How many Indians abroad work for animals in the countries they live in ? I was in Chicago fifteen years ago at a 6000 strong Jain convention. All rich, all educated. I was there to lecture about animal welfare but when I arrived I realized that this was basically a marriage mela. At the beginning of my speech to this group I asked how many were vegetarian – a sea of hands went up. I asked how many were members of PETA , about 30 hands went up. I asked how many donated to animal welfare organizations , 7 hands rose. When I asked how many volunteered at animal shelters or in the wildlife protection movement , not one hand came up. I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, the donations I collected for the hospitals in India was less than $ 500. The organizers collected 6.5 million dollars for a new temple , to be built inscribing the names of the donors.

I thought I would write today about the foreigners that I have seen work for animals in India . 

I was 18 and newly married when I met Crystal Rogers, an old English woman who was migrating to Australia , stopped in India for a day, saw a horse with its eye out of its socket and decided to stay on. She had no money so she lived in the shack of a Christian graveyard in Delhi . My husband gave her 3 acres and she put up kennels and barns. She called her organisation Animals Friend. According to Indian law she had to have Indians on the board. She chose unwisely and these wretched people took away the shelter from her as soon as the land became valuable and use it till today for renting for marriages and melas. She shifted to Jaipur with no money, got in touch with the Rajmata Jaipur who gave her stables which she redid by singing in schools and collecting money. As soon as the stables looked good, the Rajmata took them back and gave them to Mother Teresa. Crystal , arthritic, almost blind, 85 years old, moved to Bangalore in 1991 , discovered 3 lovely young girls and made an organisation called CUPA ( Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) which now runs the main shelter in Karnataka and does an amazing amount of good work. 

Belinda Wright was born in India where her parents ran the Calcutta Royal Turf Club. They were wildlife conservation people , far ahead of their time . Belinda's mother Anne Wright helped set up World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) India in the late 1960s. She was a member of the Tiger Task Force that was commissioned by Mrs. Indira Gandhi to select nine tiger reserves for the launch of Project Tiger in 1973. Belinda just sent me a picture of Sanjay and me at the Palamau tiger reserve which we inaugurated in the 70s. Belinda is one of India 's leading wildlife conservationists and In 1994, she founded the Wildlife Protection Society of India to provide support and information to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. She spent 3 months undercover in Tibet documenting the tigerskin trade there.  

Christine and Jeremy Townend came to India in their 50s. She was the founder of the animal liberation movement in Australia and simply got fed up with a meat eating, insensitive society. In 1990 she started 'Help in Suffering' in Jaipur and was the first person to start the sterilization of dogs. It is due to her that Jaipur became the first rabies free city in India . It is now run by the Englishman Dr Jack Reece who has been here for 15 years and does incredible work. Christine and Jeremy went back to Australia two years ago. 

 Clementein Pauws is a Belgian who came to India with a disabled husband and son originally as a disciple of Sathya Sai Baba. She has set up an excellent animal rescue centre in Anantapur which she runs with her pension- she is in her late sixties. She is an excellent , robust no nonsense woman who rescues animals from morning to night and is always being harassed by local officials because she is the only foreigner who goes out to stop cows from going to illegal slaughter as well. At the moment she has a broken arm. 

An American couple called James Myers and Erika Abrams came to India as tourists, and stayed on in 1993 in a village in Udaipur . They founded Animal Aid Unlimited, an animal care center which rescues animals. They are an enthusiastic couple who have a lovely daughter called Claire who speaks perfect Hindi and works with her parents to raise funds, recruit volunteers and deliver talks on compassion for animals at schools as a way of involving children to help street animals. They were initially gypped of all their money and ambulance by an Indian on the Board. Unfortunately this has happened in every case where foreigners have put in their money and had to nominate Indians on the board. 

It happened to meet a gentle young woman Rachel Wright who sold her house in England and has moved to Pushkar to start TOLFA – Tree of Life. As soon as she made her shelter, the Indian woman on the Board tried to take the land forcibly to live there. I had to intervene. She does a lot of rescues , dog sterilization and looks after camels.

Avis Lyons , a feisty English woman started the first animal shelter in Kerala when she visited India after retirement in 2000 and decided to settle down here . She set up ARK and runs a good hospital/ rescue centre which was financed by selling her house in England . She took pictures of illegal killing by the municipality, complained to the police about them. They went after her with a vengeance, and put false criminal cases on this little old woman. She is now abroad struggling with cancer but the shelter is still being run by her daughter. Penny Shepherd is another retiree who has just started animal rescue work in Cochin Kerala by making an organisation called Mad Dogs Trust.

John Hicks was born in a very poor family. As a teenager he looked after an even poorer single woman living in a council flat in England . She died and left him millions ! He is mad about animals and made International Animal Rescue and shifted to Goa to run its best animal animal shelter. He is now in his sixties and it is because of his and his lawyer Alan’s money that we have been able to take away all the dancing bears from the Indian streets. 

There are so many others: Bonny Shah was an American married to an Indian. She exported clothes to America and funded a donkey sanctuary in Sholapur . Adriana Ferranti, an Italian Buddhist nun who lives in Bihar and looks after people and animals. The fearless and outspoken Canadian Lisa Warden who has just been driven out by the Gujarat state government because she caught the Ahmedabad municipality killing animals illegally.

India owes a big debt to these selfless missionaries. I have known all of them and I admire how they put themselves to great risk and discomfort simply to save as many animals as they can. If anyone has imbibed the true nature of Hinduism, it is these foreigners. 
Maneka Gandhi

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