Chronology of humane progress in India (Part One)

 

Special: Chronology of humane progress in India

by Merritt Clifton, Editor, Animal People News

PREFACE

The “Chronology of Humane Progress in India” covers only events originating before 2007,  to give more recent events time to settle into perspective.  The outcomes of court cases in which judgements were rendered more recently are discussed in light of antecedents which have evolved for much longer…”

Organizations mentioned are included either because they are believed to be the oldest within their respective regions,  or because for some reason they are of national or international note.  Among the many founded more recently than 10 years ago,  only the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations is mentioned;  it is included because it is a representative body providing a forum and collective voice to the entire Indian humane movement.       

For individual organizations to be mentioned or not mentioned is in no way meant as a qualitative judgement.  There are now well over 1,000 animal welfare societies and allied institutions operating in India,  of which only a relative few are discussed.  Many excellent animal charities that accomplish a great deal within the shadows of older and larger organizations may be overlooked,  while some rogue societies best known as examples of corruption and mismanagement are discussed because of their notoriety.

Humane progress continues.  We hope to continue recording it through many more years and triumphs.

Note: Upon completion,  at least to the present state,  I sent “Chronology of Humane Progress in India” to several peer reviewers.  Quite a lot was corrected,  amended,  and updated,  but various reviewers continue to believe that I am a great ignoramus about various points of ancient history & scripture,  & perhaps some more recent history,  too.

There are,  however,  several different versions of the alleged truth of various points that I have purportedly garbled.

It may be that all of them are complete,  accurate,  and the whole truth,  co-existing in parallel universes or at least parallel interpretations;  but,  being a great ignoramus,  and a journalist besides,  I have elected to go with the information I have.

Readers are at liberty to rewrite as suits them. —M.C.

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1646-1626 BCE – Approximate date of the Mesopotamian clay tablets telling the earliest known version of the story of Noah,  who saved his family and animals from a great flood by building an ark.  The actual historical events inspiring the story may have happened many centuries before that.  Elements of the story appear in some of the oldest Indian literature.  Though many different cultures and religions have adopted versions of the story,  central to all versions is that Noah made a point of saving animals as well as people.

1200-800 BCE
Range of most plausible dates for the events narrated in the Mahabharata,  the earliest edition of which appears to have been written down circa 400 B.C.  Two episodes of the Mahabharata have particular significance to animal advocates.  One,  found only in the Jain version,  is the compassion of Lord Neminathawho renounced his kingdom and refused to marry after seeing the many animals who had been penned to await slaughter for his wedding feast. The example of Lord Neminatha figures prominently in the Jain vegetarian tradition.  Since publication of the first English edition of the Mahabharata in 1897,  the other episode of import to animal advocates has become known and often cited worldwide.  This involves Yudisthira,  who earlier in the story loses his kingdom,  bankrupts his family,  and dishonors his wife by gambling.

Eventually Yudisthira redeems himself by unsuccessfully striving to prevent a war that annihilates both armies.  Upon regaining his kingdom,  however,  Yudisthira sacrifices a horse.  Compassion for animals is not yet among Yudisthira’s attributes when late in life Yudisthira,  his wife,  and his brothers leave the kingdom and,  wearing crude fur garments,  seek to walk to heaven,  imagined to be at the top of the highest peak of the Himalayas.  A street dog follows them.  The wife and brothers fall one by one to their deaths during the climb,  but Yudisthira and the dog reach the summit.  The gods send a chariot to transport Yudisthira to heaven,  but Yudisthira refuses to go if he cannot take the dog.

