Chronology of humane progress in India (Part Three)
Special: Chronology of humane progress in India
by Merritt Clifton, Editor, Animal People News
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…”
Chronology part 3: 1977 to 2010
1977 – Shirley McGreal, the wife of a U.S. diplomat, in 1973 founded the International Primate Protection League in Thailand to fight Thai monkey exports. She enjoyed her first campaign success in India, however, after becoming acquainted with then-Indian prime minister Moraji Desai through diplomatic connections.
Recalled McGreal in 1995, “In 1977 IPPL amassed documents about the U.S. use or misuse of imported Indian rhesus monkey use in military experiments,” in violation of the terms of a 20-year-old export agreement. Desai had been elected prime minister in 1977. McGreal knew that, “Desai was a lifelong vegetarian [in fact, a strict vegan] and animal lover.” She appealed to him. On December 3, 1977, Desai’s government barred monkey exports, effective on April 1, 1978. The introduction of the export ban was eased politically by the publication of an exposé by Nanditha Krishna in the March 26, 1978 edition of The Illustrated Weekly of India, which explained that the ban was imposed “after it was discovered that the Pentagon used monkeys in military research–to test the radiation effects of nuclear explosions. Continued McGreal, “Desai saved a species and hundreds of thousands of individual animals from suffering and death in foreign laboratories. Powerful users exerted heavy pressure on Desai. He stood firm,” as have his successors. “In an attempt at historical revisionism,” McGreal continued, “claims were made by U.S. scientists that the Indian ban resulted from conservation concerns and the dwindling numbers of rhesuses. IPPL contacted Desai, by then retired, for clarification. In a handwritten letter dated April 16, 1985, Desai stated, ‘You are quite correct in saying that I banned the export of monkeys on a humanitarian basis and not because the number was lessening. I believe in preventing cruelty to all living beings in any form.'”
1977 – Diana Ratnagar of Pune founded Beauty Without Cruelty (India), in emulation of the work of Muriel, The Lady Dowding, who died in England on November 21, 1993, at age 85. A lifelong vegetarian, Theosophist, and spiritualist, after her mother’s example, the Lady Dowding argued in her 1980 autobiography, The Psychic LIfe of Muriel, the Lady Dowding, that enlightenment cannot be achieved without sensitivity to animals. Then known as Muriel Whiting, the future Lady Dowding met Air Chief Marshal Lord Hugh Dowding in 1944, shortly after her first husband Max Whiting, a Royal Air Force bomber pilot, was killed in action. The Lord Dowding quit eating meat and hunting as part of his marital vows. Serving in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British Parliament, from 1948 until his death in 1970, Dowding endorsed a humane slaughter bill in his debut speech; of his 32 speeches to the Lords, 27 concerned animal welfare.
The Lady Dowding emerged as a public crusader in her own right circa 1955, after denouncing fur-wearers at a spiritualist gathering for insensitivity “to the vibrations of terror and suffering emanating from the skins of those animals.” Learning from former whaling fleet surgeon Harry Lillie about the cruelties of whaling and the annual slaughter of baby harp seals off Atlantic Canada, she tried to spark protest on behalf of marine mammals, with little success until the first graphic film of the harp seal killing became available in 1964. In 1957 she was elected to the council of the British National Anti-Vivisection Society. The Lady Dowding founded Beauty Without Cruelty in 1959, in partnership with Sylvia Barbnel, author of When Your Animal Dies, and Elsbeth Douglas Reid, a well-known actress. Seeking alternatives to animal-based beauty products, chemist Kathleen Long developed a product line by testing formulations on the BWC directors. In 1963 Long and the Lady Dowding formed Beauty Without Cruelty Cosmetics. Afflicted by serious illness in 1978,
The Lady Dowding rallied in March 1979 to fly to New York as star guest along with actress Gretchen Wyler and Fund for Animals founder Cleveland Amory during a week of antifur protest coordinated by Dr. Ethel Thurston, head of the U.S. branch of BWC, to coincide with the American International Fur Fair. The effort is remembered as the real beginning of the U.S. anti-fur movement. As the Lady Dowding’s health deteriorated, the nonprofit organization Beauty Without Cruelty (U.K.) waned, and was formally disbanded in 2002, though the for-profit company continues. Beauty Without Cruelty (India), however, may now be reaching more people, emphasizing a vegan message, than Beauty Without Cruelty (U.K.) ever did.
