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Do You Need to See It to Believe It?

The other day a caring friend warned me about some horrendous, new video on social media, about animal abuse. Despite not knowing me all that well, he felt he knew me enough to know that I wouldn’t handle it well. I was very, very grateful. I stayed away from my social media accounts for a few days, hoping to be able to avoid whatever it was.

I also immediately copied my plea to my “friends” on social media, of please making a concerted effort to keep such gory videos and stories from me, to my local neighbourhood group of animal lovers, with an additional note:

“This is because I believe there’s something ghastly doing the rounds. Please, don’t even tell me. I beg you.”

I thought the message was pretty clear.

A second later, a member of the group posted the link to the video. I was not stupid enough to open it. Instead, I left the group altogether.

This “drastic” step of leaving a group in which I readily participate for a cause I believe in with all my heart, which is helping animals in need, was not just a knee-jerk, hasty reaction. Over the last year, all around India, there were numerous cases of animal abuse, of the most deranged, unthinkable kind, which were deliberately filmed and uploaded in what can only be deemed as a most desperate call for attention from some very disturbed and evil people. The whole purpose was to capitalise on shock value. Many of the perpetrators were caught and hopefully severely punished. It highlighted a terrible malaise in our society, where increasingly, no one is safe- not women, not children, not Muslims, not Christians, not the rich or the poor, neither the daring nor the meek and not the innocent animals. We signed petition after petition, we joined protests to demand updating animal welfare laws and we joined hands to defend the defenceless.

I would have done all of those things, with an equal amount of passion and conviction, even if I had been spared the gory, unnecessary details and certainly, the images.

Many animal lovers and animal welfare organisations are of the view that people must be made to see the terrible things that happen, in order to convince them to take action or to stop unwittingly abetting whatever it is. Whether it’s about turning vegetarian or vegan, or giving up leather and fur or taking action against some incident of abuse, these people resort to bombarding one with graphic emails, letters, videos, social media campaigns and all kinds of other things.

As I see it, such information will only be viewed by someone who is either an animal lover and keen to help, (such as me), in which case it would suffice for me to know that something is wrong and is bad for an animal and I need to take such and such action to stop it; or by some curious pervert who may be inspired to do something equally unspeakable. People who couldn’t care less will not even bother to watch or read and even if they do, well, they couldn’t care less!

The question then is this, Do you really need to see it to believe it?
Shocking images and gory details actually do me a lot of damage. I am angered and upset and haunted constantly by what I have learned, to the point where it makes me short-tempered, impatient, frustrated and depressed. I lose sleep, thinking of the animal. And all I can do about it is sign some letter or report to some authority, without ever knowing what became of the culprits. My ability to help, or the lack of it, therefore hardly justifies the agony I experience. So much so, that now I actually need to switch off. When I receive PETA’s mails, with some God-awful picture, I’m afraid the envelope goes straight in to the bin. Similarly, the video posted on my welfare group, after I specifically asked that we not post such things, left me with no choice but to leave, despite the fact that I know I can and do make a valuable contribution by being a part of it.

These are bad times and lots of bad things happen. I say we all become a little more sensitive to all those around us and avoid inflicting pain on someone in an effort to help another. Because sometimes, it can backfire. Share judiciously- with authorities, lawyers, welfare organisations, police, politicians- people who can actually do something about it. For others who may be deeply affected and who cannot offer a solution, be kind. Spare them the trauma. There’s more than enough all around.

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What NOT to buy when the sales are on

For the past few days, a rather disturbing ad has been appearing on my facebook timeline. The picture of two cute little puppies instantly caught my eye. When I read the accompanying text however, I thought I had perhaps misunderstood. I read it again. And again, with growing consternation. The ad read: “Get a new buddy” with “Assured next day delivery”. I immediately wrote a comment advising the site to stick to selling pet accessories and not pets themselves in this most flippant and careless way. My comment was soon removed. I tried again. Again, my comment was deleted. A couple of days later, I saw a similar comment by someone else, asking why this site was selling dogs when so many are in need of homes, to which the wholly unconvincing reply was that some of the dogs they sell are shelter dogs. Yeah right.

Where do I even begin on why this sale of pets online is so totally, totally wrong?