The dog then reveals himself to be the god Yama.  The Mahabharata omits the moral often cited by animal advocates today:  that Yudisthira must extend his compassion to animals before he may ascend to heaven himself and redeem his wife and brothers from hell.  A third episode of the Mahabharata makes clear that compassion toward animals was not among the lessons of concern to the original authors of the Yudisthira story:  Parikshit,  successor to Yudisthira as king,  dies of snakebite.  His son Janamejaya attempts to sacrifice every snake in the kingdom.  (Yudisthira’s Dog,  a short animated film by Wolf Clifton,  narrated by Nanditha Krishna,  was honored as “Best animation on animal rights” at the Third International Rights Film Festival in Kharkov,  Ukraine,  in December 2009.  Premiered at Asia for Animals 2008 in Bali,  Yudisthira’s Dog may be viewed at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0JXcPxkSGE>.)

800-400 BCE – Range of most plausible dates for the events narrated in the Ramayana.  The hero,  Ram,  is credited with building a causeway to Sri Lanka,  called Ram Sethu and also known as Adam’s Bridge.  While Ram Sethu may have begun as a chain of natural limestone shoals,  as science indicates,  it has been above sea level at various times in recorded history,  was historically the main avenue for migration of land animals from India to Sri Lanka,  and there is archaeological evidence that it was reinforced at some point by a walled,  paved causeway.  Ram is said to have marched an elephant army across the causeway,  accompanied by flying monkeys,  to rescue his kidnapped wife from a demonic king of Sri Lanka.  The flying monkeys are believed to have been Hanuman languors,  named after Hanuman, the leader of the monkey armies, who are capable of much longer “flying” leaps from tree to tree than macaques,  the monkey species most familiar in southern India and Sri Lanka.  Although tradition holds that Hanuman and his army were monkeys,  the Mahabharata itself never explicitly refers to Hanuman or his people as monkeys,  but only as “forest dwellers.”

620-560 BCE — Life of Aesop,  the Greek slave and story teller whose fables often focused on animal intelligence and the importance of being kind to animals.  Especially well-remembered is the story of the runaway slave Androcles,  who paused in his flight to pull a thorn from the paw of a lion.  Androcles was later captured and thrown to a lion–who was the same lion,  and refused to eat him.  Aesop’s fables have been known in India since ancient times.

600-500 BCE – Buddhism and Jainism rose in India in opposition to animal sacrifice,  then practiced by most Hindus,  though vegetarian teachings had already emerged.  Hinduism subsequently evolved to encourage vegetarianism and require members of the highest caste,  the Brahmins,  to be vegetarian. Both Mahavir,  599-527 BCE, the last of the 24 great teachers of Jainism,  who prescribed many of the rules that differentiate Jains from Hindus,  and the Buddha,  563-483 BCE,   taught vegetarianism and compassion for all beings.  Said Mahavir,  “It is not enough to live and let live.  You must help others live.”  This is the idea embodied in the Sanskrit word ahimsa.

Both [Lord] Mahavir and the Buddha also taught that humans have an obligation to shelter and care for their aged and infirm work animals just as they would shelter and care for aged human beings.  Whether this inspired the Hindu tradition of sheltering cattle in gaushalas and pinjarapoles,  or simply revived it,  is unclear and is disputed.  Either way,  however,  it was in this era that sheltering cattle became the first established and enduring form of sheltering animals as an act of charity.  Jainism may have evolved in part from earlier beliefs and practices of some inhabitants of the desert region extending from east of the Indus River into modern Gujarat and Rajasthan,  whose descendants include the Bishnoi,  the Sindhi,  and Thari people.

The renowned Indian conservationist Valmik Thapar, described the Bishnoi in his 1997 book Land of the Tiger as “the primary reason that desert wildlife still exists on the subcontinent.  The women of the community have been known to breastfeed black buck fawns and save insect life,”  he wrote,  “while many of the men have died in their efforts to counter armed poaching gangs.  Bishnoi is an offshoot of Jainism,”  Thapar asserted,  reversing the tradition claimed by Bishnoi elders.

The modern Bishnoi faith was established by Guru Jambheshwar,  1451-1502,  a Hindu opponent of idolatry,  whose teachings did,  however,  substantially overlap teachings of Jainism.  Bishnois believe,  Thapar continued,  “that all nature’s creations have a right to life.

