Respect for All Creatures

Taking a nature walk in greenery goes a long way in easing stress. Similarly, countless companion animals by their mere presence help humans – the elderly, sick, disabled, children and those undergoing stress, depression or feeling lonely. No, not only dogs and cats – a therapist in Germany successfully uses pigs. He lets senior citizens and children with emotional and behavioural problems, feed and groom them. And then there’s proof of autistic children beginning to speak, read and make friends thanks to their closeness to horses – equine therapy. When playing with guinea pigs at school, children with autism spectrum disorders are more eager to attend, display more interactive social behaviour and become less anxious, according to a series of studies, like one published in Developmental Psychobiology. The latest animals used for busting stress (and making money) in humans are cows and cow-cuddling sessions are charged at $75 in New York.

It is common knowledge that cats and dogs play the role of therapists by spontaneously giving unconditional affection coupled with loyalty which has a calming and comforting effect during times of stress. No wonder some coffee cafés in Japan, France, and England have started serving “purrfect brews” – a furry, purring, lap-warmer to accompany a relaxing cup of coffee. Owl cafés and pug cafés mainly in Japan, and pug cafés in England too have followed suit. “Cats on trains for a purrfect reason” were found roaming with their staff members aboard a local train in Ogaki, Japan in 2017. And, hedgehog cafés of Japan, for a fee, let people spend an hour playing with hedgehog pets. In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s first dog café The Barking Lot’s Kuwaiti owner felt the need for opening such a place because the kingdom did not allow dogs to be walked.

However in 2019 China a pet café having dyed black and white dogs that looked like panda cubs triggered a heated online debate over the cruelty, stress and harm inflicted upon the dogs.


A shelter in US charges people by the half hour to play with their cats and twenty times more if they then wish to adopt them. And here, since 2015 therapy dogs to comfort travellers are present at the departure terminal of the Mumbai international airport. Living and growing up with animals makes children unconsciously pick up non-verbal communication which turns out to be useful in their social interactions with humans. While cats absorb negative energy, some dogs “smell” cancer even before doctors can find it. (Fruit flies and pigeons are also able to detect it in their own different ways.) Walking dogs is exercise for humans too, keeping both fit. Every college in India has campus dogs, loved and cared for by the students. Abroad, some colleges have permanent therapy dogs for stressed-out students. In India such trained dogs usually visit challenged children and patients who are in need of help.

 

However a café called Hello Corgi in Shanghai, China has gone too far. It keeps 14 female Corgi dogs wearing shirts with QR codes printed on them. Customers use their phones to scan the codes and order on their mobiles.


In their own special way dogs have assisted humans in imparting spiritual healing by being empathic and sending energy to clear emotional blockages. There are trained service dogs like sight dogs for the blind
and guide dogs for the hearing-impaired, mobility dogs, seizure detection dogs, diabetic detection dogs, allergy detection dogs, mental health dogs, autism therapy dogs and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy dogs to help trauma victims readjust. They help each other too, like a cat that helped a blind dog move around.


Little wonder then that the faithful dog from time immemorial has been called man’s best friend. Numerous instances have been documented when dogs have saved people from danger and death, and one like the extremely devoted Waghya, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s dog, jumped into his funeral pyre.

Few may have heard of Peritas, Alexander the Great’s dog, who attacked a charging elephant during battle thus giving just enough time for Alexander to get out of the way and get saved. Peritas, who thus died, was not only given a solemn state funeral, but a monument and city was built in his honour. Alexander’s horse Bucephalus also had a city named in his honour.


Folktales, such as Llewellyn and his dog Gelert in Wales, and The Brahmin’s Wife and the Mongoose from India, describe rash killing of loyal animals and warn against such action.

 

Then there is the story of a loyal white dog called Baekgu from Donji-ri on Jindo, an island of the Korean Peninsula, who in 1993 took seven months to travel 186 miles back to the old woman who she was raised by for the first 5 years of her life.


Most recent is when in 2016 a farmer’s dog in a village near Dudhwa National Park fought a tiger at night to save the sleeping farmer’s life. Jacky died due to being severely injured after the tiger dragged him away.

A survey found that when the pandemic struck 32% abandoned their cats. Later, during the 2020 lockdown 6 in 10 persons in India adopted pets, mainly dogs. Sadly a year later 50% (global 28%) had abandoned them.


Dogs in Indian Mythology


It is said in the Mahabharata that Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, refused to enter heaven without his loyal dog.

The Vedic Gods Indra, Yama and Rudra are associated with dogs. In the Rig Veda dogs are called sarameyas, derived from Sarama, a ‘divine bitch’ who was the mother of the two brindled hounds of Yama, the God of Death, and ultimately of all dogs and bitches. In Vedic Hindusim, dogs were not looked down upon. In fact in Vedic times killing of animals, except for food was anathema to Indian culture.


Buddha, as Siddhartha used to travel with a small dog. It is said that when robbers attacked him, the dog immediately transformed himself into a lion.

There is prehistoric cave painting in Bhimbhetka depicting a dog on a leash. And, India has several temples with dogs surrounding Bhairava (a form of Shiva); in fact, the Bhairava temple of Delhi has statues of dogs that are worshiped. Lord Dattatreya who is a personification of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is always accompanied by four dogs symbolising the four Vedas and a cow which embodies creation.


Some Hindus from India and Nepal, worship the dog on one of the days during their 5-day Tihar festival every November because they consider dogs psychic. (A day for the crow and another for the cow are also reserved during this festival.) The 14th day of the month’s lunar cycle is known as Dog’s Day or Kukur-Tihar in Nepal.

It isn’t only mythology… in 2015 Cornell University researchers said all the dogs alive today could be traced to 15,000 years ago from Central Asia, including Mongolia and Nepal. This was declared upon analysing 3 different kinds of DNA – more than 4500 dogs of 161 breeds and 549 village dogs from 38 countries.


