Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

By now you must be fed up with reading or listening to things about the Corona Virus. It has taken everyone’s attention away from what they do, to whether they want to live or not. Economy, foreign affairs, shops closed, a potential food rationing coming up , unseasonal rains, global warming, a rise in cancer cases – every worry has become irrelevant in the face of a threat from someone who sneezes or coughs.

Some good things have happened in this time of Corona. The weather is better, the large weddings and parties have disappeared so there is less noise and certainly no polluting fire crackers, there is much less traffic and I can hear the birds again.  Families spend more time with each other and, suddenly, we discover that we can find happiness within a much smaller circle doing gentler things.

The government too has a breather as everyone’s attention is diverted.  The social media is less political and less vicious. Politicians become irrelevant and their coming and going out of parties is seen as something that has no bearing on your life.

There is much to cry as well. Everyone already struggling, in a failing economy, is faced with the almost fatal blow of no one coming to shop any more. Luxury goods are hit the worst. At the lower end – street food vendors, whole markets of cloth and shoe sellers, small shops in malls … all of them are out of business. Prices of food are up.

For me, and the animal world, it is a terrible time. A large number of government and private agencies, who have nothing to do with the virus, have become experts at spreading fake news. The Western Railways in Mumbai tell you to avoid touching your pets, the Thane Municipal Corporation has spread flyers saying the same. The Star Insurance company sent out mailers, the NTPC electricity company …..  each one withdrew their nonsensical information when they received a rocket from the Health Ministry but, by then, people who were looking for an excuse to do harm have taken their dogs and dumped hundreds of them on highways where many have been run over, or in shelters like mine. All these animals will suffer and die – for no fault of their own.

The Corona virus cannot be spread to animals and no human can get it from animals. The Corona virus is a more severe form of the seasonal flu – which mutates every season. Every creature on the planet wants to live, and viruses have a life as well. In order to live and multiply they have to constantly change, as the human body’s defences will not succumb to the same virus again. Every time you get flu, it is a different virus. But never have you ever given a cough and cold to your dog or cat or cow and goat, or got it from them. And this time is no different.  If you are mean to your animals now, think of what it does to your karma and beware of the virus !!

The second tragedy has been the complete drying up of donations, both in the form of money and in food. Hundreds of people come to my shelters every day and they bring food for the cows, monkeys and dogs. Now, because of the virus they have stopped coming, because everyone wants to stay at home and we have had to buy much more food for the first time – and that frightens me. The donations have stopped coming as well. The shopkeepers are uncertain about how long this spell of bad luck will last and the normal salaried person and consumer is uncertain about what the future will bring in terms of food shortages and supply systems. So, the first thing down the drain is charity . Every NGO looking after animals is frightened.  Companies giving their CSRs to animals (very, very few to begin with) are not doing so any more, because their profits  have crashed, or they have been asked by the government to put it into the Corona Virus basket (for what, I have no idea so far). So we are broke. It seems that God only exists in good times, and the human being forgets his duty towards the world in bad ones and turns completely selfish.

Many people have asked me whether they are more likely to get the virus if they eat meat. This is what you  need to know :  Animal meat is bad for the human body. The virus will attack everyone – whether you wear those foolish masks or gloves is irrelevant. But whether the virus can affect your body, to the point that it kills you, depends on your immunity system. Meat attacks the immunity system. Most meat and chicken carry a huge overload of viruses, bacteria and antibiotics. If you eat it – especially chicken and eggs – you will get all the germs and all the antibiotics and hormones that these animals have been given to keep them alive. 70% of India’s antibiotics are fed to animals and once these enter your body, and you get the Corona virus , the antibiotics the doctors give you will have little or no effect in curing you. Then you need to go back to charity and god.

Buffaloes and cows have leukaemia and tuberculosis, chickens have diabetes and many, many other diseases, pigs have every kind of rapacious worm. Are you sure you want to put these diseases into your body right now ?

I am bringing out a book in two months called Poison on Your Plate. It lists all the antibiotics and chemicals that meat, eggs and milk, carry and its effect so far has been that my editors and publishers have turned vegetarian.  If you want to be fit enough to tackle the virus when it hits you – which it will – then stop eating meat. 

