Fortnightly Commentary No 34: 5th July, 2013

Dear Members and Friends

The death earlier this week of Bijlee, an elephant abandoned and left to die on the streets of Mumbai, drew doleful chords of sadness from activists as well as the general public. Last week the Times of India announced a subcommittee is to be set up by the Kerala wildlife board to recommend ways "to prevent torture of captive elephants."  The head of the panel lamented that "hardly anyone comes forward with concrete evidence. Even NGOs are found lagging…"
Preventing the torture of captive elephants is a conceptual oxymoron. Does the wildlife board still not realize that captivity in itself is hazardous to elephants? Most captive elephants are wild-caught because captive elephants are usually too stressed to breed. The captive newborns often fail to thrive and die before their infancy is even complete.  Why can't we figure out that any species too disturbed to breed has told us all we need to know about the effects of captivity?
I often wonder why an elephant's death is so poignant to us. I suppose the poignancy springs simply from the drama of the grand animal, so capable of injuring us, subdued in obeisance to the puny human. Or maybe it is the presence of the ghosts of elephants perished in servitude to humans during the past 3,000 years, and the fact that we have ripped them apart physically and mentally almost unto extinction.
But I think there may be something more to it than that: like dogs and dolphins, elephants seem to possess something ineffable and deeply connected with people. I have no better word for this mysterious something the elephants seem to feel toward humans, than tenderness.

Bijlee's death should be a wake-up call to all of us -every citizen, activist, policy maker. Working with Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC), we are now in the process of writing to the CM and raising public awareness to put an end to such atrocities. Meanwhile, Surendra Varma has written about captive elephants, and their welfare

Fruits of Collaboration…
Prashanth writes: Dog tales -lots of work for our companions recently! JFAPO made considerable progress towards regulation of the pet trade in the city. A detailed report on the pet trade based on legal and empirical data was prepared, which was handed over to the CEO of Jaipur Municipal Corporation by a delegation of JFAPO members. Download report here The members also met the Animal Husbandry commissioner who forwarded the recommendations towards the formation of a gazette notification.  Meanwhile, individuals in Pune are active in engaging corporate establishments towards sterilization of street dogs and Kerala activists are contemplating action against a proposed government action for killing of street dogs.

Good news -we can now address legal queries for activists in India – we are working with the Trustlaw Connect programme to facilitate free and competent legal assistance. This service will fill the gap between sources of legal knowledge on animal issues and their accessibility- an issue commonly highlighted by animal activists. From a network of legal experts, we can now get the best possible legal assistance – from help with the registration of an organisation, advice regarding particular cases, to laws applicable for different aspects of animal protection etc. Send your legal query in today to for free advice.

Are you a member of FIAPO? By becoming a member, we all increase our opportunities to communicate; to learn from and teach each other; to understand the differences and to work collectively to elevate the standard of care and level of knowledge related to animal protection in India under an umbrella of unity. Membership is free, email for more info.

Good news for pet owners. Central Board of Excise & Customs has issued another circular to allow import of pets under baggage, after concern from several organisations and individuals – the previous policy didnt allow legitimate owners to bring their animals into India. Here's a copy of the circular

Goa is all set to start Mission Rabies in September. MR will not only be hugely valuable in vaccinating dogs and raising awareness, but it presents an excellent training opportunity for your organisation's dog catchers for learning to handle dogs compassionately -and all for free! Contact to participate.

Living Free…
Bikramadittya writes: Outreach activity of Living Free is picking up speed in Kolkata – we have started covering several locations, including the IT hub of Kolkata, Sector – V and the nearby shopping destination City Center. More and more people are now stopping to ask questions and the most frequent one is ‘If we stop eating animals, will not their population increase beyond control?" I have my answer ready, but would like to know what my friends think. Email me Photos here

This fortnight, India took a significant step to keep pace with emerging science, by joining a growing list of countries that prohibit the safety testing of cosmetics on animals. A number of other products such as pharmaceuticals, food additives, fertilisers and pesticides continue to be tested on animals, causing entirely avoidable cruelty to a large number of animals -much more than those affected by cosmetic testing. These are the new frontiers that now confront the Indian animal protection community's efforts to reform statutory safety testing requirements. 

Holy Cow…
Shweta writes: I've been reading about the fascinating world of animals that we farm for our own use for food and fibre. The dairy industry is booming, and with 130 million tonnes India ranks first in milk production Yet with the increasing gap with between demand and supply, there are more proposals to set up large dairies- which are bad news for the animals, where they suffer endlessly from lameness and bloated udders. More about large dairies here

In focus: Vishnu Charitable Trust
A gaushala with a difference- Vishnu Charitable Trust puts wellbeing of animals above the accepted norms for operation of gaushalas. Working collaboratively with the government, taking a stand against selling of milk, and engaging vets to stem the high mortality rate due to consumption of plastic, this gaushala is a shining example for others in the country.

When is the last time you donned sunglasses, outfitted your dog in a vest that said 'Service Dog', laced up your roller-skates and pretended to be blind, alerting others in the skating rink that "this is my first time on skates!"? It's just one of the capers my new friend, animal activist Linda gets up to with her dog Rose. She'll do almost anything to bring Rose along – she's determined to get dogs into social scenes otherwise exclusively human. Dan, who many readers of the Commentary remember from his tour of India leafleting to promote plant-based diets, says of Linda "She's a person who makes fun."

I want to be more like animal activist Linda, who knows that as with animal protection, we can't wait for others to do it for the animals, we have to make it happen ourselves, starting with our most fundamental life choices. We choose compassion in our food. Let's choose, like Linda, FUN in our attitudes. Inventing a reason to laugh is what she does.  An old-fashioned word that I'd like to restore is "hi-jinx." Linda's up to them; may she set the pace the world o'er!

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

Best wishes,

Erika Abrams

To subscribe visit

To unsubscribe email