Actress-turned-politician sends 100 working elephants to camp
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:
CHENNAI, TRIVANDRUM– Credit Jayalalithaa, the actress
turned Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state, India, with at least
offering a different sort of animal-related sideshow from the usual
in Indian politics.
Instead of either killing dogs or railing against alleged
Muslim cow slaughter, Jayalalithaa and the Department of Hindu
Religious and Charitable Endowments from November 15 to December 15
hosted a rest-and-recreation camp for working elephants at the
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Thepakkadu, near Coimbatore.
Held against the opposition of federal environment minister
T.R. Baalu, a liquor merchant who like Jayalalithaa comes from
Chennai, the elephant camp attracted 45 elephants from the Forest
Department, 37 from Tamil Nadu temples, and 18 belonging to private
It also attracted 10,000 tourists.
Declaring it a huge success, Jayalalithaa decreed that an
elephant rest-and-recreation camp would henceforth be held annually,
and that the 30-day session held this year would be extended in 2004
to 45 days.
Jayalalithaa’s elephant camp one-upped the August 26 National
Workshop on Captive Elephants held at Thiruvanantha-puram, at which
T.R. Baalu was keynote speaker. Hindu scholar Nanditha Krishna,
wife of Blue Cross of India chair and Animal Welfare Board of India
vice chair Chinny Krishna, then reviewed the role of elephants in
Indian culture in the August 31 edition of the Sunday Express, one
of the most-read newspapers in Chennai, and concluded by denouncing
many of the common cruelties practiced by traditional elephant
trainers, called mahouts.
Having long identified herself with the cause of elephants,
Jaylalithaa was expected to respond in a dramatic way, and did.
Known by her first name only, Jayalalithaa has campaigned for
years against the use of elephants by street performers, and has
rescued several working elephants by purchasing them for donation to
Hindu temples in India, like the Hindu and Buddhist temples of Sri
Lanka and Thailand, have historically often doubled as sanctuaries
for retired working animals–but both the National Workshop on
Captive Elephants and Nanditha Krishna pointed out frequent
shortcomings of temple elephant care.
The elephant rest-and-recreation camp idea initially appeared
to have the makings of an elephantine fiasco when The Hindu, the
leading newspaper in Chennai, repeatedly exposed abuse of elephants
by mahouts as they tried to get the animals to board trucks to go to
the camp. Activist G. Rajendran in early December filed suit against
the return of the elephants from temples and private citizens to
their homes, and argued that the camp itself violated the Forest
By the end of the camp, however, the complaints were
Other pols kill dogs
Jayalalithaa has also spoken out for street dogs, but
because of the success in Tamil Nadu of the national Animal Birth
Control program she has seldom needed to since becoming governor.
Elsewhere, ABC proponents are often still fighting an uphill
battle. Politicians embarrassed by corruption scandals and their own
inability to solve problems resulting from poverty and illiteracy
have long relied on killing dogs as makework for loyal goons, and as
a way to take action with visible results–at least until the dogs
breed back up to the huge carrying capacity of the trash-filled
Cracking down on cow slaughter has even greater resonance
with the Hindu majority in much of India, but risks losing bribes
from butchers, revealing the hypocrisy of prominent beef-eating
Hindus, touching off ethnic violence, and obliging governments to
adequately fund the pinjarapoles which are in theory supposed to
shelter all of the worn-out milk cows and working oxen who are
surreptitiously sold to slaughter.
Pioneered by the Blue Cross of India and directed by the
Animal Welfare Board, both based in Chennai, the ABC approach to
street dog population control has been Indian national policy since
December 1997, when achieving no-kill animal control by 2005 was
declared a national goal by the former Congress Party government.
Soon afterward the Congress Party was swept from office by
the Hindu nationalist Bharatija Janata Party coalition that has ruled
India ever since.
For the next five years, however, federal animal welfare
programs were administered by Maneka Gandhi, a long-serving
independent member of Parliament who in 1984 founded People for
Animals, the only national Indian animal advocacy organization.
Federal aid flowed to ABC programs under Mrs. Gandhi–but the
money stopped for several months after the animal welfare ministry
was transferred to Baalu in mid-2002.
The disruption enabled the advocates and political
beneficiaries of dog-killing to gain momentum.
In Bangalore, for example, Compassion Unlimited Plus Action
runs one of the most successful ABC programs in India while refuting
seemingly endless spurious accusations from the Stray Dog Free
Bangalore Society. The society contends that it is a conflict of
interest for an animal advocacy charity to run an ABC program and
that the city has a duty to kill dogs.
The Stray Dog Free Bangalore Society strategy appears to be
to get the municipality to take control of the local ABC programs,
then cut off the ABC funding in favor of dog-killing as a purported
cheaper option–even though it amounts to guaranteed perpetual
employment for dogcatchers.
The Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad earlier in 2003 took
administration of ABC programs back from PfA/Hyderabad and the Blue
Cross of Hyderabad. In August 2003, PfA/Hyderabad caught three
employees of the Secunderabad Cantonment Board in the act of
poisoning dogs. By October 2003 the Municipal Corporation was openly
killing dogs, according to The Times of India.
The most recent resumption of dog-killing came in Trivandrum,
“They have started killing in the area we are working in
now!” e-mailed International Animal Rescue chief executive Alan
Knight on December 13.
Founded in 1988 by British citizens John and Jo Hicks, IAR operates
ABC programs in Trivandum and Goa.
“Until December 2003, killing stray dogs in Kerala was
illegal,” Knight explained, “but a petition was filed in Cochin
with the High Court of Kerala to lift the ban, effectively giving
the municipalities the go-ahead to recruit dog catchers to
exterminate stray dogs. The petition stated that stray dogs are a
menace to people and that the only preventive measure against rabies
is to kill them.
“We immediately contacted Maneka Gandhi and Chinny Krishna.
Maneka told us that she was in the process of filing a stay against
the judgement,” Knight continued. “A few days later, Dr. Krishna
informed us that a petition was being filed on behalf of Daya, an
animal welfare organization affiliated with the Animal Welfare Board,
and that they were pleading with the municipalities to hold off on
killing dogs until the case was heard.
“Unfortunately, on December 10 we learned that the
municipality of Cochin, exploiting the delay in getting the stay
vacated, had killed 40 strays,” Knight said.
“Since stray dogs are our main concern, we were worried that
the animals we had sterilised, tattooed and vaccinated would
nevertheless be targeted. Although our animals are easily
identifiable by a tattoo number, a nick in the ear, and a collar
bearing the name of International Animal Rescue, we were not
convinced that they would be spared.
“We therefore went to see Professor J. Chandra, mayor of
Trivandrum,” Knight related. “During our meeting, the mayor stated
that she had no intention of starting the killing of dogs until all
other options had been explored. She went on to assure us that the
street animals in our areas would not be affected, since the dogs we
had sterilized, treated and vaccinated against rabies posed no
But on December 10 Chandra “gave the go-ahead to start
killing stray dogs in Trivandrum,” Knight said.
“Much time and effort has been put into making sterilization
programs work. Unfortunately, many municipalities have failed to
implement ABC in a consistent manner and are now resorted to killing
dogs they have already sterilized and vaccinated,” Knight charged.
“Until the High Court considers the appeal and reaches a
final judgement, the killing may proceed. This is disastrous for the
dogs and our clinic, as even the dogs we have sterilized and have
our collars on will be shot or poisoned. This makes continuing our
work almost impossible,” Knight concluded.