1979 – Formation of Friendicoes Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals in Delhi by Geeta Seshamani and Gautam Barat. Friendicoes has grown into the largest of at least nine Animal Birth Control program service providers and animal shelters in the Delhi area. Friendicoes also operates a care-for-life animal sanctuary in Gurgaon, just beyond the greater Delhi outskirts, and has an outreach program serving working equines in the Delhi/Agra corridor.
1981 – Existing overseas programs of the Royal SPCA of Great Britain, Massachusetts SPCA, and Humane Society of the U.S. were merged to form the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
1983 – The neuter/return method of feral cat population control was introduced by the Cat Welfare Society of Britain, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare of Britain, and the Kenya SPCA, apparently after some trial use in South Africa. It caught on in the U.S. in a major way through the efforts of Alley Cat Allies, founded in 1991, although several smaller organizations had already been using it since the middle 1980s, and various individuals were sterilizing feral cats on their own even before that. Acceptance of neuter/return for feral cats helped later to ease the acceptance of neuter/return for street dogs, as practiced by Animal Birth Control programs.
1984 – Maneka Gandhi formed People for Animals, the first national animal advocacy network in India, with active chapters or affiliates in nearly every major city. Many operate local Animal Birth Control programs.
1990 – The Blue Cross of India field-tested Talsur, a zinc-based chemosterilant for dogs developed by the National Institute of Immunology, marketed by Karnataka Antibiotics Ltd. Of 400 street dogs who were injected by the primary developer, reported Blue Cross of India chief executive Chinny Krishna, “More than 35% had massive scrotal swelling and, in a few cases, ruptures of the scrotum. More than 140 animals were then surgically castrated.” Though Talsur failed and was withdrawn from use, the zinc-based approach was revamped and used in producing other chemosterilants that have been extensively deployed in Mexico, Brazil, and Thailand, albeit not yet without relatively high rates of complication.
1992 – Founding of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad (registered in 1993) by film stars Nagarjuna and Amala Akkineni. Through 2009 the Blue Cross of Hyderabad had treated or rescued more than 300,000 animals, including 34,921 in 2009 alone.
1992 – Formation of the Central Zoo Authority, the regulatory body for Indian wildlife exhibition facilities. Since inception, says the CZA web site, “the Authority has evaluated 347 zoos, out of which 164 have been recognized and 183 refused recognition. Out of 183 zoos refused recognition, 92 have been closed down and their animals relocated suitably. Cases of the remaining 91 derecognized zoos are currently under review.”
1992 – In court case Maneka Gandhi vs. Delhi, as summarized by Utkarsh Anand of the Indian Express, “the Delhi High Court held that street dogs are a part of the city, and just being classified as strays does not mean they should be killed. The court accepted that sterilization and vaccination of dogs is the only scientific and humane solution to the so-called problem of street dogs.” The verdict established the legal foundation for the Indian national Animal Birth Control program, ratified by the Animal Welfare Board of India in December 1997 and empowered by enabling legislation in 2003, but still just being phased into existence in much of the country.
1992 – Christine Townsend succeeded founder Crystal Rogers as head trustee of the original Help In Suffering hospital and shelter in Jaipur, India. Relocated the organization to much larger premises, and presiding over an enormous expansion of resources and mission, Townend later expanded the organization to run a second hospital in Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills. Earlier, Townend and Animal Liberation author Peter Singer cofounded the Australian animal rights group Animal Liberation, now Animals Australia, in 1978. Under Townend, Help In Suffering directed one of the first Animal Birth Control programs to eradicate rabies from the vicinity where it works, and was among the first to document that the dog population and rabies cases fell off precipitously as the 70% sterilization target was reached. Townend retired in 2007, succeeded by Help In Suffering senior veterinarian Jack Reece, who has continued to document the successes and ecological effects of ABC.
