Animal Matters. No 27: 29th March, 2013

Dear Members and Friends,

I'm in the train station now, enjoying the gorgeous and the riff-raff equally, and ready to head home to Udaipur from a trip to Pushkar after meeting Dr Jack Reece, head vet surgeon at Help in Suffering, and Rachel Wright, founder of Tree of Life for Animals. After planning the rendezvous over about a decade, (impeded by those inconveniences that wag tails or say 'moo',) it felt more than good to share animal issues particular to Rajasthan. I felt really proud and 'with it'—surfing a wave of efficiency, camaraderie, creativity.

After the meeting, on an earrings-crawl through Pushkar's cheerful glittering stalls, I felt wonderfully re-vitalized. A young lad of about 14 headed toward me, extending a rose in his hand. What a wonderful world! I'm beaming. A flower! He must admire my saree. But no, he did not say 'nice saree.' Instead, he said with a grin, 'old is gold.' Old is gold? Old…old. Old is old, I repeat to myself. My step slowed, my shoulders bent a bit. The tone lingers with me even now, that little so-and-so. Was he being sarcastic? Was he being nice? Either way, I was OLD.

My mother too was vulnerable to the passing comment. Once, when she was 75, a fellow sitting next to her on a plane said to her 'You have style!' Much pleased, she told me about it at the time. 10 years later when she was literally on her death bed she says to me 'Erika. Get me my purse, over there!' I grab the purse. 'Look in the wallet, in the side flap. Side flap!' I rummage and see, behind an old photo of my late father and an ancient shoe store bill,  was a scrap of paper in her wallet on which she'd written 'The guy sitting next to me on the plane to Melbourne says to me ‘You've got style!' –1997.'

So, say nice things to your fellow-volunteers, your boss, your friends, your staff. Little things said do matter.  And if you are my mom, you write ‘em down and put them in your purse to review, from your hospital bed, at the end.

In the Huffington post last week: 'The prospect of a pandemic that reaches global proportions seems more a question of when rather than if.' It's a bleak picture. When animals are crammed together in tight quarters diseases spread. Over-use of antibiotics 'teach' bacteria and viruses new ways to survive. Bird flu, swine flu, happen because the viruses learn how to jump from animals to humans. The components of diseases can change rapidly enough that scientists, even once they understand how to fight a new virus, can't necessarily make enough vaccines to reach the number of people who need it. And that's a crisis. More people died during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu—a pandemic linked to birds and pigs, which killed 50 million people— than have died during all the world wars put together. And we should expect it to happen again unless we stop factory farming. Contact if you want to participate in FIAPO's national effort in raising awareness of this issue.

Fruits of Collaboration…
Prashanth writes: A delegation from JFAPO successfully impressed upon the DGP-Rajasthan the issue of illegal transport of camels from the state; there is increasing activity in Kerala towards building awareness on rabies and getting local municipalities to abandon killing of stray dogs and take up vaccination and ABC instead; and animal lovers in Pune are gearing up to welcome their own local federation!
All this has made the past week a positive one for animal protection, and my thermometer says it's been an increasingly hot week too. Hopefully Jaipur, by means of its model colonies, will be able to show us how to care for animals this summer.

Speakers Corner: At FIAPO – as a national federation – we feel it's our responsibility, to help encourage discussion of various issues – no opinion is right or wrong – and we feel that every opinion should have its place in the sun. So we are running a discussion on our on-line platform – this week, on "Birds who have been raised in cages should be liberated. Life free for 24-48 hours is better than life for years behind bars." Sharon St. Joan's response made a lot of sense to us, and here it is if you haven't seen it already. Do you have a view to share? Email

Puja writes: 3 weeks of travelling from coast to coast, gathering information and mobilizing support for our captive dolphin campaign continues to be an enriching experience. I have been busy collecting information on the proposed dolphinaria, following up RTIs, meeting local activists and forming ground support groups. Currently with the help of local volunteers, we have been able to bring together strong local environmentalists who are uniting for our outreach event on 2nd April to show their support against the keeping of dolphins in captivity in Kochi.

