20May2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

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Cocktail of Drugs in Your Meat

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

When cooking chicken, or meat, for one’s family, most people are very careful to wash and cook the flesh properly. Unfortunately, there are some things which any amount of washing, boiling or roasting cannot clean out – and those are drugs.

There is a cocktail of drugs in your meat and all of them are going to go into your body.

These drugs are a mainstay of meat production in many parts of the world, and Indian producers have adopted western practices of food production that keep profit far ahead of animal or human health. In 2018 India produced 4.3 million tonnes of buffalo (carabeef) and cattle (beef) – 1.5% higher than 2017.

Chicken meat increased from 1.9 million tonnes in 2013-14 to 3.46 million tonnes in 2016-17. Goat meat increased from 0.97 million tonnes in  2013-14 to 1.4 million tonnes in 2016-17. Sheep increased to 0.5 million tonnes. This means an estimated 238 crore chickens and 1.2 crore pigs were slaughtered for their meat in 2016-17. A grand total of over 10 million tonnes of meat.

How does a meat producer get so many crore animals to kill, and how does he get them to put on weight in the quickest possible time so that he can get more meat? How does he do this without spending money on feed? The answer is that he pumps drugs into these animals. One of the main drugs is Ractopamine. Ractopamine was approved by the FDA Sixteen years ago (2003).

Ractopamine is a beta agonist drug. Beta-agonists bind themselves to fat and muscle cells in the animals' body, reducing the metabolism of fat while increasing the size of muscle fibres. Consequently, less fat is produced and less fat is stored in the carcass. Muscle fibre size replaces some of the weight normally found from fat, and the total carcass contains a higher percentage of lean muscle. This makes the animal more muscular, reduces fat content and increases the profit per animal, because the same amount of food produces a much bigger animal with more meat on its bones. 

However, as much as 20% of Ractopamine can remain in the meat by the time it reaches our plates.

In fact, the residue in humans can be so high that it could even be detected in a dope test! Internationally acclaimed cyclist Alberto Contador failed a Tour de France anti-doping test in 2010 for levels of Clenbuterol (a drug of the family of Ractopamine) which he had gotten from eating meat.

Ractopamine is used in the USA but has been banned in the EU, China, Russia and 160 other countries for being dangerous to both animals and human consumers. Taiwan has in fact banned American beef imports because of Ractopamine usage. However, the drug is commonly given to animals in India.

In animals Ractopamine is known to cause reproductive dysfunction, hyperactivity, broken limbs, birth defects such as short limbs, missing or fused digits, open eyelids, enlarged hearts, stress, lameness and premature death. How could an animal, that is itself so sick, possibly give good quality meat?

In human medicine, beta-agonists are inhaled directly into lungs of asthma patients to relax muscles that constrict airways; they are routinely used on smooth muscle tissue through direct entry into the cardiopulmonary system, and pregnant women who are in premature labour have beta-agonists injected into their blood to relax the muscle tissue of the uterus, preventing premature births.

But if eaten through food, Ractopamine (Optaflexx) has been linked to increased heart rates, high arterial blood pressure, chromosomal abnormalities, anxiety, intoxication, tremors, headaches, muscle spasms and many more serious effects. This poses a particular risk to children, or people with cardiovascular disease.

Considered even worse than Ractopamine is another alarming beta-agonist drug used in animal production to increase weight – Zilmax or Zilpaterol. Zilpaterol was approved by the FDA in 2006. Cattle and pig feeders use feed additives like Zilmax to increase the rate of weight gain without any additional feed. It can add many pounds of meat to a bull or buffalo. The Encyclopedia of Meat Science (Dikeman and Devine; 2004) reported Optaflexx© increased average daily gain by 15-25% with no additional feed intake. Slightly higher results are shown for Zilmax. An estimated 700 million pigs receive beta-agonist drugs, each producing six additional pounds of pork.

However, this comes with a trade off. Zilmax has been known to cause severe reactions in animals leading to painful hoof loss and, very commonly, death. Since the drug was introduced in 2007 in the US, several hundred cattle have unexpectedly died after being fed Zilmax. In fact, in just two years after Zilmax’s introduction, the number of cattle euthanized at meat production farms rose by 175% from previous years. The makers of Zilmax, Merck and Co., recruited animal welfare specialist, Dr. Temple Grandin, to help review the product in 2013. In an interview with Reuters, Dr. Grandin indicated there have been incidents of stiffness, soreness, and heat stress since the use of beta-agonists began.

Zilmax is considered to be about 125 times more potent and dangerous than Ractopamine, and this is likely the reason why side effects in Ractopamine studies are often overlooked when compared with the destructive power of Zilmax. 60% to 80% of feedlot cattle in the US are fed beta-agonists. America refuses to remove beta agonists from cattle feed : The reason? Stopping their use will result in each animal carcass being about 10-15 pounds less – a total of 0.5 billion pounds of beef, or about 1% to 1.5% of production. More corn will be needed to feed cattle to reach the same weight. This will raise the prices of the rest of the beef.