Regarding the eating of wild animals, that China  and many countries in South east Asia eat - snakes, bats bears, tigers, pangolins, to name a few - most of these animals carry a very high viral load and this mutates in the human body. Now the Chinese have been officially asked not to eat every species on the planet, but what about India ? In just Manipur alone there is a terrible market in a district called Tamenglong, where dogs, pangolins, snakes, bats, monkeys, and everything you can imagine, are sold daily. Smugglers come from Myanmar daily to buy this meat. These markets should be stopped immediately.

Lastly : there is a belief that the virus will disappear when the weather warms, that there is a bandwidth of temperature within which the virus operates. But the weather has always been hot in Kerala – and the most cases are there. It has spread all over Africa. The virus will never disappear. Yes, this virus will go away after a few months, maybe, when it runs out of weakened bodies and you develop an immunity to it. But it will return in another form a few months later and we will name it differently, as we have the previous ones – chikengunya, swine flu, bird flu, corona. Will you be ready for it then ?  Keep your body healthy. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Over the years we have been conditioned to like certain things and dislike others. Sometimes these likes come in waves called fashion and die out, others are ingrained in us over decades. We, in India , still haven’t in the 70 years of Independence, got over the belief that a fair complexion is better than a dark one.

So it is with eggs. Most egg eaters believe that the yellower an egg, the better it is. If the yolk is orange-red, it has the most vitamins and Omega 3, and the least cholesterol.

This could be true if we were still eating eggs that came from chickens that roam in the sun, in open fields with good , “unpesticided” grass with natural insects in it. But that time is long gone. The eggs you eat are from industries called poultries and most chickens have never seen a green field. A “free range” egg simply means that instead of been crushed into cages, the chickens are brought up on the overcrowded cement floor of the factory.

A yolk can only be yellow if the chicken is in natural sunlight and eats natural foods. High carotenoid foods, such as leafy greens and lucerne grass, make yolks a darker orange. Otherwise the yolk remains pale white. And the consumer believes that he is eating a bad egg. So, poultries all over the world use chemicals as yolk colour enhancers.

These cosmetic food dyes are placed in feed pellets and carefully calibrated to get the desired yellow shade, or “ideal colour outcome”. In fact, egg shade cards (Roche Colour Fan) are freely available on the Net and are sold to poultries.

The “free range” and “organic” poultry dyes will make you believe that their dyes are derived from capsicum, marigold or paprika. Fresh corn and turmeric extracts can make the yolk look more orange. Peppers make it redder. The colour of the yolk, we believe, can inform us about the health and living conditions of the chicken. A darker orange yolk tells us that a chicken is eating a diet on open pasture, where it feeds on carotenoid-rich grasses, insects, seeds, vegetables and flowers, and so is getting enough vitamins and carotenoids from the natural pigments of plants.

Not true. They are being fed chemicals in the form of pigments. Yolk colour has no longer any relationship to quality or nutritive value. All chickens in poultry factories are fed mainly cheap, non nutritious grain, and this produces a pale or white yolk. 

Poultry owners had discovered 60 years ago that they can control egg yolk colour. Giving yellow vegetables, like carrots and squash, in the food increases carotinoids and xanthophylls and makes the yolk a richer colour and the feed far more nutritious. Both the chicken and egg benefit.

But natural foods are expensive products when the industry wants to sell eggs cheap. So they use chemical dyes.

These serve two purposes : they make the sick, malnourished chicken, brought up on an inappropriate diet of mainly grain to make it fatter quickly, look more orange. People will sometimes refuse to buy pale bodies.

And they give the yolks colour.

There are thousands of sellers of these dyes on the Net. Some sell marigold extract in both powder and liquid form - India is the top seller of these dyes.  Most of the cheap, synthetic carotenoid dyes are manufactured in China. Scientists have perfected 16 yolk colours in a yolk fan, which go from light yellow to intense orange and these are sold to different countries depending on consumer traditions.

Here are some of the chemicals:

Some are semi natural like Lutein, which the sellers claim is a purified extract of xanthophylls from marigold oleoresins, or oils mixed with potassium hydroxide, methanol or propylene glycol. The resulting chemical is called Zeanthaxin.

