, have finally been acquitted, with a magistrate court ruling that feeding strays was not a crime.

The order provides welcome relief for animal lovers in the city, many of whom are pulled up by their housing societies for taking care of strays. Only recently, well-known director Partho Ghosh had a quarrel with his society management when he was fined Rs 1000 in his maintenance bill for feeding two stray dogs. His family, incidentally, had been taking care of them since they were pups.

This order is only the first victory for Sanjeev Dighe and Yatin Mhatre, who are fighting a separate case in High Court against the State and the police for handcuffing them and parading them around their society. In this, they are being represented by Mahesh Jethmalani and have the backing of, among others, Maneka Gandhi.

For Dighe, a commercial artist, and Mhatre - both residents of Lok Puram complex in Thane - the nightmare started on September 20, 2009. The duo had been feeding strays in their locality for several years, something that had led to many altercations with society members. Dighe says the residents believed this would lead to an increase in the stray dog population in the area.

That night, Dighe was getting ready to go out and feed the strays around 10.45 pm when a posse of cops arrived in a private vehicle and asked him to accompany them to Vartak Nagar Police Station. Mhatre accompanied him there, and a few hours later, the duo were booked under Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with animals in a particular person's care attacking someone.

The next morning, both were handcuffed and taken to their society, where they were paraded around, ostensibly to show other residents what happened to people who fed strays. They were then taken to a holiday court, which released them on bail.

In a recent order, Jaishree Poonawala, judicial magistrate first class, remarked that "feeding stray dogs is not a crime", adding that strays were not the same as pets and certainly not the sole responsibility of those who feed them.

"After our arrest, Maneka Gandhi personally got involved and helped us file the petition in HC through Mahesh Jethmalani," said Dighe. This order itself has come as a huge relief to Mhatre and Dighe. "Finally justice has prevailed. Several people like me are often victimised by residents who do not like others feeding strays. We hope this order will help others like us," said Dighe.

Ajay Marathe, a noted animal rights activist, pointed out that incidents of animal lovers being victimised were common in Mumbai. "Those who feed dogs in their area are treated badly. Most residents are against such feeding and come up with random rules to stop them," said Marathe.

RK Joshi, convener of Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws in Maharashtra, has recently written to the BMC commissioner highlighting the issue of societies trying to get rid of stray dogs.

He has pointed out that years after Bombay High Court laid down the guidelines for dealing with stray dogs - the HC has put an emphasis on animal birth control and sterilisation - people continued to harass dogs and animal lovers.

"There is growing tendency in housing societies not to permit stray dogs on the society premises or even in the vicinity. There have been instances when dogs are brutally assaulted by the society members or the watchmen," the letter states, adding that instances of animal lovers being assaulted were common. The letter urges the commissioner, who is also the chairman of the Monitoring Committee, to urgently look at these issues and ensure that animal lovers and dogs were not harassed.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

‘Demand better retired life for him’

MUMBAI: Ambika Hiranandani, an animal rights activist and lawyer, has urged the BSPCA and the horse survey team to relocate Superman to a better place for the last few years of his life. "The story of Superman is typical of countless other horses who are forced to work long hours and live in filthy stables," she says. "Superman is in extremely delicate health."

The horse's last assignment was over a year ago for serial Jhansi Ki Rani. "He was ridden by a young girl who was playing the child queen, but his health was bad even during the shooting," says animal activist Roxanne Davur of NGO Terra Anima. "If horses work so hard to earn for their masters, they should also be allowed to retire at right time."

According to BSPCA secretary Lt Colonel J C Khanna, a horse should be retired at 22 years, which is the equivalent to 60 in human beings.

Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs of PETA India, said: "Since Sholay was released, I have grown from a baby into an adult, become a husband and a father and graduated from vet school, while this poor horse has been spending his life at shoots. He would have been whipped and forced to drag heavy loads beyond his physical capacity," he says. Valliyate feels that the "archaic" practice of using horses to haul carriages needs to be done away with.

Incidentally, Sholay heroine Hema Malini wrote in 2009 to then minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh on behalf of PETA India to stop the use of horse carriages in Mumbai. In January, the HC ordered to form a special panel to survey and study the health of all workhorses and condition of stables. 

 

B-town low on animal instinct

Unlike the West that continues to “inspire” our cinema from time to time, animals in Bollywood have rarely taken centrestage. Barring the Rajesh Khanna classic, Haathi Mere Saathi way back in 1971, followed by the Jackie Shroff starrer Teri Meherbaniyan in 1985, we can hardly think of any worthy example where an animal played the hero. Tuffy in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun did share a significant amount of screen space, but at the end of it all, was reduced to a caricature. Blame it on the animal rights activists who create a hue and cry every time a furry creature walks about in the frame, or blame it on a dire paucity of scripts with nothing being written keeping animals in mind. While in the West, the likes of Uggie (the dog from The Artist) continue to bag awards and accolades, in India animals keep getting pushed to the periphery as nothing more than props.

“If they (animals) are not central to the script, why use them as props? Why do we need heroes fighting and falling over chicken stalls or shattering goldfish bowls?” says Ambika Shukla, trustee, People For Animals. But then what about period films such as Jodha Akbar or Drona where animals such as horses and elephants are mandatory props to create a definite milieu? “Use computer simulation if you have to. If one makes a story about a beggar, will they use a real beggar from the streets? My point is nobody comes up with an animal sympathetic story, like they do in the West,” Ambika adds.

Film critic Omar Qureshi feels that the fault lies with the law itself. “The laws to protect animals in India are terrible and a lot of animal rights organisations make noise just to gain publicity. Even Sooraj Barjatya, who started off by casting a real Pomeranian (Tuffy) opted for an animated parakeet in his next film Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. But it’s also true that animals on our sets are not handled by professionals, which is where the cruelty stems from,” he says.

The industry also feels that with rules so stringent it’s not worth going through the grind of making an animal centric film. “Making films in India is such a pain with all the clearance issues in nearly every department. And when they involve animals, the process becomes doubly harrowing,” says screenwriter Anuraadha Tiwari. She continues, “We are not exactly an animal-respecting society and such films tend to get labelled as children’s films. Even if we had a worthy script, there are very few takers and I don’t see the mindset changing in the next ten years.” Psychiatrist Dr Hozefa Bhinderwala renders a larger perspective to Anuraadha’s opinion. He says, “In this country, where space and livelihood is such a constraint, affection for animals is not a priority for people.”