1993 – Formation of Compassionate Crusaders Trust, in Kolkata, by Debasis Chakrabarti and Poornima Toolsidas. The founders also formed People for Animals/Kolkata. Working in partnership, the two organizations expanded to an inner city emergency clinic, the Kolkata pound and Animal Birth Control program, the Karuna Kunj sanctuary, and the Ashari animal rescue and education center. A high point of activity was winning a Calcutta High Court verdict in September 2006 that obliged the Kailghat Temple to move animal sacrifices indoors. In recent years, however, Compassionate Crusaders under Chakrabarti and PfA/Kolkata under Toolsidas have moved in separate directions, and have downsized under economkc strain.
1994 – The city of Surat poisoned dogs just ahead of the monsoons. Rat infestation followed monsoon flooding. Outbreaks of both bubonic plague and leptospirosis resulted from the rat infestation. Of 234 reported plague deaths, 57 were confirmed b y post mortem testing. There were 693 reported plague cases in all.
1996 – Formation of the Visakha SPCA, now among India’s largest. Commencing an Animal Birth Control Program in the last days of 1998, the Visakha SPCA achieved a sterilization rate of 80% among the dogs of Visakhapatnam proper in only six years, and extended ABC service to the villages of the greater Visakhapatnam Circle — many of them now engulfed by the rapid growth of the city of Visakhapatnam.
1996 – Wildlife SOS began building a dancing bear sanctuary on 20 acres within the Sur Sarovar wildlife refuge, 17 kilometres from the Taj Mahal in nearby Agra. Initiated as part of a multinational string of dancing bear sanctuaries funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the first Wildlife SOS sanctuary was completed in 2002 as the first Animal Rescue Center accredited by the Central Zoo Authority of India, after a split with WSPA. It opened on Christmas Day 2002, sponsored by International Animal Rescue, Save the Bears, and One Voice. Begun by Kartick Satyanaryan as a wildlife rescue auxiliary to the Friendicoes Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals in New Delhi, Wildlife SOS now operates two additional Animal Rescue Centres for rescued bears. One is within Bannerghatta National Park, near Bangalore, in Karnataka state. The other is at Van Vihar, near Bhopal, in Madya Pradesh state.
1997 – The Animal Welfare Board of India in December 1997 hosted the first Indian national animal welfare conference. Held in Delhi, the conference attracted representatives of more than 100 organizations.
1998-2002 – Maneka Gandhi served as the first minister of state for animal welfare in India, and the world. She was removed from office after conflicting with the biomedical research and pharmaceutical industries, as well as with practitioners of animal sacrifice, and the authority of the ministry is significantly reduced.
1998 – The British-based Donkey Sanctuary began work in India, initially in partnership with People for Animals. The Donkey Sanctuary/India was formally incorporated in 2002. It now operates at five locations.
1998 – Formation of the Wildlife Trust of India.
1999 – The British-based Brooke Hospital for Animals began Indian operations.
2000 – Formed by then recent university graduate Rahul Sehgal in September 2000 to start an Animal Birth Control program in Ahmedabad, the Animal Help Foundation had just incorporated in January 2001 when an earthquake killed as many as 30,000 people in the nearby Kutch region of Gujarat. Animal Help was among the first responders, and from that experience plus experience with other disasters went on to form the first standing disaster relief team in India. Meanwhile, Animal Help introduced western-style high-volume surgical techniques, striving to achieve western-level surgical asepsis as a pre-condition for doing same-day release surgery (commonly called CNVR). Sterilizing 8,000 dogs in 2005, Animal Help hired more veterinarians and sterilized 45,000 in 2006, winning contracts to work in other cities, including Bangalore and Hyderabad. However, Animal Help was severely stressed in 2007 when several cities delayed payments for services, including Ahmedabad, and staff were attacked and equipment destroyed in mob attacks, some of which appeared to have been incited by losing bidders for contracts awarded in connection with the federally subsidized Animal Birth Control program. Animal Help has continued to operate in Ahmedabad, but the greater part of Animal Help activity in recent years has been done in other cities, and in Bhutan, where it has operated under contract to Humane Society International.