This belief reached its apotheosis in 1778 when 294 men and 69 women laid down their lives to protect the khejri tree.  A senior officer of Jodhpur state arrived to cut down the trees,  which were needed for burning lime.  The first to challenge him was a woman,  who hugged one of the trees and was promptly decapitated.  Her three daughters followed suit and were also axed.  Many others followed.  This mass slaughter led to a royal order that prohibited the cutting of any tree in a Bishnoi village.”  To this day,  Bishnoi villages are wooded oases in the otherwise harsh Rajasthan desert,  where wildlife congregates in proximity to the people.  The Thar region of Pakistan is adjacent to the Rajasthan desert of India.  Although the Thari people are now mostly Islamic,  their traditional teachings about the sanctity of life somewhat resemble those of the Bishnoi.

The Sindh desert is farther west in Pakistan.  The Sindhi people,  related to the Thari,  have similar beliefs,  but are now culturally divided:  Sindhis who practice Hinduism long ago migrated into the Mumbai region of India,  while those who practice Islam remain in Pakistan.

250 BCE — Introducing the first animal protection laws in the Indian civil code,  the Buddhist emperor Asoka practiced a form of Buddhism which like Hinduism and Jainism holds that animals should not be eaten,  and that an aged or disabled cow or work animal should be retired and well-treated.  Asoka sent missionaries to Thailand and Sri Lanka to teach Buddhism,  including his son Arahat Mahinda.  Interrupting a hunt upon arrival in Sri Lanka in 247 B.C.,  “Arahat Mahinda stopped King Devanampiyatissa from killing the deer and told the king that every living creature has an equal right to live,” according to Sri Lankan elephant conservationist Jawantha Jayewardene.  Persuaded,  the king became a Buddhist and “decreed that no one should kill or harm any living being,”  Jayewardene continues.  “He set apart a large area around his palace as a sanctuary that gave protection to all fauna and flora.  This was called Mahamevuna Uyana,  and is believed to be the first sanctuary in the world.”  Arahat Mahinda and the other Asokan emissaries also introduced animal sheltering as a central function of monasteries wherever they went.  Buddhist monasteries in Thailand and Sri Lanka to this day often double as animal shelters,  though at some the custom was long ago distorted into keeping just a lone chained temple elephant.

341 — Sri Lankan King Buddhadstra found a higher calling as a veterinarian.

497Formation of the Shaolin Temple in Henan,  China,  by Ba Tuo,  a vegetarian Buddhist evangelist from India.  Strict followers of Ba Tuo have remained vegetarian despite centuries of oppression from foes including dog-eater sects,  Genghis Khan,  tyrannical Chinese warlords and emperors,  and the Communists under Mao tse Tung. Rather than bear arms against other living beings,  the monks of Shaolin by tradition gradually invented,  developed,  and popularized kung fu,  which is ancestral to judo,  ju-jitsu,  and karate.  The Shaolin vegetarian tradition,  however,  came to be challenged most,  over the centuries,  by the activities of meat-eating “warrior monk” mercenaries and bandits,  who claimed to be Buddhist in name,  yet were not faithful to Buddhist teachings in observance.  “Warrior monks” who externally adopted Buddhist trappings,  but were not actually associated with the Shaolin temple,  established a variety of schools and quasi-monastic orders in the Shaolin region.  The excesses of meat-eating “warrior monks” with claimed or implied Shaolin affiliations have been a staple theme of Chinese literature since approximately 200 years after Ba Tuo’s lifetime.  Meir Shahar,  author of The Shaolin Monastery:  History,  Religion,  and the Chinese Martial Arts,  offers a detailed summary at http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=521.