But, most are just synthetic chemicals like Rovimix Carophyll Yellow, Canthaxanthin and Xanthophyll B. Some of the dyes have iron oxides in them.

There are hundreds of synthetic chemical  dyes on the market. One of the largest international sellers is BASF, and they start their propaganda for chemical dyes by saying that poultry cannot produce carotinoids on their own so they have to fed them, as the market prefers chickens with more orange feet and deeper coloured yolk. And feeding them natural food like marigold petals, turmeric etc. causes egg yolks to have varying colours and can only give a faint colouring of lemony yellow, so it is better for poultries to standardize their products and make their yolks a deep orange by using their products called Lucantin Yellow and Lucantin Red which have a chemical mysteriously called C-30.

Using chemicals is bad enough, but using banned ones is extremely dangerous.

In a recent study "Effect of Pigments with Different Origins on Pigmentation and Performance of Broilers" by Tarique Tunio, Shuming Yang et al, of the State Key Laboratory of Agro-Product Quality and Safety, Institute of Quality Standards and Testing Technology for Agro-products, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing China  and Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan, the scientists found that poultries are buying dyes which are a combination of lutein and synthetic canthaxanthin and orange-II.

Orange II, or Acid Orange 7,  is a banned dye belonging to the class of Azo dyes. These Azo dyes are carcinogenic (Boeninger, 1980). Many countries now regulate the use of azo-dyes in food products and the use of these dyes in food is strongly prohibited.

But they are used freely in India in the dyeing industry. Orange II is used in inks, paper, paint coatings and plastics. Since the chemical is cheap and freely available, and makes the egg and chicken a deep yellow/orange, it is used  by irresponsible poultry producers in the entire subcontinent and China.

The study discovered that natural Lutein had the best impact on colour. But it was expensive. Orange II had the same impact and it is very cheap.  But while Lutein had no adverse impact on chickens, Orange II causes severe breast muscle fibrosis in chickens. Not only is that extremely painful for the birds, it also makes their meat very chewy and inedible after they are killed. Canthaxanthin, which is the second option, also caused fibrosis in chickens but to a lesser degree.

The study recommended that investigations be done to determine the effects and stop the use of authorized synthetic pigments being used in this large scale.

So, what do these colouring agents do to you ? They allow the poultry owners to feed their hens bad food, keep them in a state of malnutrition while pumping them with chemicals to keep them alive and artificially obese, and make the skin and eggs look healthy by colouring them. The chickens would have gotten many more nutrients if they had really grazed in the open. A study done at Penn State University showed that chickens, who grazed outside and were given natural foods, had deep yellow yolks with twice the amount of Vitamin R, Omega 3 fatty acids and 38% more Vitamin A than factory farmed eggs. Less cholesterol. Less saturated fat.

Forget the chickens. When you eat the deep yellow yolk, you could be paving the way to cancer. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Mimicry, by changing form, shape and colour, is unique to animals. Imagine if you went into a Chinese or African neighbourhood and had to blend in. Or become shorter, fatter, change the shape of your nose, increase the number of arms, the odour your body emits. We can't do any of these things even if our lives depend on it.

But animals and insects do it easily. They change their forms to look like species that predators avoid. Their scents change, their colours blend in with the background or with their prey. Their ways of surviving are nothing less than magical.

The Mock Viper of  Asia is a harmless snake. It looks like a dangerous viper with a triangular head. The difference is that the mock viper has round pupils. True vipers’ pupils are vertical slits.

The Mock Viper is so clever that, when threatened, it squeezes the shape of its pupils to look like the slits of a true pit viper and then, in the panic this causes, it flees.

It's not just while protecting themselves, animals that hunt need to be clever too. Some fool their prey into believing they are harmless, while they get close to them.

The Green Lacewing larva feeds on Woolly Alder Aphids who are herded by ants. So, it plucks the white waxy wool from an aphid’s back, attaches it to its own and fools the ant shepherds into believing it is part of their flock. Once inside the circle, it eats the aphids.

The Zone Tail Hawk feeds on live animals, but it mimics the flight of a vulture who is a carrion eater. Small animals, who would have normally rushed for cover on seeing a hawk, are deceived by the gliding flight and vulture-like outline and are snatched up.