Not “Pets” but Companion Animals


Gone are the days when fathers and husbands were “owners” of their daughters and wives! Similarly, we are not the “owners” but the “human carers”, “caretakers” or “guardians” of animals. It is also important for people to understand that the term “pet” should be replaced by “companion animal”. The word “pet” terms the animal as property or a cute toy which can be discarded easily.

Humans do not have any “ownership” rights over animals and it is disrespect to the animal to call it a “pet”. These animals give us undivided love and thus it is only correct we call ourselves their “caretakers” as this makes the animals a part of our lives giving them the due respect and kindness which is given to any other family member.

Academics have stated in the Journal of Animal Ethics (London) that calling an animal a “pet” is a derogatory term. The words “wild life” and “wild animals” are also insulting to animals and they should be known as “free-living” or free-roaming”. The use of words such as “critters” and “beasts” have been criticised, and phrases like “sly as a fox”, “eat like a pig” and “drunk as a skunk” they rightly feel are unfair to animals.

Incidentally, in the Middle East cheetahs kept as “luxury pets” and “new status symbols” (cubs are sold for up to $10,000/-) have resulted in disastrous consequences for the animals and humans – they can not be brought up like domestic cats in houses.


Dogs are Family Members


Companion animals should never become status symbols by purchasing the most popular expensive breed of dog; nor should they be kept for selfish reasons as watch dogs. They need reciprocal love, care and respect on par with members of our families.

No genuine dog lover would resort to things like docking the animal’s tail (amputation), cropping its ears (surgically cutting and stitching to make them stand up), de-barking (surgically reducing vocal chord tissues), removing of dewclaw (cutting off that extra toe higher up on the inside of the forepaw used to facilitate gripping), filing or even extracting teeth (so its bite does not cause injury), subjecting pups to continuous confinement in pens (to stunt their growth), and being painfully design tattooed.


Unfortunately, some canine trainers and behaviourists see no wrong in training dogs for agility as they term it. To make a dog manoeuvre around, over and through obstacles as directed just for fun is no different to making dogs perform in circuses and BWC condemns such training and performances. Three examples:
• The Auckland SPCA thought nothing wrong in training a dog to navigate a specially modified car around a race tract. The stunt was an effort to show off canine intelligence and boost adoptions. There are many other ways to make people adopt dogs and there was no need to made one perform circus tricks to attract attention.
• A zoo in Finland made a bear do yoga to attract visitors.
• Closer home, at Madumalai sanctuary an Elephant Show existed. In 1998 BWC made the Government stop it.

Lifestyle diseases are striking dogs in India. For example, at Punjab’s Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University dogs are treated for diabetes, stones, tumours, gastric ulcers, heart attacks, skin problems, kidney- and liver-failure and most of all for obesity – all because they are fed junk food. Just like humans need to watch what they eat, we need to ensure that dogs eat healthy food. And this can not happen if we thrust our own fantasies and ideas of luxury upon them like for example, giving them beef flavoured dog beer or spraying them with strong perfume that gets rid of their distinctive doggie smell. Doggie spas and centres to groom them are mushrooming all over the world. Shampooing, grooming hair, trimming nails and cleaning teeth are of course essential and acceptable, but it is unadvisable to shave and colour pets to look bizarre. Such things can result in infections and florescent colours are harmful.


Respect and Replace


Whatever be the reason, all kinds of research, experiments and testing on animals is downright unethical and cruel since it shows no respect or reverence for life. So-called scientists should never use animals; and consumers should never use products that have undergone tests on animals. The frequently recommended three ‘R’s of Replacement (of tests with non-animal methods), Reduction (of the number of animals used) and Refinement (by minimising the suffering) are but eye-washes. In their place we need to first add the all important ‘R’ of Respect and then follow up with only the first ‘R’ which stands for Replacement. Only then will we see an end to the animal terrible suffering and death in laboratories across the world.

World Day for Animals


The fourth of October is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, who was perhaps the first to ever realise that birds, wolves, dogs and other animals had the ability to understand him. On his death-bed, Saint Francis is said to have thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him during his life time which made the donkey weep.

Just like St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis is fond of animals. Pope Francis upon becoming the head of the Vatican took the name of the Saint because he believes in the Franciscan philosophy. A Vatican tradition on the last Sunday in January was to fly two doves out of the window overlooking St Peter’s Square. However, after they were attacked by a seagull and crow in 2014, the practice was discontinued in 2015 by Pope Francis who released “peace balloons” instead.


The Chinese Zodiac


Shēngxiào is the Chinese Zodiac.

Observed in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, it shows great respect for 12 particular animals. Each year is represented by an animal which gets repeated every 12 years.


Distinct animal characteristics are imparted during the year governed by the animals:

Goat Feb 19, 2015 – Feb 7, 2016 Peace-loving
Monkey Feb 8, 2016 – Jan 27, 2017 High-spirited
Rooster Jan 28, 2017 – Feb 15, 2018 Hard-working
Dog Feb 16, 2018 – Feb 4, 2019 Loyal
Pig Feb 5, 2019 – Jan 24, 2020 Intelligent
Rat Jan 25, 2020 – Feb 11, 2021 Clever
Ox Feb 12, 2021 – Jan 31, 2022 Duty-bound
Tiger Feb 1, 2022 – Jan 21, 2023 Independent
Rabbit Jan 22, 2023 – Feb 9, 2024 Creative
Dragon Feb 10, 2024 – Jan 28, 2025 Energetic
Snake Jan 29, 2015 – Feb 16, 2026 Wise
Horse Feb 17, 2026 – Feb 5, 2027 Idealistic

Lunar Months in each year are also governed by animals and their characteristics stated above:

Spring: Summer: Autumn: Winter:
Tiger Snake Monkey Pig
Rabbit Horse Rooster 

Rat

Dragon   Goat Dog

Ox


Instinct


Animals are far more understanding and intelligent than we imagine. Like us they feel emotions such as joy, grief and jealousy. Some of them like Germany’s Paul the octopus possessed psychic powers. He became famous after accurately predicting eight of eight winning football teams during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He died of natural causes some months later so was not available to predict for the 2014 FIFA which saw animals from many countries struggling to accurately predict international football winners. There was Australia Zoo’s Predictaroo, also known as Flopsy the kangaroo; Big Head a turtle from Praiado Forte, Brazil; and, a group of capybaras (huge rodents) from Curitiba, Brazil, able to predict if the ball would remain stuck midfield. The Germans came up with many like a turtle, armadillos, an elephant and otter; and, the British with a piranha called Pele.