500 – Approximate date at which Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu narrated to the scholar and author Sanatana Goswami the story of how the wandering sage Narada transformed the sadistic hunter Mrigari into an animal-loving vegetarian.  Significant in Hare Krishna teachings as a demonstration that sinners can achieve personal redemption,  the story was in 2012 retold as an illustrated book for children by Kosa Ely and Anna Johansson.  There seems to be no older clear record of Mrigari,  though his epiphany,  reached through a dream in which he becomes every animal he has hunted,  has parallels in stories told in several other cultures to teach against excessive hunting.  Narada,  however,  first appears in The Bhagavata Purana as an emissary from the gods. Believed to have been written in present form not later than 1000 CE,  The Bhagavata Purana by tradition was authored by Veda Vyasa circa 3200 BCE–about 1,000 years before mainstream Hindusim began to reject animal sacrifice and turn toward vegetarianism.

570-622Mohammed built the teachings of Islam pertaining to diet and animal sacrifice largely by consolidating a variety of regional and often strictly local religious beliefs and practices into a single set of teachings intended to supersede the many variants.  In particular,  Mohammed restated the rules for animal slaughter prescribed circa 1300 BCE by Moses,  adding several illustrative examples to clarify what are unacceptable animal handling and slaughtering practices.  Mohammed also added some broader admonitions on behalf of animals.  Summarizes Islamic scholar Jasmi Bin Abdul,  “The care and love of wild animals has been emphasized both in the Qur’an as well as in Sunna,  the traditions of the Prophet.

In verse 54:28,  there is a reference to Allah insisting that the people of Tamud share the water with their camels.  In the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad,  we see many instances to show that He advocated kindness toward animals.  According to one tradition,  Allah punished a woman because she imprisoned a cat until the cat died of hunger.  The Prophet also tells us that a prostitute’s sins were forgiven because she gave water to a thirsty dog.”  As narrated by Mohammed’s close friend Bukhari,  in Hadith 3208,   “A prostitute passed by a dog near the head of a well.  The dog was panting and it seemed that he was going to die of thirst.  The woman managed to give the dog water by filling up her shoe with water.  Her sins were forgiven for doing that.”  Some translations add that the woman lowered the shoe into the well by using her head covering as a rope.  In any version,  the woman is forgiven multiple transgressions of prescribed morality,  some of which are punished by stoning,  for performing one kind deed on behalf of one of the street dogs who are much feared and despised in many Islamic nations.

A vegetarian tradition with possibly pre-Mohammedan antecedents has existed among the Sufi branch of Islam at least since the life of the female Sufi saint Rabiah Al Adawiyah, 714-801.  (A list of prominent Sufi vegetarian saints and leaders is posted at <www.godsdirectcontact.org/eng/news/178/vg_55.htm>.)  A Sufi version of the life of Jesus asserts that he was vegetarian and indicates that his focal concern was opposition to animal sacrifice.  The early Christian historian Hegesippus,  born 48 years after the death of James,  the brother of Jesus who founded the Jerusalem branch of Christianity,  wrote that James was vegetarian.  Several relocations and several hundred years later,  the remnants of the Jerusalem church last left historical record of themselves in approximately the region where Sufism emerged another several hundred years after that.  A theory that Sufism incorporated lingering teachings of the Jerusalem church is is outlined in detail by Keith Akers in The Lost Religion of Jesus:  Simple Living & Nonviolence In Early Christianity (Lantern Books 2001).

1143 – Rise and persecution of the Cathari,  a sect in southern France who challenged Catholic dominion of Europe.  Summarizes the <www.cathar.info> web site,  “Cathars, or at least Parfaits and trainee Parfaits, refused to eat animal products – not only meat but also milk, cheese and eggs – anything that resulted from coition. Some at least refused to eat honey, apparently on the grounds that it, like the morning dew, was the product of monthly copulation between the sun and the moon!  In many respects Cathar parfaits resembled modern day vegans, except that they did eat fish.   (The justification was that fish, as they believed, did not reproduce sexually and so could not imprison a soul as other animals could.)  That fish reproduced asexually was a genuine and widespread belief in the Middle Ages.   The same error underlay the Catholic practice of eating fish on fast days.   This practice is still alive in the Roman Church, and a vestige of the same error is the common practice of serving fish on Fridays – Fridays having been traditional fast days.”