The Cleaner Fish is harmless and its function is to eat the parasites on larger fish who stand in line to be attended to. The predatory Sabre Tooth Blennny  has black and blue markings like the Cleaner and it imitates its swimming pattern and loiters at cleaning stations to dupe clients waiting to be cleaned. It comes close to large fish and bites a chunk out of them before darting away.

The Dusky Dottyback is a small 3 inch harmless looking fish which lives in our Indo Pacific coral reefs . Its normal colour varies from pink to grey,  but  it can change into any colour – green, yellow brown – to match its prey. It tricks baby fish of larger species into thinking it is one of them. Then it eats them. Its favourite prey are baby Damselfish. This unique talent allows the Dottyback to easily approach juvenile Damselfish without detection and, by the time the group is alerted, it has eaten several babies and moved to new groups of fish with new colours.

The Slender Trumpet Fish swims vertically among the soft coral branches and changes its colour to match them. It is almost invisible to the small animals that it hunts.

The Marine Flatworm increases its size to look like a Sea Slug, which is avoided by aquatic predators because it emits a poisonous and malodorous substance.

The Milk Snake is harmless, but changes itself gradually to develop bands like the venomous coral snake. Is this mimicry or a coincidence ? Definitely deliberate mimicry, because it happens only in those regions where Milk snake and Coral snake are found together. In other regions the Milk snake doesn’t look anything like the Coral snake.

Young Bushveld Lizards in Southern Africa mimic the noxious Oogpister’ beetles. As adults the lizards will camouflage themselves with the red-tan colours of the Kalahari semi-desert, but as juveniles the lizards become black and white and move with stiff, jerky movements, with backs strongly arched, to look like the Oogpister beetles who are avoided by all as they spray a pungent, acidic fluid on anyone who threatens them.

The harmless Hognosed snake, when threatened, pretends to be a rattlesnake. It raises its head as it is about to strike and makes a rattling sound from its throat. If that doesn’t work it pretends to be dead and gives off a rotting smell.

Many moths, of the families Arctiidae and Ctenuchidae, are foul-tasting and are avoided by bats who hunt by sound and  recognize their high pitched clicks. Other moths, who are edible, protect themselves as soon as they hear the bats coming by emitting the same clicks. Scientists experimented by putting out mealworms that are a favourite food of bats.  These were accompanied by recorded moth clicks. The captive bats ignored the mealworms, choosing to go hungry.

Male Photinus fireflies of North American emit pulses of light in very specific patterns when they go to find mates. The females remain on the ground and  responds to the flash pattern of  the male with her own light pattern. The flying male responds to her signal by approaching, landing, and mating.

The Photuris female firefly is a predator and eats Photinus fireflies. What she does is to copy the light signals of the Photinus female. The hapless male, after landing, is seized and eaten by the Photuris. In response to males of her own species, whom she does not eat, the female Photuris gives a flash response quite different from that of Photinus.

This one is my favourite :  The female  African mouth-breeding Cichlid fish  lays eggs and takes the eggs into her mouth immediately after they are laid, even before the male can fertilize them with his sperm. The male develops yellow, or orange, spots near the base of his anal fin, which closely resemble the eggs. He comes near the female and displays these spots.  The female thinks that she has missed out some loose eggs and attempts  pick them up in her mouth. As she opens her mouth the male release his sperm and she takes in the sperm that fertilize the eggs in her mouth.

Death’s Head Hawkmoths need honey, so they mimic the smell of bees, allowing themselves to get into hives without being stung. There, they ignore the bees, choosing to feed on the sugary honey stored inside. As soon as they leave, they resume their own odours.

The Alligator Snapping Turtle has a large set of jaws, but how does it get fish to enter its mouth ? These freshwater turtles disguise themselves among the dead wood and mud at the bottom of rivers and lakes, open their mouths and wiggle the small growth on their tongues. This growth looks and behaves like a worm. As soon as the fish takes the bait, and enters the still mouth, the jaws snap shut and the fish is dinner.

The Spider-tailed Horned Viper of Iran uses the appendage at the end of its tail in the same way. The end is a bulbous structure with thin growths jutting out of it. The structure looks like a spider. The snake moves behind rocks and raises the tip of its tail onto a rock so that birds can see it. When a bird  swoops down to capture the spider, the snake attacks.