National fish consumption is due to reach 6.3kg per capita by 2020 (from 5.6kg in 2011) and the annual demand for 2020 is expected to be 3.21 million tonnes.  Staggering numbers. ( This article raises the question of the so-called waste of the fishing industry – the 'trash' – the small fish – and the Government waking up to sustain its Blue Revolution. But in all of this, questions most important to us, are lost – fish are no more commodities to be consumed than chickens, cows, goats and pigs. Here's a brief insight into the industry in India

Two posts open with FIAPO – campaign coordinator for farmed animals and communications coordinator for farmed animal issues.

Congratulations to All Creatures Great and Small on their new shelter. The beautiful, peaceful 2.5 acre plot in Silakhari Village, Faridabad provides a shelter currently caring for 66 dogs, 10 puppies, and 10 drop-in dogs from the neighborhood. And if that weren't enough, the dogs have their own swimming pool! Life couldn't get better.

At FIAPO we take surveys with a pinch of salt, but this one particularly spells out bad news – concern for the environment has reached a 20-year low across the globe, and environment did not make it to the top list of concerns of any country over a 17-year period. For our polar bears, who have become a symbol of global warming, this is bad news – as it is for each and every one of us.

FIAPO was alerted to a new product, an anti-cockroach gel introduced by Godrej under their brand HIT. The gel claims to turn cockroaches into living poisonous hosts who will potentially attract other cockroaches that they claim will perish once they consume the affected cockroach. FIAPO has questioned the company and directed them to provide more information on the effects of this product on other animals and urged them to engage in responsible marketing and also to develop repellents rather than to destroy in this prolonged and harmful manner. More details here

Mahazareen Dastur has written an informative piece on the decline – and now the slow recovery of vultures in India.

Whilst in India, hunting has been banned, it remains a popular 'sport' in many countries. I was interested to read how in the UK, they will mount remote-controlled cameras on planes to monitor land where poachers enjoy their secret illegal killing games.

Wearing fur is bad; is wearing leather any different? According to news reports, 'global fur sales have almost tripled since 2000.'  We've spotted fur trim on clothes in Woodlands, though India is probably too hot a climate to test its righteous resistance to fur. But Indians don't mind wearing animal skin on their shoes, belts and jackets. A calf's own skin becomes a school shoe. According to the Council of Leather Exports, sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India is the second largest producer of leather shoes and garments in the world.

In focus: Living Ethics and Animal Foundation (LEAF) India

In 2008, a group of veterinarians and like-minded people set up LEAF India in response to the growing deterioration of human compassion towards fellow creatures. Since then, it has sensitized many young minds to animal issues and conservation through its education programme for school children. LEAF India continues to put its veterinary expertise to good use in helping distressed strays, injured birds and animals in trade fairs.

This week's googlegroups has opened the subject of censorship of film (or any media) which implies or depicts animal cruelty. (see Himmatwala in the subject lines). The issues include animals' treatment during film shooting, but have spread to include the social and political implications of censorship.

Should films be censored that depict animals as adversaries? That glamorize animal fighting? Should we censor media that glamorize eating animals as dinner? After all, when used as commodities, most people glamorize animals as being too dumb to feel, too valuable to leave be, too tasty to resist. Whether in the sites of a rifle or in the soles of your shoes, animals-as-commodities degrade the message of ahimsa.

So, two thoughts: Censorship robs people of their right to scrutinize and judge for themselves; and, As adults we often think we can compartmentalize the influences around us and not fall prey to messages of violence or debauchery in films which celebrate decadence, consumption, violence, gluttony.  But advertisers know better. Messages sink in whether we want them to or not.  What do you think?

Help animals in your own way; remember – no action is too small.

Best wishes,

Erika Abrams

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