Fortnightly Commentary No 38: 30th August, 2013 circ. 2000 people

Dear Members and Friends,

Last week I visited an adult hostel for people with mental problems– about 100 people, their hair shaved, their salwar kameezes fitted for other bodies. In their common yard, the drifting population distinguishes itself by rays of loneliness emanating from one to another, each lost, able only to indicate the foggy shape of thoughts, dwelling in imaginary worlds where flashes of other dimensions must brighten their minds, and then leave only shadows or echoes or other emptinesses that have no name.
I am shy to know them. In my youth, I worked as an admissions clerk during university years in a hospital infamous for electric shock treatments. Wonderfully complicated people would depart in stupors. Later, electric shock treatment was condemned as barbarous. I was drawn to the mentally ill because I thought they might have a shortcut; they seemed to condense normal emotions, distil them into their essential oils, and if I could anoint myself in their company I thought I would learn something about the human condition that no experiences of mine had yet revealed.

But now, many years later, I feel shy. It’s not their hallucinations that frighten me. But their absolute aloneness does. Perhaps after all, they do offer a short-cut to the insight that we humans really do need the sharing of common vision, mutual belief in the possibility of empathy. Most of these dwellers in psychoses seem to have lost the understanding of others. And empathy? Gone.
Somehow I feel I should occasionally situate myself in this sad place, in order to grow. To grow toward what I do not know, but a calling is there. Writing about his travels into the orbit of the very old, the very frail, on a dusty Rajasthan road, Jim, my husband, experienced something similar. A drawing into the world of people broken see

Fruits of Collaboration…
Prashanth writes: This week, movement building brought Pune in the spotlight, with the local federation hosting its second workshop for members, volunteers and even representatives of the local administration. The workshop aimed at raising awareness on the legal provisions for protection of animals, and was headed by Gauri Maulekhi of PFA Uttarakhand. The workshop was followed by a delegation visiting the municipal office and demanding for improvements in the ABC programme of the city. News and pictures hers

In news from the sister federations- Kerala is contemplating action on the reported killing of street dogs by local municipal corporations and activists in Jaipur have acted swiftly to yet again rescue a group of cattle being transported in inhuman conditions.

AnimalAid Udaipur is also set to host its first participant under the FIAPO initiated mentorship programme. A participant from Bhopal will learn about shelter management at the shelter in Udaipur.

India is one of the first countries – thanks to your efforts – that has taken steps towards acknowledging that other species too – dolphins – can be grated  'personhood' – and they are not mere commodities for the benefit of human beings. Here is a campaign report on banning dolphinaria in India that FIAPO ran on behalf of its members. The report also contains all the relevant circulars issued by various bodies, along with references to other significant material we produced. Available for download here

Great news for Sharks as the Ministry of Environment has issued a 'fins naturally attached' policy to end shark finning, a cruel practice that occurs when fishermen catch sharks, cut off their fins and throw the still-living animals back into the water where they die slow and painful deaths.

Living Free…
Bikramadittya writes: Two weeks of cyclonic disturbance and rain have made the road to my house look like a backwater canal – and people are putting up gill nets for fishing. Already, local wildlife is under threat – yesterday, I rescued a Checkered Keelback water snake tangled in one such gill net. But who knows how many more haven’t been that lucky. For my friends who still think eating animal products doed not pose a threat to wild life, there’s one more piece of news. Vultures already endangered and near extinction, are dying of visceral gout. An effect of the use of Diclofenac compounds by cattle farmers. See news here

Over the last couple of weeks, we've received gloomy news for elephants – a wild calf in Kerala destined to spend its life in captivity; elephants being captured in TN – and so, positive news from Karnataka is worth sharing.

Residents of Indore are complaining against the waste created by slaughterhouses, as the internal waste and body fluids of the animals have contaminated the ground water. Disorders and diseases are now spreading locally amongst residents.

Holy Cow…
Shweta writes: An article in the Economic Times, earlier this month (see written by the Managing Director of Amul Dairy raised the issue of feed for livestock, while conveniently stepping over issues of availability of cheap(er) plant based protein; or the consumption of hormones and antibiotics though animal protein; and the unimaginable suffering the animals have to endure. It is these questions and more that need to be addressed by popular media that often speaks of the integrated meat and dairy industry’s growth as something that is inherently progressive, without sharing ideas from a perspective of welfare.
In that hope we have asked the editor to publish views on all aspects of this industry.

We recently wrote to M.S. Dhoni, as he adopted a street dog called Leah. It is important to spread the message of adopting rescued dogs as opposed to buying pedigreed ones from breeders, and we hope that others too would follow his example.

Word from Nagpur that heavy rains resulted in animal deaths, poor welfare, and records that got swept away. Working with our local member, Indian Society for Human Animal Welfare, we have been in touch with the local authorities to take immediate action.

Great news from Chennai – pet shops will now come under trade license – this is a great first step in regulating this industry. Here’s a report that was produced by the Jaipur Federation giving an overview of this trade

In focus: PFA Pune
From fighting legal battles to alternate architecture in their animal care shelters, the Pune chapter of PFA makes sure there is attention to detail and no stone is left unturned when it comes to protection of animals. They are also one of the most active members of the local federation in Pune. Read more here-

You know what the real measure of fluency is? It’s if you can be considered funny in both your matra bhasa and in a dusra bhasa. By this measure, I fail miserably. In Hindi, you will be infinitely astonished to learn, I’m increddddibly boring. I learned early that however serious your topic, I open my mouth to garble through a “really funny” digression and poof, my chat-mate veritably dives for cover in their cell phones. Eyes glaze. I’m scrambling with the grammar on some really good gag—a sarcasm, a witty turn of phrase – but in my Hindi, it’s a baby’s incoherent babble. After a few minutes in Hindi my face is flushed, sweat pours. I carry on obsessively about animals until my victim rises to say “Noble work," understanding nothing but the animal photographs.
Had I known 20 years ago that Udaipur-ites do not speak English, or that I’d really never be able to get the hang of Hindi, maybe I’d have chosen an Indian-ish city such as San Jose California, with 43,000 Indians! They’d know I could do more than splutter. And I, I would make a fine audience for their IT, math and medical research topics. Listening and listening I’d be! Rapt! And at the end, holding up my end of the convo, I would impress them with my wizardly grasp of their subject.  “Noble work!” I’d say.

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

Best wishes,

Erika Abrams

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