I just read today that the Chinese Paddlefish of the Yangtze river, a 200 million year old species that survived the dinosaurs, has finally gone extinct due to overfishing and the construction of dams. It was a unique and extraordinary animal who could grow to 23 feet. It used its special sword-like snout to sense electrical activity to find its crustacean and fish prey. Again, magic. Most humans have no idea of the magical world that they destroy day after dreary, blood filled, violent day. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Every now and then I rescue chickens from the illegal roadside khokhas, where they sit in wire cages and watch their brothers being beheaded. (I have stopped all the khokhas in my constituency and so should you as, under the Municipal Act passed by Parliament years ago, these are illegal.) When I take them to a farm, many of them simply cannot walk, even though we put them down on soft grass. Most walk a few steps, then sit down, then try again after a time. They are clearly in great pain.

Why are broiler chickens lame, and how do their walking problems affect you when you eat them ?

Broiler chickens are lame because they are fed hormones and unnatural foods to make their bodies grow very fat in a very short time. The legs are unable to take this weight and so they have great difficulty walking. Apart from that, they are kept in cages with wire flooring and the wires bite into their feet causing wounds. Most poultry scientists have recommended removing wire floors, but the industry continues to use them because the urine and faeces can go through the wires and be collected for sale.

20% or more broiler chickens are lame because they are victims of  bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO). Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Bones can become infected in a number of ways: Bacterial infection from a wound in one part of the body may spread through the bloodstream into the bone, or a fracture may expose the bone to infection. The ribs become infected and the spinal cord is compressed. Internal wounds develop. Bacteria enter these wounds and create abscesses in the bones. Birds become lame to begin with, and then stop walking and lie on their sides. They flap their wings occasionally, to try and move, but the wings then develop abscesses too. When they stop walking, and remain in a sitting posture for prolonged periods, the major arteries supplying their legs are compressed and the cells start dying (necrosis). They cannot reach food or water, and die of disease and starvation. These birds don’t respond to treatment, as antibiotics don’t work on bacterial bone and joint infections.

Researchers have found these bacteria in lame chickens: Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus spp., Escherichia coli, Enterococcus cecorum, Salmonella spp and Staphylococcus agnetis. Other sporadic causes, of osteomyelitis and arthritis in poultry, include Pasteurella multocida, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale, Trueperella Arcanobacterium pyogenes, Enterococcus  spp., Streptococcus spp., Salmonella spp., Streptobacillus moniliformis, Aspergillus spp., E. faecalis, E. durans.

Escherichia coli is often responsible for flock outbreaks of arthritis, and osteomyelitis, in broiler chickens. E. coli  bacteria colonize the lining of the respiratory and intestinal tract and skin, and then enter the body through a wound. They first cause intestinal infections, and are rapidly spread by the circulatory system. The weakness of the artificially, rapidly growing bones  make it very difficult for the immune system to prevent infection and osteomyelitis, as they already suffer from micro fractures. So, micro abscesses develop in the body and then develop into an active site of infection.

When the chicken dies of these diseases, it is still sold to you. And some of these bacteria  are very dangerous to the human being.

Staphylococcus bacterial infections can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into the human body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart. A growing number of healthy people are developing life-threatening staph infections, ranging from food poisoning, skin problems, septicaemia, septic arthritis, of knees, shoulders, hips, and fingers or toes, to infections of the inner lining of the heart. Some staph infections no longer respond to common antibiotics.

Staphylococcus aureus can cause a range of illnesses, from minor skin infections, such as pimples, boils, cellulitis, carbuncles and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome, bacteremia, and sepsis.

Salmonella  bacterial diseases affect the intestinal tract. People develop diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramps. In some cases the diarrhoea, associated with salmonella infection, can be so dehydrating as to require prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also may develop, if the infection spreads beyond the intestines.

Escherichia coli infections cause intestinal infections, with diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and sometimes vomiting.  It is one of the most powerful toxins.

Pasteurella multocida can cause skin and soft tissue infections, following a bite or scratch. Pain,  swelling, and erythema often develop and progress rapidly.

