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

Blessed are the Merciful, For They Will be Shown Mercy

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

My granddaughter, Anasuyaa 5,  is a vegetarian and a very healthy eater. She loves vegetables, specially broccoli. She doesn’t like maida in any form, including cakes. She likes the idea of icecream, but will rarely go beyond a few licks. My son went through a phase of offering her lollipops, which she took to please him but never ate. Her idea of a great meal is lots of salad, two rotis, a little rice, dal, mushrooms and vegetables

A few weeks ago she was given an egg by a friend’s mother, which she ate. She told me and I was very angry. When I took the matter up, the only defence that the person came up with was “Anasuyaa is very thin and she needs protein” and then she followed it up with a standard accusation, “How can you force your child to be vegetarian. She should be allowed to eat what she wants .What you are doing is not democratic and its bad for the child. ”

This is the most annoying argument of all, and is pushed by the feebleminded. So, vegetarians and vegans should be ASHAMED for making their children eat so, while the others, no doubt, offer their infants an a la carte menu at each meal time ?

Parents force their choices on you the day you come to the world, starting with the name and religion. Every parent forces their children to eat in a particular direction. But the parents, who force their child to eat meat at a young age, are doing much more damage, because they start early in ruining the child’s health and laying the foundation for obesity and organ breakdowns. They also take away the natural sensitivity the child is born with towards the rest of creation.

A family stays together with food. All culture, all respect, starts with food choices. I know that if my son were to eat meat it would strain our family ties.  He has been brought up a vegetarian, and it has made him into a fine person. Anasuyaa is the gentlest soul I have ever met: she picks up snails from the pathways and carries them to one side to see that they are not run over. We have not taught her that. We have simply let her be the way the universe meant humans to be, pure, gentle, with curiosity and compassion towards all. Even her teachers say that she is unique in her respect for everyone. And I owe that to the fact that we have left her vegetarian, mostly vegan, and explained food to her since she was two. How many parents explain food to their children ? How many understand nutrition themselves ?

Your children are not born feral. Every activity is forced on a child – make sure your choices are good and mindful, and then make the child do them. My son’s IQ is over 150, Anasuyaa has come first in several chess championships, and is often first in her class- if you want to be a tiger mother and expect wonderful things from your child, start with giving them the food that their body and soul really needs.

I have parents who say to me very proudly “My child hates vegetables” . That is an example of really bad parenting. If the three year old rejects a vegetable the first time they simply remove it from the diet. But it takes 3-4 times to get a child to accept food, any food (I am not talking about sugar, at all). These are parents who probably don't like vegetables themselves, and force the child into their own food tastes.

Sometimes the media is so strange. I have read nonsensical news stories about “Vegan couple force their diet on child , kill toddler”.  If your child is obese, or diabetic, because you give them pizzas, pastry, or hamburgers, twice a week, or if you warm up food in a microwave … that’s fine. What about the parents that force kids to eat McDonald's, junk food and sweets, a bucket of chicken, or luncheon meat sandwiches. These are the 'forcings' that should be shamed. In this case, the parents did not keep their child vegan – they simply fed her just fruit, which is criminal idiocy – as much idiocy as feeding chicken soup to a child that is ill (chicken soup is used in labs to grow bacteria). So many of our children in India are vegan naturally, and look how well they do. Childhood obesity is talked about all the time, but it doesn’t get shamed. Try getting a newspaper article on parents whose child died of organ failure through bad eating. Not happening.

When I was younger I used to speak to children in schools. When I finished, almost 90% would turn vegetarian. Then, they would go home and tell their parents. And one parent would turn this into power play and become aggressive in their need to dominate, “You want to be vegetarian. Go and live with Maneka Gandhi. ”, or “Why should I cook separately for you. This is not a restaurant”.

If an elder child insists that her younger sibling be vegetarian, then she is the radical and fanatic : not the parents who force chicken nuggets on the four year old because they know best, and the child should have what she wants. The same parents do not allow her to have sweets, or any cereal that contains too much sugar, no matter how much she cries.

Another oddity I see in people is that if a child is vegetarian because of religious reasons, its fine. But if you keep a child vegetarian because you care about their health, the environment, climate change and suffering to animals, that’s considered radical.  How weird that society values religious decisions over moral ones.

A friend of mine is very rich, and an art collector. His grandson, aged 4, loves, really loves, cows. So they have statues of cows in their vast garden, and he talks to them. And then sits down to dinner and eats their meat. If I try and tell him, their whole family warns me off because it might upset him and put him off meat. But, if a simple identification of what he is eating puts him off meat, then surely it’s a sign he shouldn’t be eating it ?

A lot of children don’t realize that the meat they are eating are dead animals. They don’t talk about it  at school, because teachers see it as the parent’s job.  But we need better food education, and now it is important that that  we don’t hide where food is actually sourced and what it’s actually made of. You owe it to your child to "force" them to recognize animals as sentient beings, instead of forcing them to eat them. When the child is old enough, and wants to eat meat when he is older, that choice can be left to him. But, until then, a healthy and ethical food should be the norm.