2000 – Lama Kunzang Dorjee founded the Jangsa Animal Saving Trust, the first humane society in Bhutan. The organization has partered with Humane Society International and Animal Help, of Ahmedabad, to operate the first Animal Birth Control program in Bhutan. According to Jansa Animal Saving Trust literature, Kunzang Dorjee was motivated by “a personal experience where he encountered five bulls who had come to seek refuge in the Jangsa Dechen Choling monastery, where he is the resident head lama. These bulls had escaped from a slaughterhouse and had been miraculously drawn toward the lama’s monastery. Kunzang cited as his inspiration his teacher Chatral Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist whose work was praised by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk (1915-1968) whose writings helped to introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the U.S.
2000 – Formation of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals/India, an affiliate of PETA in the U.S., founded in 1981 by former animal control officer Ingrid Newkirk, who spent part of her childhood in Kolkata.
2001 – Nilesh Bhanage formed the Plant & Animal Welfare Society in Thane, one of the first Indian animal advocacy organizations to make extensive use of the Internet and Worldwide Web to raise funds, recruit membership, and advance campaigns.
2001 – The Supreme Court of India on May 1, 2001 ended the last of 17 lawsuits filed by the circus industry in opposition to a 1990 order by then-federal minister of forests Maneka Gandhi that circuses could no longer exhibit dancing bears, monkeys, lions, tigers, and leopards. In 2009 the order was extended by animal welfare minister Jairam Ramesh to include elephants — and to exclude elephants from exhibition by zoos. Housing animals displaced from circuses led to the construction of Central Zoo Authority-accredited Animal Rescue Centres near Agra, Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai, Jaipur, Tirupati, and Visakhapatnam.
2004 – Koose Munisamy Veerappan, 52, the most wanted poacher and wildlife trafficker in the world after sometime elephant ivory and rhino horn trafficker Osama bin Laden, was killed on October 18 in an hour-long shootout with members of the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force between the towns of Padi and Papparapatti in the jungle of Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, near the Karnataka border.
Killed with Veerappan were three close associates. Introduced to elephant poaching at age 10 by another poacher of note, Selvan Gounder, Veerappan killed his first human at age 17, took over the gang at age 18, was briefly jailed for murder at age 20, but was bailed out by a Tamil separatist politician, and went on to kill as many as 2,000 elephants, along with uncounted thousands of blackbuck, monitor lizards, languors, and tens of thousands of fish. His favorite fishing method was reputedly dynamiting ponds.
Cornered in the Mavukal forest on August 27, 1983, Veerappan shot forest guard K.M. Prithvi, 25, his first known law enforcement victim, to effect his escape. The Veerappan gang went on to kill at least 36 police officers and forest guards, wounding 47. Among the dead were a Tamil Nadu forest officer who was ax-murdered in 1987, three Tamil Nadu forest guards who were kidnapped, killed, and mutilated in 1989, four Karnataka police killed in an April 1990 ambush, a Karnataka deputy conservator beheaded in November 1990 for allegedly causing the suicide of Veerappan’s sister Mari, five police who were shot in a 1992 raid on the Ramapura police station, and 22 police who were killed in 1993 when Veerappan dynamited a bus. The Special Task Force formed to capture Veerappan, eventually including as many as 1,500 men, itself came under investigation for alleged retaliatory use of beatings, rapes, and torture against tribal people they believed were withholding information. Fifty-six gang members were killed in shootouts with the STF and local police.