Enterococcus spp, Enterococcus faecalis and E. faecium cause a variety of infections, including endocarditis, urinary tract infections, prostatitis, intra-abdominal infection, cellulitis, and wound infection. Some people with infections have diarrhoea, urinate a lot, feel weak and sick, or have fever and chills.

Streptococcus spp. causes streptococcal pharyngitis, pyoderma, abscesses, cellulitis, endocarditis, polyarthritis, pneumonia and septicemia.  Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is an  often fatal disease characterized by shock and multiorgan failure.

Streptobacillus moniliformis can cause ulcers at the site of a wound, fever and complications in the wound.

Aspergillus spp. affects people with weakened immune systems, or lung diseases, who can develop allergic reactions, lung infections, and infections in their organs.

Enterococcus spp., particularly E. faecalis,  also causes multi organ infections in humans. The bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics. A study, of ten human patients with osteomyelitis, showed that eight cases were due to infection by E. faecalis. A study in Brazil showed the presence of this bacterium in 42% of the chicken carcasses tested (Campos et al). All strains were resistant to the antibiotics tested. E. faecalis is particularly dangerous because it has the ability to transfer its resistance genes to other organisms present in the intestinal tract of humans and animals, limiting the utilization of antibacterial drugs (Campos et al., 2013).

Contamination of animals and their by-products, by resistant bacteria and their transmission to humans, are an animal and public health concern. The sicker the animal, the sicker you will get when you eat it.

The poultry industry has been told, again and again, to do the following things in order to reduce lameness, suffering and premature death.

1. Stop using wire floors in the cages, in fact, stop caging altogether.

2. Give more nutritious food and stop the periods of starvation.

3. Avoid high housing density.

4. Ensure adequate access to feeders.

5.Keep the place clean and prevent respiratory diseases. This means emptying and completely disinfecting the broiler house; changing the litter; adequate cleaning of water lines and continuously sanitizing the water. All practices, to prevent bacterial infections, would help lessen bone inflammation.

Most poultries in India have ignored these directions. The result is that the chickens you eat are full of abscesses and bacteria, which do not go away in cooking. For those consumers who want to buy large chickens: the bigger the chicken, the more likely that it had all these diseases. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www. peopleforanimalsindia. org

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

If there are two prominent genes wired into the human body, it is their love for betting and an indifference to the suffering of others.

Both these genes combine when it comes to forcibly racing animals. The rich go to horse races. Horses are bred to run faster. Many of them have drugs and hormones injected into them. Many have their windpipes surgically altered to bring more air so that they can run longer. They are whipped mercilessly by their jockeys. And, if they fall and break a leg, they are shot. The ones that start losing races are sold to laboratories to be used as living vaccine producers (they are injected with poison and the blood is extracted after the poison has matured). Some of them are taken by their millionaire owners to the hills, where they are sold to people who rent them to tourists and make them go up and down the hills till they die of bad feeding and exhaustion. Or, they are sold to slaughterhouses where they are turned into dog food and glue. Their flesh is exported to France and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy. One study on injuries at racetracks concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented him from finishing a race, while another estimated that 3 thoroughbreds die every day. Strained tendons, or hairline fractures, are often not diagnosed and the damage goes from minor to irreversible at the next race. On an average 24 horses die per week on the racetrack due to drug overdose or injuries. And I am not counting the horses that were killed by trainers and stud farm owners as part of “ selective breeding”. For the spectators at the races, the horse is the least relevant part : what is more important is the clothes they wear, the alcohol they drink and the money they make or lose.

The poor have cattle races. These are mainly in Karnataka on the day of Makara Sankranti (when bullocks are raced through water), Maharashtra and Punjab. Slow moving cows are tied together and have steel rods and balls poked into their anuses to make them run. They are whipped to increase their speed. I have photographs of the small spiked iron balls that are tied to the whips. Some races use a horse and bullock tied together. Both die. The drunken spectators are usually landless, but this is done in the name of farmers’ celebrations. These are illegal, so the races usually happen early in the morning.