St. Francis of Assisi
(1182-1226) may have been influenced by Catharism;  his follower Bernard Delicieux (1260-1318),  campaigned against cruelty and injustice done to the Cathari.  Richard of Wyche (1197-1253),  Bishop of Chichester,  an early British critic of the morality of slaughter,  became a vegetarian before having extensive exposure to Catharism during several years teaching at the universities in Paris and Bologna.  He returned to England in 1235, two years after the Catholic church founded the Inquisition to persecute the Cathari.  As chancellor of Canterbury and later Bishop of Chichester,  Richard of Wyche practiced and advocated Cathar-like strict abstinence,  but despite conflict with King Henry III,  he avoided conflict with the Catholic hierarchy.

The last known Cathari were exterminated by the Albigensian Crusade in 1329.  During the preceding two centuries the Cathari had established themselves within the regions which are now northern Italy,  Germany, the Netherlands,  and France,  moving west along major trade routes and extensively intermarrying with local mercantile families.

The Cathari had considerable communication with the Bogomil,  an alleged heretical sect that appeared earlier and persisted later in what is now Bulgaria.   Explains James McDonald in Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc, “Bogolism became influential in Bulgaria during the reign of Peter the First (927-928).   The religion flourished in the Balkans for centuries,  until it was wiped out by (or incorporated into) Islam after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.   A Bogomil bishop is known to have attended a Cathar Council in the Languedoc.”

Other Cathari antecedents have been disputed since the first record of their existence,  initially as the Catholic hierarchy looked for links between Cathari teachings and other alleged heresies.  McDonald notes possible origins of Cathari teaching in Persian Zoroastrianism.  Another historian of the Cathari,  H.C. Lea,  notes a Cathari ceremonial garment similar to one worn by Zoroastrians and some Brahmins.

Catholic criticisms of the Cathari,  and most subsequent interpretations,  have connected the Cathari teachings to early Christian Gnosticism,  but the last known Gnostic sects were extinct more than 500 years before the Cathari appeared.

The Cathari in the view of this author were most likely descended from the Thari people of Pakistan and Rajasthan,  several centuries after a draught-driven diaspora which also sent refugees from the Thari desert into eastern India and the Himalayas.  Descendants of this Thari diaspora documentedly founded a Nepalese dynasty at about the same time that the Cathari came under persecution in Europe.

The Cathari spread across Europe at approximately the same time as the Rom,  the people now commonly called “gypsies,”  who from the earliest records of their existence have been teamsters and animal exhibitors,  and are meat-eaters.  It is possible that the Rom reached Europe as workers for the Cathari.

The Rom language is Romani,  a central Indo-Aryan language related to western Hindi,  Bhili,  Marathi,  Gujarati,  Khandeshi,  and Rajasthani.   The Irish form of Romani evolved into the language called Shelta-Thari.

Though not Catholic,  the Romani did not challenge the dominion of the Catholic church,  and were not formally persecuted by the church,  but have historically encountered intense ethnic discrimination.  As the Wikipedia article “Names of the Romani people” explains,  the commonly used name gypsy “originates with the  Byzantine Greek atsinganoi,  Latin adsincani or athinganoi,  literally ‘untouchables.'”  This evolved into “Aigyptioi,”  in modern Greek,  and then “gypsy” in English,  “in the erroneous belief that the Romanies originated in Egypt,  and were exiled as punishment for allegedly harboring the infant Jesus.”

In Spain,  Wales,  Estonia,  and Finland,  the article adds,  the Rom are called–and call themselves–by names meaning “black.”

Rom,  the most commonly used term,  is often identified with Romania,  which today has the most “gypsies” of any nation.  However,  “Rom” and “Roma” in the contemporary Romani language mean simply “male” and “female,”  and may incorporate a reference to the “gypsies” having been originally followers of Ram,  who also roamed long distances and handled animals.

