Friday, September 23, 2005

I don't know if heaven exists

...but there HAS to be a hell, and a special place reserved there for sick people who shoot stray dogs with their air gun. Some time ago there was a report about a driver who had run over a cat, leaving her three tiny kittens motherless; before that, there was this depressing series of reports about some sicko drunks who beat a dog with sticks and set fire to it. It was all too depressing even to link to. But why oh why do some people do this?

(Cross-posted on Indian Writing)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oh wow.

The Serengeti migration:
It's one of the great sights of the animal kingdom. In the days of the wild west, American explorers used to report how bison would thunder across the plains for days. Today, the bison have almost vanished, and the wild west too, but here in east Africa herds of wildebeest and zebra still darken the land until they vanish into the distant blue horizon.
The whole thing here.

Cross-posted on Indian Writing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Heroes

This is such a sweet, sweet story for a grey rainy morning that I just had to share it. Electrician J.P.Mistry found a turtle struggling for life in Kane Wadi's well and, with the help of two of his friends, took it to the friendly neighbourhood vet, got the animal surgically treated - not once but twice - and helped it recuperate for weeks, first in his one-room house and then in a pool of water in his bathroom, and finally in his friend's electronics shop. And now that the stitches have healed, they have put the animal back in the water.
Once the surgery was over, Mistry took the creature back to his house. This time, though things were not as simple. "I used to fill my bathroom with water once everybody was done using it in the mornings. But my wife didn't like my messing up the house," says Mistry.

Realising that the tortoise was not welcome at his home, Mistry took the creature to Dabke's electronic shop. The tortoise spent the next three weeks at the shop.

Three weeks later, after stitches had dissolved, Shelar, Mistry and Dabke decided to release the tortoise back in to the well. It's been three days now and the tortoise seems to be absolutely well. "Earlier it could barely swim, let alone jumping around. Now it dives deep inside the well, the minute it spots a visitor," laughs Mistry.
Thanks, guys. I'm just speechless with delight and admiration.

Cross-posted on Indian Writing

Monday, September 19, 2005

Gods of the petridish

From The Scotsman, a look at potential ethical minefields in the animal testing arena:

A quarter of all experiments now involve genetically modified animals - mainly mice, which are easy to alter genetically - but also horses, cats and monkeys. According to the magazine Nature, Britain is facing a "deluge" of mutant mice. They are the currency of cancer research, and new phrases have sprung up to describe them. A "knock-out" mouse has a gene missing, a "knock-in" mouse has had one changed or substituted. In addition to the celebrated "oncomouse", which is primed to get cancer (and had a patent case fought over it), there are mice which have been genetically altered to make them deaf or to give them the mouse version of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
The question of whether a mouse's suffering can be justified is no different if that suffering is induced from the outside, by experiments, or from the inside, by genetic engineering.
The difference arises when genetic engineering changes the nature of the animal. Is a chicken still a chicken if it is bred to have no feathers, as has been done in Israel and in India? A dog is still a dog with a docked tail, but would a sheep be a sheep without wool? Woolliness, surely, is what a sheep is all about.
This idea of a clear species identity is what makes the idea of hybrids or chimeras so disturbing. Mixing human and animal cells is a hot topic in bioethics and beyond. The government is asking for views on whether scientists should be allowed to create hybrid embryos, which would have to be destroyed after 14 days.
But the focus is entirely on the human side of the process: the implications of injecting a monkey with human brain cells or creating a human-mouse embryo. Whether it makes the monkey less of a monkey or the mouse less of a mouse is rarely mentioned. Just as we looked at Dolly and saw human clones, we look at chimeras and see talking monkeys, or Jeff Goldblum as a giant fly. The ethics of altering animal nature have been subsumed by the ethics of altering human nature.

The rights of circus animals...

...are so limited it's not funny. This report is about the Apollo Circus, currently in Chandigarh, where the Deputy Commissioner has directed a vet to check the conditions of the animals performing. This is where the circus's responsibility ends:

Jain had lodged a complaint with UT District Magistrate-cum-Deputy Commissioner R.K. Rao. He said the circus owner should ensure proper watering and feeding of animals besides proper care.
The owner should also ensure that the animals are not inflicted any unnecessary pain or suffering before or during or after its training and exhibition, he said.
The Inspecting Authority added that animals should not be made to fight with each other and that the Circus owner should ensure that sedatives or tranquilisers or steroids or any other artificial enhancers are not administered to the animals.
Besides, the owner shall not deprive the animal of food or water in order to compel an animal to perform any trick.
The owner shall ensure that the animal shall not be transported or be kept or confined in cages and receptacles which do not measure in height, length or breadth as specified under the Transportation of Animal Rules, 1978, the complainant said.


It's pretty much like saying don't torture them, feed them gruel, and let them stretch--not even, you'll note, let them have comfortable living quarters, let them get proper exercise, make sure they're happy, none of that. Just make sure the scars don't show and that they're not too thin.