Clairvoyance and telepathy come naturally to animals. That’s the reason why Germany tried to duplicate Paul’s oracle success through a cross-eyed two-and-a-half year old opossum called Heidi who was recruited by Hollywood to predict the winners of the Academy Awards 2011 on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show. Heidi had a choice of grapes laid in front of placards of the nominated films and although she came close in predicting accurately the actress and actor, she failed to pick the winner for the best picture.

Other animals claimed to be having psychic powers have also been projected: Mani, the parakeet from Singapore; Funtik, the pig from Kharkiv zoo in Ukraine; Manolo, the octopus and Maya, the otter, both from Sealife Benalmadena aquarium, Spain; Citta, the elephant from Krakow zoo, Poland; Shah Rukh and Shanti, two elephants from Hagenbecks Tierpark, Hamburg, Germany; Yvonne, the cow from Gut Aiderbichi animal sanctuary, Germany; and, Geeta, the cow from Faridabad that accurately picked at the German embassy in New Delhi, the winner of the all-German European League final in 2013.


In 2016 a Chennai based NGO, Indian Community Welfare Organisation that had been organising such forecasts using flowerhorn cichlid fish called Chanakya-I and Chanakya-II, let their successor Chanakya-III into a tank with two boats with fish feed bearing photographs of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the American presidential candidates. The fish accurately picked Trump’s boat.


Dogs, cats, bees, termites, ants, deer, horses and cattle instinctively know directions as if they possess in-built magnets; cows have an innate ability of finding the North which has been proved through satellite observation. Many animals’ behaviour has proved that they were aware of tsunamis, earthquakes and thunderstorms long before they struck. In China, snakes are observed to predict earthquakes because when an earthquake is about to occur snakes move out of their nests (even in winter) and if the earthquake is big, the snakes go as far as smashing into walls while trying to escape. In Tamil Nadu minutes before the 2004 Tsunami struck, 500 blackbucks moved from the coast to a nearby hilltop. The ordinary leech is also able to predict thunderstorms. Farmers’ bulls and cows instinctively know they are due to be to be sold off for slaughter so stop eating a day earlier. Suddenly when in February 2021 the Alaknanda river had shoals of fish close to the surface near the edges of the river it was an indication or warning… 70 kms upstream within an hour or so disaster struck in the form of a glacial outburst flood. The sound or subsurface vibrations preceding the flood may have been picked up by the fish since are very sensitive.


Experiments have proved that ants are very good at over-coming complex logistical problems. This was proved when the ants at the entry point of a maze could choose one of the two shortest paths in an hour when faced with 32,768 options to get to the food source on the other side.

Elephants remember people, places and things and can distinguish between a real animal and their own mirror reflection just like dolphins and apes. They are kind and sympathetic, and not just to their own species – such feelings denote elephants have souls. Apes, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans can even calculate odds as was established with them upturning cups having concealed banana pieces. Like humans, chimpanzees and bonobos throw tantrums and pout when their risk-taking decisions fail.


Monkeys can also count without being taught. Marmosets imitate others as do parrots. Orangutans are innovative. Apes snub unknown apes but show empathy to their pals especially when eating since they like to share their food with those that are close to them. They can also guess what others (humans included) are thinking. Gorillas experience an identical range of emotions as humans. Chimps can be as kind, helpful, willing to do favours, generous and sharing as human beings. In the Indonesian forest an Orangutan saw a geologist having fallen in slush and instinctively offered his hand to help him come out of it, but not trusting the monkey, the man climbed out himself. In a 2007 study undertaken at the Kyoto University, a chimpanzee put human memory to shame. It has been established that chimps and bonobos can recall movie scenes and anticipate the next move.


Researchers from the University of Bristol who studied giraffes in the Great Rift Valley region of Kenya, found that giraffes prefer to eat in the company of their friends, no different to humans. Many pairs were seen to spend time searching of food and eating together.


Animals such as monkeys, elephants, buffaloes, dogs and birds mourn the death of their partners and little ones, and several have mourned for the humans they’ve been close to. Snakes can hold grudges and elephants, wolves and chimpanzees feel jealousy.

The bond of love for their friends is great. A dog that had fallen at the bottom of a concrete cistern in Washington state ravine was rescued after his loyal canine companion made frequent short trips for as long as a week to find human help. Similarly, there is a video on the Internet of a dog in Brazil that has for over three years braved the highway for four miles every night to carry food (given to her in a plastic bag) for her less fortunate animal friends: a dog, cat, mule and chickens.


A 2020 study by the University of Sydney found that cows tell each other how they feel through their moos. It was done by analysing their voices and establishing evidence of this trait.

A 2014 research revealed the African elephant’s power of smell (based on olfactory receptor genes) was the most powerful among 13 mammalian species examined – it turned out to be double that of dogs and five times more than humans. In fact, mothers and other chimps are known to take care of disabled infants. It is called allomothering when infants are taken care of by those other than biological mothers.


Intelligence


Dolphins are considered one of the most intelligent species because they have big generalist brains like humans which make them use manipulative abilities to their advantage and they can count without being taught. A study by researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland found that dolphins have “names” by which they call each other just like humans do. When a dolphin, off the Farallon Islands coast, was untangled after hours of carefully cutting the ropes which had got wrapped around her body, she was so joyous and grateful that she came back to say thank you to each and every diver who had helped set her free.