At least 20 gang members were arrested. Three, including Veerappan’s brother Arjunan, took cyanide in 1996 to avoid capture. Veerappan killed a police constable in a revenge attack. Altogether, Veerappan was responsible for between 120 and 130 murders, about 80 of them to silence potential witnesses. In August 1985 Veerappan shot five villagers on each of two consecutive days to avenge his wife’s arrest. In one 1986 incident he reportedly “butchered 10 tribals” to reinforce his reputation, including seven members of one family, and in August 1995 he reprised the killings by murdering four more. Veerappan also liquidated at least one rival poaching gang. Veerappan also liquidated at least one rival poaching gang. His best-known crime was kidnapping soap opera star Rajkumar, 71, in July 2000. Rajkumar was eventually ransomed, but former Karnataka chief minister H. Nagappa was killed after Veerappan kidnapped him in August 2002.
2004 – An earthquake just west of the northern tip of Sumatra triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004. Establishing communication with animal welfare organizations within the stricken region almost immediately, the U.S.-based newspaper and electronic information service ANIMAL PEOPLE relayed funds to the Visakha SPCA, the Blue Cross of India, Wildlife SOS, and Friendicoes Society for the Eradication of Cruelty to Animals — and other humane societies in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia — to enable the start of animal relief efforts even before any of the larger international animal welfare organizations were back on the job after taking holidays from December 25 through January 1, 2005. The ensuing two-month relief effort was by far the largest in the history of the animal welfare movement to that point, and remains the largest in numbers of animals helped and amount of territory covered. The rescue effort after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi in late August 2005 involved more organizations and volunteers for longer, but was supported by considerably more resources. The relief effort after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and sinking in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 was the second largest in terms of territory affected, but nonetheless involved just a fraction as much as the Indian Ocean tsunami relief effort, had few human victims, resulted in very little infrastructure damage, and the total number of animal victims was unexpectedly low. While the Visakha SPCA, Blue Cross of India, Karuna Society, and allied organizations covered the Bengal Coast, Wildlife SOS ventured as far as the Andaman Islands, arguably the hardest-hit region other than Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where the tsunami first struck.
2006 – Time magazine in April 2006 published a photo of chanting Tibetan Buddhists wearing tiger and leopard skins. The photo prompted the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, to join with Care for the Wild International and the Wildlife Trust of India in speaking out against the killing and trafficking. “It is in the Pali and Sanskrit tradition to show love and compassion for all living beings,” the Dalai Lama said at a New Delhi press conference. “Because of our follies a large number of our animals are killed, and we must stop this.”
Long criticized for not speaking out more on animal issues, the Dalai Lama experimented with vegetarianism in 1995, then returned to vegetarianism with more evident conviction early in 2005. “When you go back to your respective places, remember what I said, and never use, sell, or buy wild animals, their products or derivatives,” the Dalai Lama said, according to the London Independent. At the 2006 Kalachakra celebration of Tibetan Buddhism in Amravati, Andhra Pradesh, India, attended by more than 100,000 devotees, the Dalai Lama regretted that many street dogs had been killed to accommodate their arrival, and requested prayers for the souls of the dogs. The occasion remains the Dalai Lama’s strongest expression of concern for animals.
PHOTO REDACTED: People in Thankor lined up animal skins for burning in Tibet Autonomous Region of China last year. Early in 2006, at the height of the protest against animal skins being used in traditional Tibetan dresses – thousands of Tibetans in Rebgong, Amdo and elsewhere burnt truck-loads of animal skins including Chubas, however, officials in Lhasa stopped people from burning them. The burning was considered a new beginning by Tibetans, which started in response to the Dalai Lama’s appeal to give up the use of animal products. In 2007, prior to the Losar festivities, some Tibetans symbolically burnt tiger, leopard and otter skins on a bridge in Lhasa – marking one year of an attempted burning which was stopped by local authorities.
