Fortnightly Commentary No 59: 6th June 2014 circ. 2000 people

Dear Members and Friends,

When I look back at special experiences that made me “grow up,” I remember blind, 72-year-old Christine. I read aloud to her on Thursdays, as seva. She’d loved books all her life but had lost her sight 10 years ago and lived alone in an assisted-living building where dinners were wheeled up on trolleys and the hallways smelled like meat grease and old macaroni. I just showed up and cracked open Anna Karenina—she’d required Tolstoy! She had divorced 40 years earlier and her only child—a daughter, had been killed in a car accident 15 years before. She wouldn’t talk about her.

In our last meeting at her apartment, Christine asked me to do something unusual. In the bottom of her closet, she said, was a box, and would I fetch it. I did. Now, she told me, I was to take the lid off. I did. Hundreds of photographs. Now, would I describe to her what I saw, one by one?
I found, simply, a treasure. She was soft, her eyes were little jewels; dimples laughed in her cheeks. How would I find the words to tell Christine who I saw in there? A smiling soul, a gentle girl. Is this her? Is this Susan? Yes. I struggled to describe the backgrounds, the age of the girl, the other people in the various frames.

But Susan. Always Susan. What is her expression? What is her expression exactly? She is pensive here. She is looking at the water and her elbow is sticking out. She has on long trousers and she’s squinting against the sun. She’s cuddling a puppy. She’s swinging, singing, batting, skating, talking, smiling.
Ahh–that was Susan’s fifteenth birthday. Christine rocked back and forth. That’s Susan and her friend Amy when they were 20 after her sophomore year. I don’t remember the one you’ve told me. What does the coat look like? Are the buttons big? Yes Christine, the buttons are big.

Oh, said she. That was the coat she was wearing in the accident. You can stop now.
When I left, I ran to my car. I never went back. I was too afraid. I was young and didn’t know you can’t run away from pain. You can get in your car and drive away, but everything, everything rides along in the back seat. Was I wrong to flee in fear? Maybe, but at least I’d got there in the first place, got a chance to knock and look inside a life not my own, a fate not my own; got a chance to describe the sweetest girl in the world to her mother.

IfA 2014–Get ready! The most exciting, extremely fun learning extravaganza ever at India’s largest gathering of animal protectors. Do not miss this for anything. It’s our happiest opportunity yet for solving animal problems together. India for Animals 2014 Registrations are now open 12-14 Sep, Jaipur at the beautiful Clark’s Amer Hotel. Book today.

Fruits of Collaboration…
Prashanth writes: In some brilliant news from Kerala, the local federation has secured sponsorship for all its member organisations’ adoption programmes from Drools- the pet food company- and members will be meeting the company’s officials early next month to explore further partnerships.
FIAPO’s survey on assessing needs of local organisations has lead to a meeting of Pune organisations next week, which I look forward to facilitating.
Finally, with the mercury soaring in the last two weeks, members of the Jaipur federation have undertaken action to collectively address dog abuse cases across the city. The report on the investigation into the death of a mahut in caused by the elephant he was in charge of is also expected this week. Also, following a complaint on inhumane transportation of pigs on railways, we are assisting the Jaipur federation to produce a document containing guidelines for proper transport of animals in trains that will be shared with the state.

Wandering cows a “bovine menace?”
Plans to round up stray cattle to a capacity of 1000 in a “kine house” shelter are afoot to help protect the roads during the 2015 Nabekalebar festival in Puri, says The Times Of India. Building a boundary around a stretch of land where the abandoned cows and bulls would be shifted is being funded by the local government. The article doesn’t mention the size of the plot or the conditions provided for the animals. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a dairy and a breeding farm. More here

Living Free…
Richa writes: Living Free has reached out to over 50,000 people in less than a year! Pune activists celebrated Milk Day on 1st of June by donning a cow costume and raising awareness about the harmful effects of dairy, reaching out more than 750 people! While Pune was raising awareness on occasion of Milk Day, some amazing outreach happened at the PFA Trivandrum adoption camp, reaching out to a good 700 people. Chennai also continued to do some great early morning leafleting at IIT and Marina Beach, contacting more than 1000 people. Committed Jaipur volunteers did a power leafleting session, reaching out to 1350 people in 4.5 hours in the morning. There is also an awareness event planned on 5th of June, Environment day- in Hissar to raise awareness about environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.
There are many more events and activities planned right in your city, to know more, email

