HELP IN SUFFERING
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:
JAIPUR––The Indian view of animals, Help In
Suffering director Christine Townend admits, both morally
empowers her work and at times greatly complicates it.
“Many Brahmins, as well as Jains, cannot feed their
dogs meat due to their religious belief in vegetarianism,” she
explains, and do not feed cats at all. “This means cats and
dogs are often brought to us in advanced malnutrition.”
Euthanizing the animals is also difficult, Townend
adds, as many Brahmins and Jains also believe that they “may
not take the life of a dog even if the dog is suffering acutely and
is sure to die.”
Townend works in the shadow of paradox. The Help
In Suffering shelter is at the opposite end of Jaipur from the
Amber Fort, the palace-turned-tourist-trap of Akbar the Great,
a Charlemagne-like illiterate who consolidated the Mogul
empire, encouraged learning, protected wildlife, and abolished
suttee, the ancient custom of burning widows alive.
Historically regarded as a great humanitarian, Akbar nonetheless
attributed his triumphs to the favor of Kali, the Hindu goddess
of blood, consort of Shiva, the god of destruction.
Every day, reputedly, Akbar killed a goat. Goatkilling
continues in the temple to Kali at the Amber Fort.
Jaipur, however, has quit poisoning street dogs,
honoring the success of Animal Birth Control, implemented by
the late Crystal Rogers, founder of Help In Suffering, and
Townend, her Australian successor. Help In Suffering has
fixed and vaccinated more than 6,000 street dogs since 1990.
In March 1996, Jaipur also agreed to stop capturing
dogs who became the subject of complaint and dumping them
outside of town. Instead, such dogs are housed at Help In
Suffering until they can be adopted out. Few are biters; most
are just hungry mutts who annoyed street vendors.
Amid a political dispute involving prominent patrons
of humane work, the J a i p u r newspaper Patrika in mid-1997
published a notice from the city that the poisoning might
resume––but if the object was to humiliate the ABC supporters,
it failed. Instead, a lawsuit filed by attorney J.K. Singhi on
behalf of the Jaipur SPCA obliged the city to continue taking
the dogs to Help In Suffering. Rather than risk a potentially
precedential loss in the High Court of Rajasthan, Jaipur on
October 20 issued “a policy decision not to kill the street dogs.”
While the Jaipur SPCA pursues legislation, litigation,
and humane education, Help In Suffering concentrates on
direct care, always Rogers’ central mission.
Emigrating to India at age six, with her parents, in
1912, Rogers did animal rescue on the side as a mobile canteen
driver with the Gurkha Regiment in World War II. She started
the Animals’ Friend shelter in Delhi in 1959. Among the
young volunteers and visitors she influenced were Maneka
Gandhi, founder of People for Animals; Anuradha Modi,
leader of Kindness to Animals and Respect for Environment;
Amala Akkineni of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad; and Suparna
Ganguly, her eventual successor at Compassion Unlimited Plus
Action, the last of the three shelters she personally founded.
Rogers came to Jaipur in 1978, relocating to start
CUPA in Bangalore at age 85 after Townend and her husband
Jeremy assumed the management of Help In Suffering in 1991.
A widely published poet and short story writer, Christine
Townend convened the first meeting of Animal Liberation
Australia in 1976, headed the New South Wales branch of the
organization for some years, served on the NSW government
animal welfare advisory council, and wrote a 1985 expose of
the sheep trade, Pulling The Wool, which helped win an eventual
five-year suspension of live sheep exports to Saudi Arabia.
In Jaipur, the Townends built the present shelter
complex, then at the edge of town, now swallowed by suburbs.
The district looks older, “but India makes instant
antiques,” jokes Jeremy. The nearest grocery was three miles
away then. Busy markets are just around the corner. The
Townends aren’t worried about the neighbors, though: the
back of the triangular lot is a deep ravine, while the side other
than the street side is occupied by an open-air crematorium.
The cremations are of humans, in traditional Hindu
ceremonies. Like most other charity shelters in India, Help In
Suffering is no-kill, euthanizing only animals who are in
Unlike most Indian shelters, but in common with
most U.S. humane societies founded during the 19th century,
Help In Suffering originally tried to help suffering people, too.
That proved to be a bigger mission than it could sustain. Some
aged human rescue cases still live at Help In Suffering, however,
along with the Townends and much of the staff.
Like other Indian shelters, Help In Suffering handles
a veritable Noah’s Ark, with dogs, cats, chickens, burros,
horses, cows, buffalos, rabbits, and various birds on the
premises while ANIMAL PEOPLE visited. Camels, monkeys,
turtles and lizards are also frequent guests.
Animal ambulances donated by the World Society for
the Protection of Animals and the French-based Federation des
Jeunes Amis des Animaux get heavy use, with no assurance of
Always busy, Help In Suffering remains somehow
an oasis of shady tranquility amid the Jaipur bustle and squalor.
[U.S. annual dues of $30/year may be paid to Help
In Suffering c/o WSPA, POB 190, Boston, MA 02130.]