General Chatterjee and the Animal Welfare Board
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:
CHENNAI––Named for the Buddhist emperor Ashoke,
who issued the first Indian animal protection law circa 240 B.C.,
Lieutenant General Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee trained to head the
Animal Welfare Board of India by commanding first the Indian
peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka and then the United Nations peacekeeping
force in the Maldives.
A former polo player, Chatterjee won the attention of
Indian humaitarians in 1976-1977 when he mobilized troops to relocate
horses and cattle away from severe drought in Rajasthan and
Gujarat. Retiring in 1990, after 38 years in uniform, he was
promptly drafted to revitalize the AWB.
Created in 1960, actually convened in 1962, the AWB
exists to implement the two sections of the Indian
constitution––unique in the world––which mandate animal protection.
Authorizing local representatives to enforce animal welfare
law, it also distributed subsidies totaling $85,000 among 41 animal
shelters in fiscal 1996.
Before Chatterjee, however, during the 30 years animal
welfare law enforcement was handled by the Ministry for Food and
Agriculture, the AWB reputedly degenerated into a sinecure for
That began to change when during one of Maneka
Gandhi’s stints as Minister for Environment and Forests she got animal
welfare law enforcement moved to her office.
As official animal policy advisory body to the Indian government,
the AWB on November 28, 1997 recommended that animal
welfare advisory boards be formed in every state; that India
should move to achieve no-kill dog control as national policy by
2005; that animal welfare law enforcement and AWB administration
be removed from direct political control; that the export of meat and
live animals for slaughter should be banned; that bullfighting should
be banned; that dissection should be banned below the university
level; that genetic engineering involving sentient life should be
banned; that animal sacrifice should be banned; that zoos unable to
meet animal welfare standards should be closed; that police should
be trained in animal welfare law enforcement; that a Bill of Rights
for animals should be introduced into Parliament; that the United
Nations should be asked to adopt a charter of animal rights; that factory-style
farming should be banned; that prestunning should be
required in all slaughter; that Indian media should be asked to
devote more attention to promoting kindness; that mobile courts
should be set up to try animal abuse cases in rural areas; and that
Kindness Clubs for children should be formed (in apparent emulation
of the small but influential Kindness Club based in Fredericton,
New Brunswick, Canada).