Cows Milched and Bilched in Kerala
According to The Hindu, Kerala is gearing up to genetically modify cows to increase milk production. It works by collecting semen from bulls kept in “stud farms” and genetically engineering the semen. In the end, the Indian cow is mutated, exotic breeds replace the indigenous populations, cows are chained, separated from their calves, the bulls and the less productive cows are destroyed. FIAPO objects to factory farming and all unnatural breeding practices. Read about Kerala’s plans here

Holy Cow…
Shweta writes: Last week, I was part of a meeting in Delhi to discuss how law can be used as an effective tool towards stopping illegal transport and slaughter of cattle. From sale of cows from research institutes to the urban dairies around Delhi, laws are open flouted. Specifically, I am researching what laws can be amended to prevent and remove the dairy factory farms of India, and how we can link to the registration of dairies, or food safety, or milk products rules.

It is clear to us, that laws alone will not prevent animal suffering, and an aware consumer is a powerful force of change. Most recently, we worked with the media again after the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted the growth of antibiotic resistance across the world, citing the rampant non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, as one of the main causes. This is harmful for both the animals and the humans that consume them. Read the related coverage here

Dogs Count
The Chennai Municipal Corporation undertook a street dog census this week. TOI recently reported that more than 100 cases of dog bites are reported in the city daily. Around 1.13 lakh people reported dog bites and rabies claimed 26 lives since 2011. The number of people who died of rabies more than doubled from 5 in 2011-12 to 11 in 2012-13. In 2013-14, 10 people died of rabies. According to the civic body’s records, residents reported 38,454 dog bites in 2011-12, 37,937 in 2012-13 and 37,155 in 2013-14
Tamil Nadu state government reports 3577 human deaths from road accidents in Chennai during that same period, (2011,2012,2013.) FIAPO will vehemently oppose any effort on the part of Chennai or any other municipal government to stabilize the dog population or prevent rabies by killing or illegally removing dogs from their neighbourhoods. There are compassionate and effective solutions in rabies vaccination camps and birth control programs, garbage removal and education about dog bite prevention. FIAPO looks forward to working with all interested bodies to achieve balance so that all living beings can share the neighbourhoods. It might mean driving more slowly! Surely we can achieve it. See

Gurgaon pet guardians embattled
Fighting between people about dogs is worse than any dog fight. Read here how tensions are building between residents in Gurgaon, according to TOI.

Wild Matters…
FIAPO continues its campaign to save Gorillas from a life in captivity in Indian zoos in memory of Polo the gorilla who died alone and friendless in the Mysore Zoo after spending 18 years in solitary confinement . Please join us in appealing to the Central Zoo Authority to enact the prohibition on the import of Gorillas to India. Send your letter to the Central Zoo Authority here – and encourage your friends and family to do so too. Time is running out as the Mysore Zoo may already be taking action to replace Polo, so act today to save gorillas.

In Focus: PFA Kollam
With a brand new facility to treat animals, trained staff, and experienced compassionate veterinarians, PFA Kollam is geared up to help animals in distress with increased vigor. Complete with a cattery, an aviary, puppy care pen and a well stocked dispensary, the organisation also creates goodwill among its neighbours by conducting regular health camps for domesticated animals. Visit the link to support

Vegan friends are facing a paradox this month—getting rid of termites, which are wood eating insects, utterly destroying their wood-framed home. The idea of tenting the house and filling it with poison gas was repugnant to them, but they did not know how else to solve the problem given the degree of infestation.

It also turns out that the German chemical company that makes Vikane, the termite eradication gas—BASF– was a subdivision of the infamous IG Farben conglomerate that knowingly made Zyklon B for the Nazis, the poison that killed millions of Jews and other “undesirable” innocent victims in the concentration camps. Reports my friend, apparently in order to avoid paying reparations to the many victims of its heinous crimes, the company seems to have vanished by devolving into its sub-companies like BASF and Bayer. The latter makes things like aspirin and many life-saving pharmaceuticals, while the former is still in the poison gas business, though now focused on dealing with insects rather than the civilization called “vermin” by Nazis–the Jewish people.

Every time we scratch our heads we kill tiny mites that live in the follicles of our hair. Every time we take anti-biotics we kill bacteria which are living organisms. Those of us who take any alopathic medicine should know that animals have likely had their lives taken for its development. Everything we do, as animal protectors, should humble us rather than make us swell with pride for our achievements. Living Free is a path with challenges at every turn. And it is the right path; facing its paradoxes is the righteous grappling to be, step by step, the best you can be.

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

Best wishes,

Erika Abrams
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