On any given day, there are innumerable adoption appeals for dogs (both pedigree and non-pedigree), who are either homeless, abandoned, injured or abused. Excuses for abandoning dogs, some of whom are old and have lived with their family for years, range from “Our son has just got married and our daughter-in-law doesn’t want the dog in the house”, to “the dog has grown too big” to “the dog smells”. Each more deserving than the other of getting the owner one tight smack. Clearly, these kind of people have never understood the true meaning of having a pet- of the pet being an inherent part of the family or of their responsibility and commitment towards the animal. Perhaps they bought their pets online…

Perhaps not. But such things are happening. Every day. And it’s heart-breaking for the animal of course and for anyone else who has half a heart and a little empathy. Sites like the one in question- or the infamous OLX, who voluntarily offer animals for sale online, show a complete lack of understanding themselves of the meaning of owning a pet. Aside from obviously working hand in glove with breeders who are notorious for the torturous conditions under which they confine animals and breed them until their bodies give way; in-breeding which is responsible for increasing health issues in so-called ‘highly-pedigreed’ dogs and for seperating pups from their mothers long before they should, such websites encourage the spontaneous, thoughtless, unprepared acquisition of a pet which, more often than not, is likely to end badly. It is callous, irresponsible and immoral to say the least and such websites should be boycotted if not banned altogether.




As for prospective buyers from such sites, one cannot help but wonder if they truly understand the enormity of bringing home a new family member or if they even realise that that is what having a pet is supposed to be all about. And if they can’t take the trouble to go and see the puppy or kitten and have a few moments of bonding with them before bringing them home, can they really be expected to love them and care for them well for the rest of their lives?

I also fail to understand how people who claim to be animal lovers can, at the time of taking on a pet, become so very selective of whom they shower that love upon. While day after day, street dogs, (new-born, young and old), or abandoned pedigree dogs (new-born, young and old), all with a special story of their own, fail to strike a cord with such people, a puppy with some certificate (most of which are fake by the way!), finds a home all too easily, often till it ceases to be a pup and then guess what? It joins the many in the abandoned list.

If you really do care for animals, if you really do want a pet, please consider joining one of the many adoption groups on social media or through well-known NGO’s such as Friendicoes, Sai Ashram, Red Paws Rescue, etc. Allow them to ask you questions and judge whether your home is fit for a pet. If you really, really do care, listen  to them. Make your home the right home. It is in the interest of the pet you supposedly care for and in yours. And if you don’t have the patience to check out your pet or be checked out yourself, then please save your money, spare the animal the trauma and buy yourself a nice, cute, furry little stuffed toy online. Because that would probably be more your thing.

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A Call to Action

I didn’t expect to be writing on this subject again so soon. Then again, I didn’t expect such a thing to happen again this quickly. When the sweet, Indian dog ‘Bhadra’ was thrown off a two-storey terrace not three weeks ago, (read my earlier post- An Alarming Appetite for Brutality), the media and social media were belligerent as of course were animal welfare groups. And yet, days later, there was another incident, this time in Hyderabad, of the most unimaginable, heinous kind. I won’t elaborate on the details, but this too was all over the press. The act itself sends a shiver down one’s spine, but knowing that it was perpetrated by teenagers is truly shocking. It confirms the fears that impressionable minds would be attracted to the kind of sick and deranged atrocities which are becoming the subject of videos uploaded and shared on the internet. Today, they torture innocent animals. Tomorrow, they’ll be the kind of social deviants that terrorist groups readily induct. Is that when we’ll wake up and realise this is a problem that affects us all and needs to be addressed urgently?

For the past several days, I have been asking fellow animal-lovers why there isn’t a public protest or some such visible action to demand the revision of our appalling animal welfare laws. I’m usually referred to someone else, who is supposedly doing something about it. I’m certain that various animal rights activists and organisations have been and continue to fight hard for legislative change, but I can’t help but wonder, What’s a common person who wants very much to help, supposed to do? Why on earth should it be so difficult for someone like me to find out how I can pitch in? Why can’t one of the larger organisations lead a protest march or something so that all of us can come together and demand this change, not just to save our animals but to save our society from descending in to utter moral anarchy?

If you think you are far removed from such people and such acts of cruelty, don’t be so sure. A few days ago, I had just walked in to my house when I got a call from a poor man who has adopted three desi dogs whom I absolutely adore and whose vaccinations and medical records I manage, just like I do for my own dogs. He asked me to come quickly because someone was beating the dogs. By the time I reached, the person had run off but a concerned neighbour recounted the incident to me: one of the nearby residents had arrived in his car and beckoned to the dogs who were fast asleep. They went running up to him because they are trusting and friendly. Then,  he produced a stick and began to hit them. The lady ran out when she heard the dogs yelping and called the police, at which point this brute decided to drive off. Thankfully, the dogs had managed to dodge the stick and weren’t injured, though they were clearly traumatised.