Non-vegetarians, especially children, who saw the film Babe stopped eating pigs. There was a drastic drop in consumption of pork, ham and bacon. Few know how clever and endearing pigs can be. After all, pigs are the fourth most intelligent creatures on earth.

Cockroaches have thrived for 350 million years because they instinctively know how to adapt to, and are intelligent enough to get around hazards that affect their population. Experts say that in the 1990s they switched their internal chemistry around so that glucose began tasting bitter, thus making them stop consuming sweet-tasting poison baits.

There is some thing very interesting about elephants and their tusks. The ones who do have tusks are obviously the ones that are hunted by ivory poachers, so some how the tusk gene is found to be disappearing from their populations. For example, in Sri Lanka, instead of 40 to 50 percent being tusk-less, 90 percent are no longer growing tusks: an extremely smart way of saving themselves from death.

Elephant intelligence has made some of them realise that their tusks are electricity-proof and have therefore used them to carefully snap the electric wire fencing while others use dead wood to smash through this fencing installed to keep them away in some places around the Reserves in India.


One of the defensive arguments presented by non-vegetarians in justification of their fish-eating is that “fish don’t feel pain,” being low down in the chain of evolution. In fact, all aquatic lives feel stress and pain when injured as they writhe and gasp for air. They all have complex nervous systems and there is scientific evidence that they feel pain and distress. Chased, confined, or otherwise threatened, they react as humans do to stress with an increased heart rate, breathing rate, and adrenal hormone release. Bio-chemically and structurally the central nervous systems of fish closely resemble that of humans. It has been proved that fish are as clever as mammals such as rats and show a high level of intelligence particularly when they are in danger. The African Cichlid (marine creature) determines social rank through observation which is a step on the way to logical reasoning. Fish have been observed to pick their leaders by consensus, choosing large over small, fat over thin and healthy over ill. A study by researchers has suggested that their three-second memory is actually a myth as they can remember things for up to five months. Another study by scientists of the University of Oxford (UK) and University of Queensland (Australia) has found that archerfish, a tropical aquatic creature, can distinguish between human faces and retain the memory over a long period of time ranging from a few days to two weeks. A team from the University of Queensland had earlier found that certain fish developed mucous cocoons akin to mosquito nets to avoid being bitten by parasites and to give them protection from nocturnal predators so they sleep safely.

Experts say parrots easily rival the great apes and dolphins in all-around braininess, and may be the only animals apart from humans capable of dancing to the beat. Some parrot species imitate human voices. The African Gray parrot knows colours, shapes and sizes, and grasps the concept of zero. Pigeons are famous for carrying messages since they are able to recall routes and places. In 2011 it was further proved that not only can they count (so can others including bees) but they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that had been demonstrated only in primates. Crows, ravens, magpies, jays, and gulls are very intelligent and can recognise individuals. Rooks (a type of crow) are surprisingly innovative and are able to use a hooked tool to get food. And birds have been seen to support one another following contest with their rivals.

Chimpanzees display cultural preferences with their choice of tools. Depending on where a meal is served a person might use a fork and knife, chopsticks, or bare hands, similarly chimpanzees have cultural variations in nut-cracking styles. Some prefer stone tools to hammer open hard nuts, whereas others used wooden ones. Moreover, when female chimpanzees join new social groups they adopt the nut-cracking methods used by the new group.

Few mammals, with the exception of primates, use tools. Clams are smashed with rocks by sea otters. Prior to foraging on the seabed, as a form of protection, dolphins wrap sponges around their noses. Elephants use tree branches to swat insects that trouble them. Humpback whales exhale bubbles to attract fish. Grizzly bears choose rocks with barnacles to groom themselves.


A sheep can recognise fifty other sheep and ten humans. According to a study led by a University of Cambridge professor, they can even recognise photographs. Scientists have even found the fly to be able to plan ahead due to its fast-acting brain. And coming back to dogs, they understand most of what we say because their vocabulary can go up to at least three hundred and fifty words. However, a particular dog could understand 1,022 words and sort toys according to function and shape, some thing children learn at age three.


The start of the 20th Century saw a German horse called Kluger Hans (Clever Hans) solving arithmetic problems by tapping answers with his hoof. However, a psychologist observed that only when people around him knew the answer, Hans tapped out correctly: since viewers would tense as Hans approached the right number of taps, and relax when he reached it, the horse knew exactly when to stop. This in itself was a remarkable feat. He was probably no good at arithmetic as projected and believed, but his understanding of and picking up human body language was positively a great achievement. People projecting their expectations onto animals, particularly dogs, they picking up and interpreting the same correctly, is definitely commendable.

Scientists at Australia’s University of Queensland’s Brain Institute in a new study in 2012 discovered that honeybees had remarkable visual learning and discrimination abilities that extended beyond simple colours, shapes and patterns. They learnt to simultaneously discriminate between paintings of different landscape scenes, types of flowers and even human faces.

Birds do not fly into spider webs because they contain strands of silk that reflect UV light – some thing that birds can see, but not insects (that are trapped in the spider webs) or even humans. Based on this information, a glass manufacturing company used bio-mimicry to discover and now sell bird-safe glass windows thus saving the lives of thousands of birds that fly into glass on buildings and drop dead. BWC wrote to the company Arnold Glas to find out if the concept used in the manufacture of Ornilux glass could be extended to cover bird-hits to aeroplanes. Bird hits often occur – in 2017 the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) revealed that the number of bird strikes affecting aviation operations have increased over the years. Yet no effort has ever been made by Municipalities to satisfactorily clear garbage from around airports although it has been established that garbage attracts birds. And, bursting crackers and ultrasound does not effectively scare the birds. So drastically reducing the insect population (like grasshoppers, beetles and moths) at airports, in addition to spraying pesticides in shrubs and bushes, was suggested by an entomologist. However, introducing other insects that eat these at the larvae and egg stages could possibly result in an ecological imbalance leading to unknown problems.