Another contaminant hiding in meat is Glyphosate. It is the active ingredient in Roundup (made by Monsanto) – one of the most widely used weed killers in India. In India the consumption of glyphosate was 148 million tonnes in 2014-15, the highest for any herbicide.

These crops are fed to animals and you eat the animal’s meat, along with it comes Glyphosate. Studies around the world have shown Glyphosate to cause cancer, genetic mutations and disrupt endocrine functions in human consumers. It is toxic to our DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-times lower than what is allowed in agricultural use. This is not a drug to be taken lightly. The direct deaths of humans from pesticides have been estimated at 7000 in 2015 and increasing every year. Yet, no one has related the deaths from cancer from eating the same pesticides in meat. Glyphosate use is permitted only for one crop: tea. But it is sold by dealers all over India where no tea is grown. It is used also for cotton which is sold for cattle feed. And the more BT cotton is grown, the more glyphosate is used. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that exposure to glyphosate in the US, where GM crops were introduced in the early 1990s, increased almost five times in a 23-year time span.

Animal meat producers use over 450 animal drugs, drug combinations and feed additives, to promote growth of animals and suppress the negative effects of confined and unhygienic conditions in animal factories. Apart from the ones above, synthetic hormones, such as zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate, are commonly used. These have been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. In India it is also common to feed chickens with arsenic to help them get fatter faster and develop a better colour. This arsenic reaches your plate through chicken meat.

Are you eating meat or a dead body that, during its lifetime, bore little resemblance to the animal it was supposed to be? Do you eat food to be healthy or to get sick?

You need to want safer food for your family. The industry is demand-driven, so if people are unwilling to eat dirty chemical treated meat, producers will be forced to stop these practices. 

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

  • Written by Denis Giles
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You Need to Tell Your Children About Them

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Other countries celebrate their mythical animals. Garuda belongs to Indian mythology but is the national bird and symbol of Indonesia. The Phoenix or Homa is revered in Iran. Here are some we should know:

Byangoma/Byangomi are the legendary birds of Bengal. They look like hoopoes, are wise, strict and assist whom they consider deserving. They are born blind and need a few drops of blood from a donor to activate their sight. When they tell the future to someone, that person hears voices, a bird song and suddenly has an intuition about something which is to happen.

Gandaberunda is a two headed, long tailed mythological bird who possesses enough, immense, magical strength. The bird is depicted as clutching elephants in its talons and beaks. In the ancient coins of Madurai, it is shown holding a snake in its beak. In the Chennakesava temple there are depictions of a chain of destruction : A deer is eaten by a python who is destroyed by an elephant who is attacked by a lion who is destroyed by Shiva in his incarnation as Sharabha. Sharabha is then destroyed by Narasimha (man-lion) as Gandaberunda

The tale is like this : The demon Hiranyakashipu is killed by Vishnu who comes as Narasimha. But even after he was slain, Narasimha, who had tasted blood, did not change back his form to Vishnu. The gods grew scared of his raging form and they appealed to Shiva. Shiva turned himself into Sharabha – a combination of man, lion, bird – in order to subdue Narasimha. But Narasimha changed into Gandaberunda, with two heads, fearful rows of teeth, black in complexion, and with wide blazing wings, and fought with Shiva-Sharabha for eighteen days, killed him and then died in a massive explosion of energy.

Gandaberunda was first adopted by the Vijayanagara empire in 1510, and as the royal insignia of the Wodeyar rulers of Mysore 500 years ago. Coins from the rule of Achyuta Deva Raya are thought to be the first to use the Gandaberunda on currency. Found in the sculptures and bas- reliefs of many temples in the South of India, it is the official emblem of Karnataka.

The Homa bird, of Vedic times, lives and breeds in the air, lays eggs in the air, and, before the eggs reach the earth, they hatch and the baby bird flies upward to join its mother. They never touch the earth. Persian, Turkish and Sufi  poets praise them as divine birds, and birds of paradise.

In Vedic literature there are references to birds bringing the divine Soma plant from the mountains. S and H have been interchanged in Greek and Persian: Hindus, eg. those living on the banks of the river Sindhu, are called Hindus. Six becomes Hexa in Greek. Perhaps the Soma bird is the mythical Homa bird. In Persian mythology it was believed that if this bird flew over someone’s head, and its shadow fell on him, he would become a mighty king. This belief made Tipu Sultan of Mysore create a golden throne with the Homa bird, in gold and jewels on the canopy .

The mythical Hansa or Swan/Goose represents purity, perfect union with the universe, divine knowledge. The Hansas, also called Aryannas, live in Manasasaras (Mansarovar) in the Himalayas. They don’t like rain, so they come to Earth when it rains in their abode ,and return as soon as rain begins here. They are the children of Dhritarashtri, who is the daughter of Kashyap and Tamra, according to the Valmiki Ramayana. The Hansas were first black and white, but they became pure white as a boon from Varuna the god, who once took their form to hide from Ravana. The gods had assembled for a havan and had to change into various bird forms when Ravana attacked them. The hansa eats pearls and separates milk from water from a mixture of both. The Hansas play an important role in the story of Nala and Damayanti.