2007 – Mob attacks on dogs and municipal dog pogroms began in Chandra Layout, a Bangalore suburb, after three dogs killed a five-year-old girl named Sridevi on January 5, 2007. The attack occurred near a lot used for dumping meat wastes in a shantytown suburb beyond reach of local ABC programs. Often dogs who had been sterilized and vaccinated, only to be killed, were replaced by unvaccinated, unsterilized dogs from outlying districts, who invaded the city to take advantage of meat wastes that continue to be dumped in vacant lots by illegal butchers. The Animal Rights Fund, a major Bangalore and Hubli ABC service provider, had warned since 2002 that the meat waste dumping in vacant lots was attracting abnormal numbers of dogs, and was likely to result in dog attacks.
A second dog fatal attack on a child, four-year-old Manunath, occurred on March 1, 2007, also near a site where meat wastes were dumped, also beyond the limits of the ABC programs as defined by their municipal contracts. Dog pogroms erupted within a few days not only in Bangalore but also in Mysore, Chitradurga, Bidar, and even outlying suburbs of Chennai. The Bangalore ABC programs were suspended due to lack of municipal support. Rabies, absent for nearly four years, returned to inner Bangalore within four months. Soon thereafter the Bangalore authorities recognized the value of the ABC programs, which resumed making progress — having already reduced the Bangalore street dog population by about 75%, according to a variety of counts, before the fatal attacks and mob frenzy occurred. Hiranmay Karlekar in Savage Humans & Stray Dogs (2008) authored a reasonably definitive history and analysis of the episode.
2007 – Formation of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, following the fifth Animals for Asia conference, hosted in Chennai by the Blue Cross of India.
2008 – The Bombay High Court, in the most legally influential judicial ruling yet on dog population control in India, on December 19, 2008 upheld the legal validity of the national Animal Birth Control program, with two amendments to ensure that extremely aggressive or suspected rabid dogs, whose behavior imminently threatens human life, will be killed.
2009 – Delhi High Court Justice V.K. Jain on December 18, 2009 recognized on behalf of dog feeder Simmy Malhotra, who fed dogs as part of an ABC program, that, “The purpose of feeding dogs is to keep them confined to a particular place, so as to subject them to sterilization, vaccination, and re-vaccination.” Justice Jain asked the Animal Welfare Board of India to identify suitable sites for feeding dogs in ABC program areas, in consultation with residents’ associations and humane societies that provide ABC services. Jain’s ruling followed up an August 2009 order to police by Delhi High Court Justice Rajiv Shakdher. Shakdher ordained that the safety of ABC program dog feeders should be ensured, after petitioner Namrata Chanda and six others alleged that they had been assaulted by dog-haters.
2009 – Madras High Court Justice S. Tamilvanan on December 23, 2009 rejected the contention of Coimbatore dog breeder D. Vikram that the corpus of Indian dog law affirms his claimed right to keep a large number of dogs, despite the objections of three neighbors, all of whom had dogs themselves. A lower court had ordered Vikram to remove the dogs. Ruled Justice Tamilvanan, “It has been clearly established that the petitioner is keeping large number of dogs, without obtaining a license, for commercial purposes, and also caused noise pollution and a hazardous atmosphere in the residential area of the respondents.” These conditions, Tamilvan found, were the cause for the dogs being evicted, not the mere fact that Vikram kept dogs.
2010 – Sansar Chand, first charged with poaching tigers and leopards in 1974, at age 16, was in August 2010 sentenced to serve six years in prison on charges originally filed in 1995. Wanted for poaching in connecting with 57 cases in nine states, Chand was sentenced to five years in prison in 2004, but was released on bail three months later and disappeared. He reputedly took vengeance by poaching the last tigers at Sariska. The Supreme Court of Indian suspended the 2004 sentence in September 2009. In 2008, meanwhile, Chand won dismissal of charges of possession of 28 leopard skins and two tiger skins, originally brought in 1992. The Chand history is indicative of the gap between the accomplishments of Indian animal advocacy in winning passage of legislation and obtaining effective enforcement.