Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tiger, tiger, burning...oops

"India's national animal, the tiger, will be the mascot for Delhi Commonwealth Games."
That would be wonderful news, if it wasn't for this:
"The Rajasthan government has launched a massive operation to search for tigers in the Sariska sanctuary in Alwar.
Six months after no tiger movement was reported inside the sanctuary, alarm bells have begun to ring. Sariska was estimated to have anything between 16 to 18 tigers.
But so far, despite a week of tracking tigers there are no signs of this endangered animal, raising fears that either the wildcats have been poached or something has gone drastically wrong with them."

Valmik Thapar is calling this "the worst wildlife crisis since Independence":
"It is not just Ranthambhore or its tigers that are suffering. All our protected areas are crying out for help. Ridiculous decisions by the state governments and the mute watchers in the MoEF have created the seeds of disaster. At least 50 national parks in India have the same severe problems."

We're so happy, we could kill you

"A sword kept in the cavity of a banyan tree is brought out and used to kill an animal or bird - and so begins a unique festival of an Orissa tribe, details of which have just recently been known though officials say it has gone on for decades.
And this year at least 100 animals were slaughtered in the Pata Khanda Yatra, or sword festival, of the primitive Bonda tribe in Malkangiri district, 690 km from here."

This is supposed to appease the local deity and ensure a better harvest. We need vegetarian gods. Or more fertiliser. Or to bring the "primitive Bonda tribe" (notice how "primitive" and "tribe" go together, just like "animal-rights" and "extremist"? End of language lesson for the day, class) to the dhabas of Delhi, where they can witness 600 chickens being slaughtered in a single hour to satisfy our butter-chicken needs for the night. No sword, sorry, the civilised method uses blunt cleavers instead.

These tuskers won't play ball

"An Indian state has called off an elephant soccer match and tug-of-war during centenary celebrations at a leading national park [Kaziranga] after protests from animal rights groups, a minister said Wednesday."
Now if they'd had a Minister Versus Haathi tug-of-war lined up, I'd have said go right ahead. Especially if you added a Trample-The-Losers-In-The-Dust ceremony.

Outsourcing pain

From Hyderabad, news of a new animal "resource facility":
"Work on an animal centre that will help in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research will begin this year, a conference was told here Thursday [by] N.K. Ganguly, director general of Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR)....
Ganguly said the facility would be bigger than the primate research centre coming up at Mumbai, which is proposed to have 7,500 breeding stocks."

Two points of interest. Why is the centre being built in India?
"Because of poor facilities and protests from animal rights activists, [international] companies were doing the tests abroad, Ganguly said."
This is what's known either as "a business opportunity" or "dumping", depending on your point of view.

I also like this line:
"The issues raised by animal rights activists would be addressed at the centre, he said."

Animal rights activists are often seen in India, and elsewhere, as a separate mass. Activists are often extremists, never concerned citizens. Kutta-billi people who couldn't care less about the starving masses in Kalahandi.
Part of this is media spin: The Economist has carried several stories recently that automatically suffix "animal rights" with "extremists". (This story, for instance, presents animal rights activists as dangerous, "forensically aware" quasi-criminals who will target just anybody.)
And part of this is because the animal rights movement DOES often come across as frighteningly hardline, terribly narrow-minded, almost (pardon the pun) dogmatic. You eat meat? You can't possibly love animals. Wear leather? Tut tut. Don't do it again and we might let you off with a reprimand this time. You're vegetarian but not vegan? That makes you a hypocrite. There's an endless, querulous, negativity about some branches of the animal rights movement that makes it easier for all animal lovers to be written off as mixed-up misanthropes who're part of the lunatic fringe.
All of this distracts from the real issue: should the West be exporting its pain labs to us, like so much toxic waste? Is this really a growth opportunity we want India to be invested in? Perhaps Ganguly's not going to be persuaded by "animal rights activists". But how about...consumers? And customers? And doctors who refuse to be part of this process? Researchers who suggest that we could do better work in India than handle the West's dirty work? It takes a lot of people to be part of this chain.
None of these arguments are new; many animal rights organisations are already working towards answers. But perhaps it's time to start a citizens movement, too. Anyone welcome. And while it's great for your karma if you're a Pleather-wearing Vegan, you don't have to be in order to help out.

Animal testing: the way out?

"Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction."
Charles R. Magel

There is an alternative:
"PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., announced today that PCRM has developed the world's first cruelty-free insulin assay, a test used to measure insulin levels in individuals with diabetes. The assay, which uses no animals, was developed as part of PCRM's ongoing clinical trials to test the effects of a low-fat, vegan diet on patients with type 2 diabetes."