Incidentally, following a study of the area, the Bombay Natural History Society has warned that there is a high risk of bird hits at the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport at Panvel where 2054 hecatre area has been demarcated as the airport zone.

In 2019, 1,280 wildlife strikes occurred at all airports, lower than 1,320 in 2018. In 2019, 11 bird hits every 10,000 flights were recorded to have occurred at Ahmedabad airport. Large garbage dumps and two bird sanctuaries in the vicinity are responsible: The Thol Bird Sanctuary 30 kms away and Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary 70 kms away.

In February 2021 the Indian Air Force inducted 4 Modhol hounds from the Canine Research & Information Centre in Bagalkot district, Karnataka. Their work was to chase away birds and animals that strayed on airport runways and hinder the movement of flights.


Animal Labour


Just because animals are intelligent many think they can exploit them by turning them into slaves and using them as gimmicks. It doesn’t only happen in India and often “protectors” turn “exploiters” and justify their actions in the so-called interest of animals. For example, cute and clever dogs are made to model or act for high fees. Another example, at Kamine Zoo, Hitachi, Japan, tyres and giant rubber balls covered in denim are thrown into the animals’ enclosures. They gnaw and claw at them, following which the material is used to make designer jeans to raise funds for wild life conservation.

BWC has, to its horror, come across animal welfare persons, who, instead of working to end animal exploitation in India, have recommended the use of elephants, camels and monkeys for pulling loads in sugar and other factories!

The most commonly known animal labour is that of elephants. Wild elephants are taught to work at elephant camps (making them go to ‘school’) in India, and more so in Thailand, Sumatra, and Indonesia. Thailand’s Maesa Elephant Camp has elephants using their trunks to paint, and they are also made to play football and basketball, i.e. perform like circus animals.


Elephants domesticated for logging operations in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, are astonishingly considered State Government servants, and are made to work from dawn to dusk. It is obvious that they do not like to do so because they often simply stand still without moving. They are then goaded with a stick.


In 2012, the Kerala Animal Husbandry department due to shortage of tree climbers, and to make it cost effective put forward a proposal to engage (read exploit) monkeys, in place of humans, to pluck coconuts – the monkeys would be captured from the wild and trained – because monkeys are used for this purpose in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Luckily for the monkeys, the drawback of this proposal was that they would not be able to decide which coconuts are ready for plucking and which ones should remain on the trees for ripening.


However a year later, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) disgracefully began exploring the possibility of starting a unique course to train monkeys in plucking coconuts and in fact submitted a project proposal to the Kerala government. They also planned on teaching parrots to talk!


Seeing it as nothing short of slavery of wild life, strongly worded objections that it was illegal to capture animals and birds (monkeys and parrots) from the wild and worse to tame and train them, were immediately sent off by BWC to the government and the TISS. Teaching monkeys and parrots meant making them typically learn by being subjected to hunger, torture and fear in order to work or perform. And, should the monkeys pluck coconuts that were not ripe they would surely suffer punishment as would the parrots for repeating inappropriate words. There was no doubt that the project attracted the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act on grounds of hunting which was banned in 1991, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on grounds of infliction of suffering.


Attention was also drawn to the Ministry's Notification under which monkeys were not allowed to be trained. These monkeys would obviously suffer much the same fate as those that were kept in circuses for performances that were banned due to cruelty involved. It was also possible that they could later, when they grew old and could no longer climb coconut palms, be used for performing tricks or so-called research and testing which were also banned.


Although TISS replied they were “concerned about animal welfare and nothing will be done to the contrary” BWC hoped that immediate steps to ensure that the proposal was cancelled would be taken by government and that monkeys and parrots would never be turned into slaves. Delayed or no action in this serious matter would certainly encourage illegal hunting/capturing and exploitation of wild life.


Moreover, if allowed, it wouldn’t be long before monkeys could also be taught to serve the coconuts they bring down from the palms, to people in restaurants thus further expanding animal slavery and violating the Notification which forbids monkeys being trained to perform. For example, many have rightly felt it was cruel for two macaques to have been taught to serve customers hot towels and drinks at a tavern in Japan.


Similar to the “anti-pigeon” hawk employed by Wimbledon (UK) on the tennis tournament days covering a fortnight, to fly over the courts twice a day and clear the skies of pigeons, in 2010 a langur was employed by pooling in Rs 7,000 per month by 20 Members of Parliament in New Delhi so that the rhesus monkey menace would be controlled on Mahadev Road! Even the Commonwealth Games in the city had a monkey police doing rounds. By 2011 the capital had people hiring many more trained langurs whose keepers (the madaris of yore) brought them on a bicycle to work at the places (government buildings and houses) where the rhesus monkeys invaded. Paid Rs 250/- per day, the langur-wallahs continue to ensure that their monkeys chase away the others during the day. But as evening falls, the langur-wallahs leave and the rogue rhesus monkeys return to remain till they are chased away again the next morning by the langurs!


The Punjab Government’s plan to spend Rs 1 crore on a “resource-cum-rehabilitation centre” at Patiala seemed quite ridiculous. In July 2009 they sought clearance from the Central Zoo Authority to set up an ultra-modern school to tame, train, rehabilitate and teach manners to rogue monkeys. The name of the facility did not indicate it was a circus but the monkeys housed would suffer much the same fate as those that were kept in circuses for performances that were banned due to the cruelty involved. BWC protested and was told such training would not take place – we sincerely hope so.


In contrast the residents of a town in Punjab called Lehragaga never hurt a monkey. When in the late 1980s a monkey was shot, prior to cremating it, people paraded its corpse through the town, following which a temple was built in its memory. Lehragaga is near the Punjab-Haryana border, 40 km from Sangrur, and is the abode of two groups of monkeys – one group lives inside the town while the other group near the canal, outside the town. Legend says that several centuries back the town folk had to plead with the monkeys to return because after they had been shooed away to live in the forest, famine occurred in Lehragaga. They therefore continue to fear the wrath of the monkeys and have learnt to live with them.