Many Rom still work in circuses,  other forms of animal entertainment,  and animal agriculture.

1150 – Sri Lankan King Nissanka Malla carved into a stone a decree stating that,  “It is ordered,  by beat of the drum,  that no animals should be killed within a radius of seven gau from the city” of Anuradhapura,  his capitol.  The decree combined consideration for animal welfare with concerns about public health and sanitation,  and about the emotional effect on children of witnessing slaughter.

1334-1354 – Bubonic plague killed up to 75% of the human population of Europe and Asia,  especially China,  but passed relatively lightly through the Islamic world and India.  Brought to Europe from Constantinople by returning crusaders,  and the flea-infested black rats who stowed away on their vessels,  the plague attacked most virulently after terrified cities blamed it on “witchcraft” and purged from their midst both the majority of people who had medicinal skill (mostly older women) and their “familiars,”  mostly the cats who had provided rat control.  Similar persecution of cats arose in southern China,  especially Guangdong,  with similar results.  In the Islamic world,  however,  cats were protected by the favor of Mohammed and his cat-loving disciple Bukhari.  In India,  cats and rat-hunting dogs were protected by Hindu and Jain teachings of tolerance toward all animals.

16th century – “The Mogul emperor Akbar the Great established zoos in various Indian cities which far surpassed in quality and size anything in Europe.  Unlike the cramped European menageries,  Akbar’s zoos provided spacious enclosures and cages,  built in large reserves.  Each had a resident doctor,  and Akbar encouraged careful study of animals.  His zoos were open to the public.  At the entrance to each he posted a message:  ‘Meet your brothers.  Take them to your hearts,  and respect them.'”  [David Hancocks,  A Different Nature.]  This appears to be the first clear differentiation between exhibition of animals for entertainment and exhibition as attempted humane education.

1600 – Approximate date of the formation of the Ahmedabad Dabla Pinjarapole.  This was among the animal care institutions that eventally inspired British soldiers who were stationed in India to form the London SPCA upon returning to England.

1824
Formation of the London SPCA,  which began enforcing the 1822 British humane law five years before Sir William Peel formed the first London police force.  About 150 convictions were won in 1824,  the first year for which records exist.  The London SPCA nearly went bankrupt in 1828,  but was saved by Lewis Gompertz,  inventor of the expanding chuck which makes changing drill bits possible.  Gompertz was drummed out in 1832,  however,   for the alleged offenses of being a Jew and a vegetarian.  He went on to found the Animals’ Friend Society,  which he headed until 1848.   The London SPCA became the Royal SPCA by charter granted by Queen Victoria in 1840.  Victoria herself donated money to antivivisection efforts,  but the British Charities Commission has recently interpreted antivivisection campaigning to be outside the scope of the charter.

1851-1939 — Life of Henry Salt,  founder of the anti-hunting Humanitarian League in 1891,   author of A Plea for Vegetarianism (1886) and Animals’ Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress  (1894), among many other pro-animal writings.  Salt was an influential friend of the vegetarian and antivivisectionist playwright George Bernard Shaw,  the vegetarian moral philosopher and politician Mohandas Gandhi,  and the authors Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Hardy,  among many others. Although others including Abraham Lincoln apparently used the phrase “animal rights” in various contexts,  Salt is believed to have been the first person to advocate an animal rights movement.

1861 – Formation of the Calcutta SPCA.  According to The National Humane Review of May 1935,  “This society receives a government grant,  but much money must come from other sources.”  In 1934 the Calcutta SPCA treated 3,439 working animals for illness and injury,  and prosecuted 9,323 cases of abuse of working animals,  winning 7,908 convictions.  The society killed 1,057 diseased street dogs,  whose conditions were deemed beyond cure.

1862 – Formation in Sri Lanka of the Animals Non-Violence Society and passage of the first wildlife protection law adopted under British rule.  The first Sri Lankan anti-cruelty law was not passed until 1907.