So, here was an attack on dogs we know, love and look after, right here in the street behind ours. What were we going to do about it? Since the lady and all the guards and drivers who witnessed the whole incident, refused to give their names as official witnesses, our plans to lodge a First Information Report, were rendered useless. I imagine this is an all-too-common problem, among many, in our country. And yet, I was determined to put my money where my mouth is and do whatever I could, rather than just ignoring the whole thing. So, I signed a letter, along with several other compassionate neighbourhood residents, telling the man that this kind of thing was not appreciated and must never happen again. Hopefully, social pressure will be enough of a deterrent.

It will also help me sleep better at night, knowing that I have done something. All of us, if we put our minds to it, can actually help to stop violence, at whatever level, by standing up for the defenceless. Are you a lawyer, a journalist, a hotel manager? Can you use any of your professional skills to help spread the message of kindness and respect for animals and humans alike? More importantly, are you compassionate enough to care? There’s a lot we can do, whoever we are and wherever we are, to help, just like these wonderful guys at Arré have done by creating this beautiful, moving video:

While we wait for an organised animal rights call to action, we can help everyday by encouraging our children, domestic staff, colleagues, friends and neighbours, to respect and be kind to animals. The need is urgent. Let’s start now.

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An Alarming Appetite for Brutality

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

Over the past ten days, many of us would have had the misfortune of seeing the video and learning about the poor dog that was thrown off a terrace by a medical student in Chennai, while an equally deranged chum of his filmed the incident to post on social media.

I didn’t watch the video and quite honestly, did my best to avoid learning details of what happened, but there was no escaping it since the video had gone viral and people everywhere were expressing their shock at what had happened.

For those of you who don’t know, let me first just tell you that the dog, Bhadra, a spunky, five-month-old Indian mixed breed, is ok, despite her fractured hip and is being nursed back to health by a team of vets and animal lovers. I reckon she’ll have a happy life ahead.

Now let me tell you a bit about the people who did this to her. These two men, mind you, were seeking to enter the medical profession, to be healers and life-savers. Their medical college, which had initially asked them to surrender themselves to the police or not be allowed to sit their exams, finally expelled them, a decision which I daresay was brought about by the public outcry and media attention.

This isn’t the first time that an incident like this has occurred. I am anguished at what we are becoming as a society, this sickening appetite for pain and suffering that people in our midst seem to have, which prompts them to perpetrate such new heights (or lows), of brutality as were seen in the 2010 Delhi rape case and in several animal-related incidents like a man hurling a dog against a parked car, leading up to this most recent one. It’s something that should deeply concern not just animal lovers but all of us. Are we developing a taste for unimaginable cruelty?

What could possibly prompt a person to do something like this? Are people that frustrated and desperate for a few Facebook ‘likes’ that they feel the need to come up with such heinous deeds for a little attention?

As of now, one is helpless to either teach these psychopaths a lesson they won’t forget or indeed to stop this social epidemic from spreading. For months, animal activists have been campaigning for the animal welfare laws in India to be revised. As of now, even the two medical students, whose crime to my mind was about as sadistic and brutal as they come, were remanded in to custody briefly and then promptly released on bail for the pitiful amount of Rs. 50, for which one can’t even get a cup of coffee at a good restaurant. That then, is the price of an animal’s life.

Oftentimes people react to such things by saying, “Well, what about human beings and their suffering?” to which I say, why can’t one be against cruelty towards all beings? People who commit such atrocities towards innocent animals pose a considerable threat to society. Who is to say the animal torturers of today won’t go on to becoming the rapists and killers of tomorrow? Which is why one doesn’t need to love animals to condemn such acts and demand befitting punishment for the culprits. I try to avoid either watching or sharing videos that I know are graphic and upsetting, partly out of fear that some other sick freak somewhere may draw inspiration from it. How sad is that? To not have enough faith in one’s society to believe that something which is intended to draw sympathy may not actually have the opposite effect?

If we are truly concerned about this societal malaise, and we really, really should be, then the next time we see an animal or a person being physically abused, let’s not just look the other way. Let’s pause to demand an explanation. Even something that simple is usually enough to deter a person. Let’s sign those campaigns that come our way, to get the government to make animal welfare laws stricter. And let’s pray for little Bhadra.