Misuse of work animals is fairly common and we should at least, if within our power, stop animals and birds being utilised as gimmicks for political rallies, protests and functions, as live mascots (e.g. Appu the baby elephant used for the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982), for advertising company merchandise like elephants made to parade through congested streets carrying banners advertising items ranging from sarees to soaps.


Surprisingly, the 2008 Olympic Bronze medallist wrestler, Sushil Kumar (all Indian wrestlers are vegetarians) was also made by the Ministry of Sports to ride an elephant and parade through Delhi as part of his facilitations. On the riverbank of the Yamuna is an ‘elephant colony’ comprising of 14 animals which are rented by people of the capital, particularly politicians, for Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 a day. However, some owners of the pachyderms have refused to supply animals for political rallies because they have been made to work non-stop, given no rest or fodder, and people have started sitting upon them despite agreeing not to do so and only use them for display at particular spots. Moreover, children conferred with bravery awards were not made to ride bejewelled elephants at the 2009 Republic Day parade in Delhi because during the previous year berserk behaviour was claimed to have been observed.


Unfortunately, camels from Rajasthan were taken to different states like Jharkhand and used extensively as “campaign vehicles” for the 2009 elections. They were draped in banners and made to move around the city for Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per day. Some others used horses for campaigning and it was sad to know that no concern was shown for the animals’ injuries. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections pigeons were exploited for campaigning by two political parties. Their party symbols were tied round their necks and they were made to fly to particular areas.


In this connection BWC approached the Election Commission and was pleased that the use of animals like donkeys, bulls, elephants and cows in campaigns were banned and had asked politicians not to refer to their rivals as animals. Despite the ban in place during the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh politicians did not hesitate to use words such as gadha (donkey), bhains (buffalo), kabootar (pigeon), magarmachh (crocodile), machhli (fish), sher (lion), etc.


That’s not all, some times celebrations in honour of politicians have resulted cruelty and death to animals and birds. For example, in October 2015 pigeons were scorched in a celebration in Andhra Pradesh. The supporters stuffed live pigeons into rocket cones and fired them as display. Some fell dead while others wings and feet were scorched. They had even stupidly tied party flags to the necks of the birds with “welcome” written on them.

Name calling, like a man being called a mule, monkey or swine, or a woman a bitch (we forget kutta wafadar janwar hai), or girls catty, insults humans and degrades animals. (English and India’s languages have hundreds of such words and there is no point in listing them.) Since thought precedes speech, we need to recondition our thinking, which has been based on species-ism and sexism for generations. Upon realising that the root cause is out mistaken, arrogant, human belief in our superiority to non-human species, we may cease using animal epithets like gadha (stupid as an ass) and ulloo ka pattha (son of a foolish owl). Incidentally, in 2012 BWC wrote to Airtel protesting the use of kutte kameene (scoundrel hound) in the lyrics of their Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai advertisement.

Ironically in August 2016 for the inauguration of the All India Peace & Humanity Campaign students were made to release a few doves at the Freedom Park in Bengaluru. No different to releasing caged birds by dramatically flinging open cage doors and urging terrified and confused birds to fly away into the wild forests. It does not help them – in fact, harms them.


Not Dumb, but Trusting

We should not say “dumb animal” either. Gone are the days when people believed that animals were dumb creatures with no feelings – not even “mute creatures” because it has been established that although they have the ability to communicate, most humans do not understand and are unable to pick up their language. We now have behaviourists and ethologists who have proved beyond doubt that all species are intelligent and have feelings. It is common to find eyes full of fear in animals that are subjected to torture in research labs, killing in slaughter houses, captivity in zoos, and humiliation in circuses.


Research has revealed that birds and humans (who were thought to rely on vision and hearing rather than smell when sizing up the world and its ambient threats) are deeply affected by odours in ways they often are not consciously aware of, and that one class of odour likely to impinge on both humans and birds is the scent of a fellow’s despair. Ants disturbed in their nest produce alarm pheromones that rally colony defences. In other words, all living beings smell fear.

Animals are basically trusting and can not imagine being harmed by humans. They never attack unless they are harmed, disturbed, or perceive being hurt. It is almost always in defence, not aggression, because they believe in unconditional love. That’s why they have been taken undue advantage of, e.g. in 2013 India intercepted a dhow that was transporting goats, tobacco and mobile phone parts to Sri Lanka. Upon X-raying the goats it was discovered that 24 of the 32 had been fed contraband in small plastic pouches which were subsequently passed out but had perforated. To make animals trustingly eat such stuff shows gross misuse of innocent creatures for selfish, monetary gain. Incidentally, a 2014 study by researchers of the Queen Mary University of London found that goats can easily learn complex physical cognition tasks and have an excellent long term memory which explains why they can adapt to harsh environments.


There is a story of how a whale said thank you! In 2011, a humpback whale got entangled in a fishing-net. Upon being freed, it swam around the boat and leaped into the air about 40 times thus displaying gratitude to the people who had helped.


BWC wondered how in December 2018 Japan could announce that it was after 30 years withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (established in 1946 with 89 member governments to conserve whales) and would resume commercial whaling in its coastal waters even though the country hunted whales in the name of research (so-called scientific whaling) and the whale meat ended up in restaurants where due to a falling demand was diverted to schools and hospitals.

Animal gratitude in the form of extreme devotion is clearly seen in the true story film Hachiko – the dog waits the rest of his life at a railway station for his “master” who died and did not return home. Similarly, a cat in Italy daily visited the cemetery where the person who adopted him was buried, and even placed items such as paper towels and plastic cups on the grave.


Family dogs, cats and parrots have in their own unique (loyal and clever) ways helped the Police (in different parts of the world) to pin down criminals. Whereas, trained sniffer dogs regularly assist the Police in search and seizure operations, even in detecting illegal wildlife items. In 2014 the New Delhi Municipal Council sent a proposal to the Delhi Police to train stray dogs to help them in security work.


