Something in the air
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:
CHENNAI––The hub of the Indian humane
movement is not Delhi, the national capital, but Chennai,
formerly called Madras, home of the Animal Welfare Board
of India, the Madras Pinjrapole, and the Blue Cross of
India––and point of origin, 30 years ago, of the Animal
Birth Control program.
Blue Cross of India-Madras vice chair S. Chinny
Krishna is quick to acknowledge that the many Chennai
activists still have their hands full. They are currently fighting
purges of street pigs and cattle, not to keep the animals
on the street but to prevent them from suffering cruel treatment
Precedent suggests eventual success. The Blue
Cross of India between May 1994 and September 1996
accepted nearly 1,000 bullocks whom the city of Chennai
had retired from pulling garbage carts. They would otherwise
have been slaughtered–– which might have been lucrative
for the city, but after working with officials to improve
the care of the muncipal bullock herd since 1974, the Blue
Cross had earned a say in what was done.
The Madras Pinjrapole took the first group of bullocks,
but after that the Blue Cross had to find new refuges.
In July 1996 the city retired 323 bullocks at once. About
230 were taken by g a u s h a l a s in Mysore, Bangalore, and
Vellore, leaving nearly 100. Another 194 bullocks arrived
for placement before the job was over. Krishna admits the
influx gave him and his staff many sleepless nights, but
finally all the bullocks were safely placed.
That was a quick and easy job compared to ending
municipal dog-killing. The Blue Cross began the ABC program,
which neuters and releases street dogs, 28 years
before winning a citywide no-kill dog control agreement.
Such agreements, once unimaginable, are now in effect in
Bombay, Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai, with
another expected in Calcutta.
Each ABC program and no-kill agreement is now
endorsed by the Jain community, among others, but
Krishna remembers this was not the case at first. Initially the
Jain leaders of Madras considered neutering dogs to be
wrongly interfering in the life process. That changed after
Krishna showed an influential Jain how 16,000 dogs a year
were electrocuted at the Madras pound. Shaken, the Jain
began asking Jain monks to tell people about ABC wherever
their pilgrimages took them. They soon spread the word
throughout India, inspiring formation of many other Blue
Cross chapters to emulate the Madras/Chennai program.
Learning to fly
Krishna is used to taking the long view. His biography
is a history of the modern Indian humane movement.
His father, Captain V. Sundaram, and his mother, Usha
Sundaram, began the Blue Cross of India from their home in
1959. “My mother was from Bombay, and my father from
Bengal,” Chinny Krishna recalls. “They spoke different
regional languages, so at home we spoke English.” They
were Theosophists, and pioneers of Indian aviation.
Licensed to fly in 1935, Captain Sundaram trained British
and American pilots during World War II––and trained
Usha, then just 17, who became the first female pilot in
India. After the war the Captain flew briefly for an airline
before becoming personal pilot for the Maharaja of Mysore,
with Usha as co-pilot. In that capacity, they flew for
Jawaharlal Nehru, among others.
The Blue Cross of India had two aims, to fight
vivisection and to shelter sick and injured animals. By 1963,
when the Sundarams opened a separate shelter, formally
incorporating a year later, they had 140 dogs, 50 cats, and
many other animals in their own large home.
“My mother was stressed out from the daily cleaning,”
For the next 30 years the Blue Cross leased facilities
from the local Theosophical Society. That deal was at
an end and matters looked bleak when unexpectedly a donor
who had visited the shelter as a girl, when it was still in the
Sundaram home, contributed the present four-acre site in
Progress against vivisection also came slowly,
despite early favor from Nehru, who formed the Animal
Welfare Board of India in 1960, with the stated intent that it
should halt classroom dissection and discourage use of animals
in research. Eight years passed before his daughter,
Indira Gandhi, asked deputy prime minister Morarji Desai to
follow up. Desai banned the export of monkeys for laboratory
use after he became prime minister in 1977.
A maker of satellite TV equipment, Chinny
Krishna and the Blue Cross of India have since 1987 set the
world standard in developing computer simulations to
replace classroom dissection. They currently distribute simulated
dissections of frogs, pigeons, rats, cockroaches,
earthworms, and rabbits.
But the biggest Blue Cross antivivisection success
came on May 19, 1997, when rather than risk losing a
precedential verdict before the Delhi High Court, the Indian
Ministry of Human Resource Development agreed to make
dissection optional in high school classrooms nationwide.
The case was brought for Sarika Sancheti, 17, by the Blue
Cross and 10 other organizations.
V. Sundaram died, at age 81, just 12 days later.
[Contact the Blue Cross of India, 1-A Eldams
Rd., Madras 600 018, India.]