Many years ago, I asked a leader of my party why his children ate meat when he and his wife were vegetarians. This leader is a Ram Mandir Hindu who shot to fame through Ayodhya. His reply was, “In our house we have democracy”. My next question was “So, if your daughter and son smoked, drank, and had multiple partners, or walked about scantily dressed, is that ok as well ?” At which point he said “Tauba tauba”, and foolishly added “Ram was a hunter”.  “In the jungle”, I replied, “are your children archers ? Do they kill their own food ? ” He was by then sick of me as a fanatic, but I pursued it, “ So, you are ok with having dead bodies on your table in order to establish the sacred foundations of democracy ?  And you are so noble that when your children were toddlers you fed them meat with your own hands in order to make them true democrats ? And your children, when grown up, guided by the sacred light of democracy, could not respect the family traditions of vegetarianism and their parents ? ” And he answered, “Aaj kal modern zamanaa hai”. I stopped arguing: anyone who accepts the killing of other species as a “ modern” thing cannot be argued with. Both his children are divorced and he is unhappy : divorce is not “very modern”.

The world is changing. It was very fashionable to think of a vegan as a crazy flat-earther. Now, veganism shows a superior class of person, more committed to the planet, more interested in health for themselves and their children. It is the carnivores that are on the back foot : destroying health and other species is no longer fashionable. Remember the Christian beatitude always, when you feed your children, “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. Compassion is an economic imperative: it keeps you and the planet healthy, and what could be better than that . 

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

One of the biggest rackets in the country are of illegal "cold storages" or "meat processing" factories. 

Last year I went to Belagavi, Karnataka to answer a frantic call for help by local residents who had uncovered a number of cold storages /meat processing factories that were killing thousands of buffaloes illegally. I took the local politicians and went to these factories. Getting in was a problem, as the owners, hearing that I had come, had fled and locked the factories. However, I entered and we found ourselves knee deep in blood, thousands of freshly hacked bones, and flies. The place was like the worst part of Hell that one can imagine. This was shown on TV repeatedly and you can see it on the Net even today.

The factory was not a secret operation. It was a large well built structure and could not have operated if the police were not part of the pay off system. The local police commissioner was found to be part and parcel of this enterprise. First he denied that there was such a factory, then he defended their actions. The cows were smuggled in from Goa and then slaughtered in a field. The dead animals were brought into the factory and cut and then the filthy meat packaged and exported. The factory was unlicensed, and yet had been standing there for years. It was shut down and then reopened by the local MP – you can guess why. So, the grammar I should use is present tense not past.

This is such an old scenario that it has made me very cynical about our so called “police” and local administrations. A similar racket was unearthed by me in Bihar – a locked “cold storage” next to a police chowki, which resisted any attempt to open it.  It had, according to the police, been locked for years. I finally made all the calls to politicians in charge of the state, and we entered the cold storage and found the bodies/meat of at least 15,000 cows. The owner was a Delhi person, a Hindu exporter, and his offices were raided here. He had been exporting the meat for years. He ran out of the country and probably only came back when the police assured him that nothing would happen.

But my team and I persist and sometimes we are lucky enough to find that rare bureaucrat who is honest and determined to set things right.

We have found one in the government in Delhi this year.

The meat industry has 3 different components. Firstly, there are slaughterhouses where animals are killed and skinned. Second are meat shops where flesh is sold in retail. The third are Meat Processing Factories. After the animals have been killed and skinned in slaughterhouses, they need to be hacked into pieces, deboned, packaged and refrigerated for export. This work is done in Meat Processing Factories. No animals can be slaughtered in a Processing Factory, only deboning, mincing and packaging is undertaken before refrigeration. Cold storages are part of the Meat Processing Factories and, usually, just rooms with slabs of filthy ice in sawdust, covered with blood.

The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 and Rules provide for separate licensing for each of these 3 activities.

Let me give you an example from New Delhi. Delhi has only one licensed slaughterhouse which has its own meat processing unit, at Ghazipur. But numerous meat processing factories have sprung up at Lawrence Road Industrial Area, Keshavpuram, which process carcasses for export. Nobody has ever bothered to find out where the animals were being slaughtered, till the Delhi State Slaughterhouse Monitoring Committee set up an inspection.

The result : The Delhi Government has recently shut down two meat processing units in North Delhi owing to gross illegalities in their operation. The violations were initially reported to the MCD in June 2019 after a detailed investigation. The Animal Husbandry department refused to do anything (the factories could not have run if the animal husbandry inspectors were not on the take). The order for cancellation of their licenses could only be done after the Chief Secretary of the Delhi Government intervened in January 2020. For years, these meat factories were running in the name of Sushil Ice Factory and Jagdish Ice Factory. The ownership of the factories had exchanged hands several times. Last year, it was established during an inspection that a cartel was operating these factories. The owner hired a contractor to operate the factory, who hired butchers, but the licenses from the Food Safety Department and Municipal Corporation were obtained in a third person's name. The license under the Factories Act was obtained in the name of yet another individual. None of these persons had a real claim in the business, nor did they even work there. This was done to confuse every licensing body so that, if ever a violation was established, the owners who live in Uttar Pradesh and are of another religious persuasion could shift the blame to some fictitious person, replace him with some other name and carry on this illegal business.