A 2012 programme “It Happens Only In India” telecast on Fox Traveller showed emu farming. The presenter hugged the birds and remarked how gentle and friendly they were … hold your breath… then ate eat emu egg omelette and emu meat. Those who truly consider animals as their friends never eat them.

Some thing more outrageous occurred in 2013: Meat Products of India Ltd obtained sanction from the Kerala government and sold 100 lambs @ Rs 1000/- to students of the St Thomas High School, promising to re-purchase the adult goats for slaughter. A couple of months later, a similar diabolical scheme was started for schools in Palakkad under which 5 chickens were distributed free of cost to 100 students. The government is teaching children to be butchers by encouraging schemes that make them rear animals and birds as companions and then sell them for slaughter. It is a great wrong because these students will grow up having no respect for life – not even for their own parents and family members. BWC wrote along these lines to the Chief Minister, Kerala, twice but received no response and the schemes have not been abandoned. BWC wrote to the Chief Minister twice but received no response. The diabolical Kootinoru Kunjadu scheme was eventually withdrawn by the state government in June 2014 after DAYA and BWC took them to Court over it and the chickens.

Keeping animals in captivity, zoos, and aquariums, claiming educational benefits, or for conservation of endangered species, actually does neither. A neuroscience professor and researcher at the Colorado College, USA, has found that large mammals particularly cetaceans and elephants suffer brain damage due to the ill-effects of captivity. This has reconfirmed earlier observations that the captive elephants of Amer fort in Jaipur suffer from such brain damage. Other notable scientists have also proved that captivity leads to severe behavioural and physical aberrations in cetaceans. Captive elephants suffer severely in confined spaces and their physical and behavioural needs are severely compromised in zoos. A study of elephants published in 2019 indicates that participating in religious activities, processions, forest department activities, etc. has resulted in high levels of stress for captive elephants. They display severe signs of stereotypy including swaying, head bobbing, and repetitive pacing which results in brain damage. Sanctuaries can easily take care of those captive animals that can not be set free in the wild.


Animals Hit Back

The most commonly heard of retaliation by an animal in India is the temple elephant. Tortured and humiliated, he attacks and kills his mahout. According to the Heritage Animal task Force, between 2007 and February 2013 as many as 215 mahouts were killed in Kerala. But we must not forget that as many as 425 elephants died due to ill-treatment inflicted upon them by their mahouts.

 

However, there is an uncommon incident that occurred in Bengal during 2002 involving a female elephant who had seen its calf shot dead by villagers. In rage and as retaliation she killed 13 persons and even consumed human flesh to avenge the death of her calf.


Similarly during 2013 in Odisha a sloth bear killed 7 persons in 24 hours after villagers burnt her cubs alive.


A TV documentary series entitled “When Animals Attack” reveals in every case covered how due to human provocation animals have attacked. It puts man in his place… human attitudes towards other creatures needs to be drastically corrected.

There have been instances when animals have justifiably hit back at humans in retaliation. For example, an Italian woman landed in Hospital after she was attacked by a chicken she was preparing to kill for dinner. The bird kicked out as she approached it with a knife to cut its head off. She reeled backwards and fell into a pot of boiling water she was going to cook the chicken in.

In 2011, a hunter who was participating in a deer reduction hunt in Indiana, USA, died after an encounter with the deer he shot. After shooting the deer from a tree stand, as is the norm, he attempted to field dress (remove internal organs) the animal and discovered it was still alive. He then scuffled with the wounded deer before killing it with a knife. The deer obviously kicked the hunter who was later found unconscious near by and could not be revived. The autopsy showed lacerations on his liver that were in line with the bruising.

At Midnapore (West Bengal) in 2010 a rooster killed a man – the very man who had trained it to fight other cocks – an illegal, gambling “sport”. The cock struck back when he was pushed to fight yet another cock. He had already won four fights by killing his opponents. So when he was forced into the arena yet again, he turned back and attacked the man by jumping upon him, cackling and flapping its wings while the razor blades tied to its feet sliced the man’s jugular vein and he bled to death as no first aid was available.

Talking of roosters, in September 2019 a French rooster emerged victorious from a legal battle with neighbours over his early morning crowing. The court upheld the bird’s right to sing. (Incidentally the Rooster is France’s emblem.)

When some villagers in Maharashtra beat a leopard cub, the mother visited the village and in retaliation attacked the children of the village.

In Africa a herd of elephants came down heavily on a village where a baby elephant had been killed. Although the baby’s carcass was no longer there, they ‘knew’ exactly where it had been killed and circled, trampled and destroyed the area. Together they then mourned the death while the mother elephant was consoled by other elephants of the herd.

In another instance, an American who in trying to kill a mouse ended up having his house burnt down because the mouse he set on fire and threw out, ran back inside and through the rooms igniting all its contents.

And, another person nearly killed herself in trying to gas a mouse she had caught in a sticky trap which she put in a paper bag then put the paper bag over the exhaust pipe of her car and turned on the engine. A couple of hours later (she forgot her crime) she started getting a headache and then nearly collapsed because of the fumes.

Yet another incident a woman tried to kill a snake by dousing it in gasoline and setting it on fire. The flaming snake slithered under the house, set it on fire and burnt it down.

In 2012, a 32-year old American died but won a python valued at $850, at a Florida reptile house contest requiring people to eat the most bugs in 4 minutes. After consuming several dozen cockroaches and worms he vomited and although picked up by an ambulance, was pronounced dead.


In 2015 a swordfish killed a Hawaiian fisherman who speared it. The swordfish that measured 3 feet and had a bill that extended another 3 feet, struck the man in the chest after being speared.

Around the same time in China an incident took place in which a Chinese dog meat vendor died after hitting himself accidentally with a poisoned dart. He was demonstrating how to use the toxic dart to kill dogs when the crossbow went off and hit him in the leg.

