Joining the global effort to prevent abuse of animals
Every country is replete with innovations in policy: things that make life better for everyone. Perhaps the most important decision that was made in any country in 2017 was the British government making CCTVs mandatory in all abbatoirs.
Millions of animals are treated terribly before they are killed. I made a film on the way animals were treated in the Idgah slaughterhouse in New Delhi. The judge fainted and the slaughterhouse closed down. But there are 15,000 more that behave as badly. Animals are kicked, punched, beaten, burnt with cigarettes, given electric shocks, even sexually molested before they are killed.
Young animals are dragged by their tails and jumped on so that their ribs and legs break. Pigs are beaten to death routinely, as the sellers believe this makes the meat softer. In one video, taken in a slaughter in Kerala, iron rods were used to kill calves.
Under the new rules, CCTV will be mandatory in abattoirs in the UK – a good first step to prevent the very worst cases of abuse. This should be made mandatory in India as well.
India does have a law that orders sterilisation of all dogs, but few municipalities do ti. Even those that do, conduct it in fits and starts, allowing litters to be born and start the process over and over again. Meanwhile, pedigreed dogs are sold in the thousands by illegal breeders and are found in pet shops.
In 2017, California passed a law that pet stores can only sell puppies, kittens and rabbits from shelters and rescue centres. Violators will be fined $500 (Bt16,000) and shut down. This effectively puts an end to commercial animal breeders and brokers, and to the terrible practice of puppy mills which house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialisation or veterinary care.
The pet trade has predictably protested, saying that “ it would jeopardise jobs”. But this trade does not employ anyone in India; it is a messy business that operates by a person buying a few dogs and multiplying them in his own house without adhering to any standards.
In any case, how will it make a difference whether the dogs come from breeders or shelters? People who like paying money for buying dogs, because they think they get “better” animals, will do it anyway. The shops will continue to be in business. About 70 per cent of all dogs that are sold by breeders suffer from incurable illnesses, and 30 per cent die in the first week of parvovirus or distemper. If the dogs are from shelters, they are disease free.
Travel site TripAdvisor and its booking service Viator have announced they will no longer sell tickets to hundreds of attractions where travellers come into contact with wild animals, or endangered species, held in captivity. The attractions include elephant rides, swim-with-dolphins experiences, the petting of endangered species such as tigers, and circuses that have performing animals.
The decision has been applauded by wildlife preservation groups, because dolphins and elephants held in captivity for entertainment purposes suffer severe physical and psychological damage. TripAdvisor also announced the creation of a wildlife tourism education portal, in partnership with leading animal protection organisations, that will inform the site’s users about animal welfare issues so that they can make more informed choices for their holidays.
I hope this means that no tourists come to those dreadful elephant-based festivals in Kerala, where every year we lose elephants who run amok because of their suffering. Sometimes people are killed.
Scotland, Ireland, Romania and Guatemala have banned circuses with animal acts. India banned most in 1990, when I was Minister for Environment but, even now, several circuses are using elephants, horses, dogs and birds. In India, the Central Zoo Authority is closing them down one after another.
MANEKA GANDHI is an Indian government minister.