These Factories processed more than 800 buffalo carcasses and packaged them for export every month, but had no records of where these animals were being slaughtered. In reality, all these carcasses were sourced from illegal killing fields in rural Uttar Pradesh and a small “fine” was paid to the MCD vets and inspectors  to regularise the meat. This process can only be termed as Meat Laundering.

A large portion of the meat, which gets exported, comes not from slaughterhouses complying with Indian Rules and Regulations, but through Meat Laundering. This is a new system of slaughtering animals illegally at unlicensed locations, packaging the meat for export, paying a small fine to the local body for flouting the Rules and exporting the meat as “regularised”. This is happening across the country and is the main reason why India is becoming the largest exporter of beef in the world.

Slaughter and packaging of meat is governed by several regulatory regimes – Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, Factories Licensing laws of the states, Water, Air and Environment Protection Acts implemented by the State Pollution Control Boards and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, among several others. For export, additional registration with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority is required.

Most meat exporters, registered with APEDA, bypass the Food Safety and pollution authorities either by bribing or taking advantage of the complete lethargy in these departments. APEDA gives registrations easily, without any inspections and without any due diligence on where the meat is coming from. APEDA postings are eagerly sought for, as everyone retires a millionaire. Animals are bought illegally by butchers, posing as farmers and buying truckloads of buffaloes from “farmers’ markets” set up to help farmers exchange their animals. These are then trucked to illegal slaughterhouses and killed in filthy conditions, village backyards, trenching grounds, streets and alleys. Their bodies are cut up and processed in factories which are used by Registered Exporters. For every consignment of illegally procured carcasses, a small fine is paid to regularise it before exporting it.

Each of these Meat Processing Units, operating in the garb of Ice Factories, packaged beef for 20 different brands for export. No ante mortem, post mortem or laboratory examination reports were maintained. No records were maintained regarding the slaughterhouse source for the carcasses, confirming that slaughter was conducted in unregistered places, usually in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. In order to legitimize such consignments of meat, veterinary doctors of Municipal Corporation of Delhi used to levy a small penalty. The unauthorized meat consignments lack necessary permissions from the Government of the source state as well as the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. According to protocol, such consignments need to be checked at the State border by the MCD/ Delhi Government and subsequently destroyed by inspecting officials. However, till date no consignment of the illegal meat has been stopped, or destroyed, at the border or in these factories. This highlights the extent of systemic corruption, wherein Municipal Authorities, represented by veterinary doctors and the Police, are guilty of colluding with meat traders. The meat mafia continues to flourish with impunity.

The inspection of meat processing factories revealed that these factories did not even meet basic infrastructure requirements, such as adequate flooring, ceiling, tiling, lighting, ventilation conditions etc., that are needed to operate a meat factory in a hygienic manner. Facilities for sanitation and waste disposal, as well as the use of machinery appropriate for meat processing, were found lacking. Factory labourers were employed without proper employment records and were paid very little. Labour law violations, pertaining to Employment Provident Fund / Employment Insurance System, were established. At every stage, food safety laws had been violated .

The inspection committee found that the MCD had permitted other trades to operate on the same premises as the meat processing factories and cold storages. For instance, ice, food grains (pulses, rice etc) could be stored in the same floor area in which meat processing activities were being carried out. This is a very dangerous practice that impacts food safety and public health.

The Food Safety Department is required to regulate food processing businesses, but not one case had been booked against the factory owners of the meat processing units in Delhi, despite the fact that they operated the units without the mandatory license. While the conditions, in the Licensing and Registration Regulations 2011 under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, are far from being met, the regulators are complicit in allowing them to operate.

It is important for the health of ordinary Indians that these cartels of meat traders, which are as big as the heroin/cocaine/smack and oxytocin mafias, are broken up. APEDA must become less corrupt and the export authorities must step in to stop Meat Laundering. There are State Slaughterhouse Monitoring Committees, which have been appointed by the Supreme Court. None of them work, but the Supreme Court must take monthly reports from them. The state has a duty to ensure that the slaughter of animals is conducted only in places duly licensed by the Food Safety Department, State Pollution Control Board and has an NOC from the Local Body. Moreover, it should meet with all the conditions mandated in the Slaughterhouse Rules 2001, promulgated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.

Scores of other meat processing Units in Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka are working on similar lines and need to be brought under regulation. Undue focus on export must not take away the basic values of protection of cattle, as enshrined in the Article 48 of the Constitution of India. India's bid to be the largest exporter of beef comes at a great price to the nation. In 2018-19 1,23,66,38,398 kilograms of beef was exported to 84 countries. More than 65 lakh buffaloes killed every year, only for export. Of this , 75% would be cut illegally- so you can imagine how many policemen and local municipal officials, APEDA and export licence in-charges have lined their pockets. 

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