In October 2015 an Australian hunter, in pursuit of a camel got lost in the Great Victorian Desert. He was found in a dehydrated, disoriented and delusional condition six days later. He would not have survived much longer in the heat. BWC hopes it taught him a lesson and he won’t go hunting again.

In 2017 a man from Texas tried to shoot an armadillo (considered a pest) in his garden, but the bullet bounced off its hard shell and hit him in his jaw resulting hospitalisation. Earlier in the year another man’s mother-in-law who was nearby got shot in her back when the man shot at another armadillo and his bullet deflected.

Tigers snatching humans in the Sunderbans is not at all uncommon or unheard of. People venture in boats into prohibited areas where tigers attack and kill them at the rate of almost one a month.

Every one has also heard of people venturing into animal enclosures at zoos, being attacked and even killed – some times the animal is shot dead so the human can be rescued. No animal likes its freedom taken away, so how can we, who are responsible for the basic provocation of keeping wild life in captivity, blame them for attacking us, humans, if and when they get a chance to do so? In the Middle East more and more people keep “luxury pets” such as $10,000/- cheetahs with potentially disastrous consequences for the endangered species – and themselves.

In most such cases the creature does not hit back consciously but hit back it does! Or, it may even happen without the creature actually retaliating as was the case when a poacher fell in his own trap and got electrocuted to death. He and his accomplice had lost their way in the forest at night while returning to Bhivapur village in Chamorshi tehsil of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, after having laid a trap in the nearby forest.


In 2016 a one-year old child swallowed a live fish which was being rubbed against its lips by his parents who believed that by doing so he would stop drooling. The child swallowed the fish which got stuck in his pharynx and he had to be rushed to hospital where it was removed just in time to save his life in an emergency procedure after being sedated.

We can not forget Jallikattu (the so-called sport of vaulting the bull, banned by the Government in 2011 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014 and again in 2016) but unfortunately legalised by the Tamil Nadu state government in January 2017 which results in injuries and even death by bulls to humans. Bulls with sharpened horns are goaded to fury and let loose on crowds for men to chase and grab their horns. (Similar to Running of the Bulls in Spain where people are also gored and many have died.)

In November 2020 a hunter/poacher died while trying to kill a hare (wild rabbit). He was chasing it in the dark on the Kamthadi-Karandi Road within Bhor forest when he fell down and his rifle went off with the bullet accidentally going through his chest. Although he died, the Rajgad police booked the deceased for accidental death and poaching. In fact, illegal capturing, killing, poisoning, snaring and trapping of wild animals is unfortunately rampant in the forests of Bhor, Bhimashankar, Sinhagad, and Mulshi of Maharashtra.


Delete, Don’t Share


Trivia interests and entertains people on social media like WhatsApp and Facebook.


Animals often feature in the videos we watch, like, and unwittingly share with friends immediately! For example, there is a video titled “I want a dog like this one – useful dog tricks” that shows a small dog doing house chores. It is but obvious to the discerning mind that the poor dog must have been put through vigorous training.


There is a distinct difference in a film that shows an animal doing some thing cute spontaneously, and some thing that it has been taught to do and for which the animal has been subjected to cruelty behind the scenes.


Some may argue such videos are computer generated. But, how can we be sure? And, how can we be sure that no one will cruelly train an animal to do the very same tricks? Others may say the animal is willingly and happily doing what it is. But initially it must have definitely been forced to perform so it is far from funny or fun for the animals.


Many videos depict animals like dogs and cats doing some thing extraordinary. No different to circus animals trained through torture, fear and hunger. Pets are taught by intimidation too although tempered with kindness.


People thought it was fun to view horses kicking a football. BWC thought otherwise and complained to the Government of Maharashtra and the Digvijay Pratishthan, Pune for making their horses play football to promote the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) U-17 World Cup India at Kolkata in October 2017.


So next time we watch a video, however cute and clever the animal may look, we should think solely from its point of view and decide whether to share it or not. We must keep in mind that they dislike performing and do it only because of the reward they so desperately desire. Moreover, videos of cuddly exotic animals that go viral like the one depicting a ring-tailed lemur demanding its back be scratched resulted in people saying “I want a pet lemur” and “where can I find one?” little realising or caring that lemurs are illegally removed from forests and kept as pets.

Respect for All Living Forms


Computer games and films that exploit or kill animals can have an adverse impact upon children. On screen violence does not make young boys manly or girls tough. The kids simply lose having respect for living beings – animal, then human. It can begin with some thing as unsuspecting as wanting to visit a circus, followed by a desire to hunt wild life. Crime against animals precedes crime against humans. A 2015 study at the Brigham Young University in USA found that exposure to violence could make people less ethical and is strongly linked to an increase in cheating for monetary gain. In 2017 the Texas shooter who killed 26 persons inside a church had bought and used animals particularly dogs as target practice.


The late Dr Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy is relevant: “I am life which wills to live, in the midst of life which wills to live. As in my own will-to-live there is a longing for wider life and pleasure, with dread of annihilation and pain; so is it also in the will-to-live all around me, whether it can express itself before me or remains dumb. The will-to-live is everywhere present, even as in me. If I am a thinking being, I must regard life other than my own with equal reverence, for I shall know that it longs for fullness and development as deeply as I do myself. Therefore, I see that evil is what annihilates, hampers, or hinders life. And this holds true whether I regard it physically or spiritually. Goodness, by the same token, is the saving or helping of life, the enabling of whatever life I can to attain its highest development.”

So then, each and every life form is precious and sacrosanct. Practising reverence for all life translates into consciously avoiding consumption of animal derived substances, not simply loving dogs and cats, or may be showing concern about some specie on the brink of extinction.

Each and every thing – insects, fish, birds, animals, humans, even trees – have an intrinsic value and purpose in the vast scheme of the universe. Instead of feeling that humans have a right to kill or exploit other species for our own benefit, we need to realise the true value of all life forms. In short, we need to respect all creatures.
Page last updated on 07/12/21