Pigeon racing is a big business. The biggest is the Mac Arthur race where pigeons, whose legs have been tagged with numbers, have to cross three seas in a brutal 600-kilometre race in the Philippines, during which competitors face water, predators and kidnappers who set up fishing nets to catch them. The pigeons fly low over water to avoid wind, and many die when hit by waves, or succumb to exhaustion. Many are shot or eaten by larger birds. The casualty rate is 90%. Those that survive fly to their coups in Manila. Their owners retrieve the tag and call it in to race organisers, which is how victory is determined. The Philippines have 300 clubs, but Belgium (which started this terrible “sport”), India, Taiwan and China are not far behind. On an average 60 percent of the birds get lost, or die as a result of extreme weather, predators, electrical lines, hunters, or exhaustion. Races that are particularly fatal—where only a minuscule percentage of birds makes it home—are referred to as “smash races.” Birds who aren’t considered fast enough, and aren’t wanted for breeding, are killed by suffocation, drowning, neck-breaking, gassing, or decapitation. Most racers kill hundreds of pigeons before they find a suitable racer. Another racer told investigators that when starting out in pigeon racing, “The first thing you have to learn is how to kill pigeons.”

Greyhound racing is the main industry in Macau, where tourists go to gamble, drink and watch these poor animals, who have been beaten, starved and locked up, run for their lives. Those that lose a few races are killed. Lakhs of dogs have been killed over the years. This terrible torture is replicated in America where greyhound racing started in the early 20th century, and generates millions of dollars in gambling revenue in the states that still allow it. Dogs live in cages and are kept muzzled by their trainers at all times. Many exhibit crate and muzzle sores and suffer from infestations of internal and external parasites. Although their thin coats and lack of body fat make them extremely sensitive to temperature, greyhounds are forced to race in extreme weather conditions - from subzero temperatures to sweltering heat. Owners regularly kill greyhounds who become injured, grow old, or are deemed too slow. Others die on the track. Some dogs die during transport from one racetrack to another. The cruelty of the industry is finally being exposed, and the number of spectators is declining, but that means that the conditions the greyhounds are being kept in have worsened. Official raids done on greyhound retirement homes, which are mandatory by law, have found the bodies of thousands of dogs that have been “ retired” by their caretakers with a shotgun.

The Buon Don elephant races in Vietnam are held in March every year. Elephants have to run for a mile through land and water. Two mahouts sit on each elephant, to poke iron sticks into the soft part of its head and whip it hard with large sticks to make it run faster. Thousands of people watch and cheer as the animals are hit. The elephants race at a speed of 25 mph. Animal activists are calling for a ban. India has stopped There is one race in Nepal which should be stopped, but the disease has now spread to Afghanistan which, whenever it takes a respite from its favourite “sport” of killing human, invents one that uses animals.

The Middle East has too much money and too little to do for it. So,  they have horse and camel races. So do Pakistan, Mongolia and Australia, and the events are used as tourist attractions and for legalized betting.

Camels are whipped severely to run at speeds upto 65 kms an hour. Children have been abducted and trafficked from poor countries like Bangladesh to be jockeys. They are kept in slavelike conditions and given small amounts of food, so that they are as light as possible. They are strapped to the animals and whips placed in their hands. Many children have died during the races. While most countries have bowed to international pressure and banned child jockeys, the organisers have invented a new torture for the animals. Children have been replaced by robotic whips. The owners can whip the racing camels via remote control. The whipping has increased almost three times, because the owner doesn’t have to use strength to lift his hand, he can simply push a button. Camel deaths have gone up exponentially. The biggest camel race in Australia is in Queensland. People come to watch the camels run, but mainly for the betting, market stalls and other entertainment . Now, Australia has shot 10,000 camels in one day and lost one billion others (yes, one billion, not counting insects) in forest fires, so whether these races will continue remains to be seen. The Australians will probably find another species to race and gamble upon. After all, the world may come to an end, but we will be cruel and greedy to the last.

In some sports the rider is pulled by animals. Harness racing, dogsled racing and the ancient sport of chariot racing are all equally vicious.

There's nothing sporting about forcing animals to risk -- and often lose -- their lives so that someone can win a prize, a title or money. Only the most vicious and degraded human beings are happy with the suffering of a helpless being. These are probably the same people who watch child porn. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.peopleforanimalsindia.org