1874 – Formation of the Bombay SPCA,  the longest continuously operating western-style humane society in India.

1890 – Formation of SPCA Lahore.  Some sources state 1892.

1890 – Introduction of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in England.  Versions of this legislation were adopted throughout the British Empire within the next six years,  but effective enforcement proved to be rare and difficult.

1896 – The Maharajah of Pithapuram deeded 98 acres to the use of the newly incorporated Kakinada SPCA.  The Kakinada SPCA was supposed to support itself through judicious use of the land,  but instead sold most of it,  and by December 2008 had just two acres left when investigated by the Animal Welfare Board of India for alleged mismanagement,  at instigation of visitor Lisa Warden.  “The charges framed against SPCA secretary S.S.R. Guru Prasad,  treasurer K.G. Lunani,  and other members of the core committee included negligence in taking care of animals,  misusing funds,  and using almost half” of the remaining land “for purposes other than animal welfare,”  reported The Hindu.  “Guru Prasad had his own house constructed in a corner of the premises where animals were supposed to be sheltered,”  The Hindu added,  “and embarked on building a commercial complex” on the site.

1906 – Formation of SPCA Amritsar.

1907 – The last remaining Asiatic lion habitat,  the Gir Forest in Gujarat state,  was protected by order of the Nawab of Junagadh.  The Gir Forest lion population soared from just 13 when the Nawab acted,  to 219 in 1950 to 285 by 1963,  fell to 177 by 1968,   and climbed back to 359 in 2005.  Human encroachment meanwhile shrank the protected area from more than 4,000 square kilometers to just 1,400.  As many as 90 lions now live outside the protected area.  The Wildlife Institute of India has recommended starting a second protected habitat for Asiatic lions,  but the Gujarat state government has opposed the move,  saying the lions are a symbol of pride for Gujarat.

1907Jim Corbett, the first great tiger conservationist,  began shooting “maneaters,”  including leopards and panthers as well as tigers,  five years after a government study reported that tigers had killed at least 1,046 people in 1902.  Many people were killed after venturing into tiger habitat to hunt for meat or honey.  But humans had done this for centuries without experiencing such frequent attacks.  Corbett became convinced that big cats became dangerous to humans primarily after being wounded by trophy hunters.  Corbett hoped that killing confirmed “maneaters” would eliminate the pretext of trophy hunters that they were acting to protect the public when they hunted big cats who had not harmed anyone.  Not at all the stereotypical “great white hunter,”  Corbett was born in India,  albeit of Anglo-Irish parentage,  and was thereby excluded from advancement in either British expatriate or native Indian society.  He hunted as a youth to help feed his rather poor family.  As an adult,  he came to loath sport hunting,  making no secret of his rather caustic opinion of anyone who would kill animals without need.

Corbett never took pay for killing a tiger,  always hunted “maneaters” alone,  and never hunted any tiger if sport hunters were anywhere in the area.  His methods often included staking out live buffaloes and goats as bait,  but his 1944 book Man-Eaters of Kumaon included passages indicating that he was sensitive to their suffering as well as to the plight of the tigers’ human victims,  and loathed the use of animals as bait for any purpose other than protecting human life.

Corbett (in WW2 uniform at age 64) knew from his own background what families endure after the loss of a mother or wage-earner,  and though he never had children,  he appreciated the grief of those whose children were killed and eaten.  Yet Corbett did not pretend that the killing done by tigers was evil while his own killing was morally justified.  On the contrary,  Corbett was troubled by his work,  and eventually felt that it was all for nothing.

Retiring with his sister to Kenya after Indian independence,  Corbett expected the Indian tiger to be extinct within a decade of his own death.  World War II overshadowed publication of Man-Eaters of Kumaon,  but since his death it has come to be recognized as the foundation of tiger conservation,  and a literary classic in its own right.

PART TWO          PART THREE 

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