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Navagunjara is a creature composed of nine different animals/birds. Navagunjara has the head of a rooster, and stands on three feet - those of an elephant, tiger, deer or horse, the fourth limb being a raised human arm carrying a lotus or a wheel. The beast has the neck of a peacock, the back or hump of a bull, the waist of a lion, and the tail of a serpent.

Navagunjara is a common motif in the Odisha Pata-Chitra style of painting. The creature is considered a form of Vishnu. Once, when Arjuna was meditating on a hill, Navagunjara appeared. Arjuna was terrified, as well as mesmerised, by the strange being, and raised his bow to shoot it. But he realised that Navagunjara was a manifestation of Vishnu, and dropped his weapons, bowing before the bird creature.

The Chakora is a legendary immortal partridge/crow pheasant that lives on moonbeams. On the full moon night, the Chakora cries passionately for the moon, shedding tears of unrequited love for the moon in all her glory shining high in the sky. In the Mahabharatam, when Kuchela was on his way to meet Krishna, he saw the Chakora. By the time he returned home after meeting him he was rich! The Chakora  is believed to bring good luck. The association of Chakora and Chandra, the moon god, has inspired a number of love stories in India.

The Chataka is a mythological cuckoo, who is unwilling to drink water found on earth, choosing to drink only fresh pure rain water as it falls from the sky. It has a shrill voice. The Chataka pleads with the clouds to bring in rain so that its thirst can be quenched. A black/yellow/white bird, smaller than the dove, it has a long tail. The long crest on its head is shaped like a bow with an arrow stretched tight on it. References to this bird are made in Kalidasa and Adi Shankaracharya.

The chataka and chakora depend on natural resources — rain water and moonlight, a lesson that nature needs to be preserved without destruction.

These are only very few of our mythological birds, but you need to tell your children about them. 

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

  • Written by Denis Giles
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And I am Still Heartbroken?

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

When my husband died, I inherited his work table, a long wooden desk with huge drawers. It has travelled with me from house to house and I kept everything of value in it : letters from my husband, wedding albums, unfinished manuscripts, pictures of my childhood and my son’s childhood, letters from my mother and mother in law.

When I moved into 14 Ashoka Road in 2002, The British-built house had been the badly kept and was the office of the Communist Party for 30 years. I should have paid more attention to it, especially when I saw the fungus seeping in and termites eating the doors. But every time I called the government engineers in, they either replaced the doors or painted over the fungus.

I tried lots of old grandmother remedies: planting banana trees in the garden, as this is supposed to keep away termites, putting fresh cow dung patties in different places so that termites would be attracted and then, as they clambered on, we could get rid of all of them.

One day I decided to finish my book on garden plants. But I couldn’t get the drawers to open. When I called the carpenter in, we discovered everything had been eaten by termites – and I mean everything. In one stroke I lost all my treasures.

I cried. I had the house broken down from inside and de-termited room by room. It took 16 months.

So many people ask me questions about why nature invented mosquitoes, cockroaches or termites! Even though termites have robbed me of my most precious belongings, I acknowledge that they are more important to the world than I am.

Pests to homeowners, they are actually beneficial insects. They can digest tough plant fibres, or cellulose, because of the specialized bacteria in their guts. They break down tough fibres, they recycle dead trees back into the soil, contributing towards a rapid recycling and turn-over of minerals. When they tunnel through the soil they aerate and improve it, which helps tropical forests and agricultural lands grow faster as water and nutrients reach the plants and trees. Some species attack living trees, but these are trees that are weakened, or under stress, which release a chemical (kairomone) used by the termites to locate it.

Only a handful of the 3,000 or so known termite species are pests to people. The rest are soil engineers who create the ground under your feet and keep it healthy. Termites thrive by eating what others can’t or won’t: wood, dung, lichen, even dirt.

By poking holes as they dig through the ground, termites allow rain to soak deep into the soil, rather than running off or evaporating. Termites mix inorganic particles of sand, stone and clay with organic bits of leaf litter, discarded exoskeletons and the occasional dead animal, a blending that helps the soil retain nutrients and resist erosion.

The stickiness of a termite’s faeces gives body to the soil and prevents erosion. Bacteria in the termite’s gut are avid nitrogen fixers, able to extract the vital element from the air and convert it into fertilizer.

Termites, and the elaborate habitats they construct, are crucial to the health of deserts and semi-deserts, tropical and subtropical rain forests, warm, temperate woodlands. At least 126 species of termites (including wood feeding ones) feed on 18 species of mammal dung  and can quickly remove large amounts. As termites bring large quantities of dung below the soil surface and enrich soils with nutrients, dung feeding by termites is important in the functioning of tropical ecosystems.

Researchers at Princeton University report, in the journal Science, that termite mounds serve as oases in the desert, allowing the plants that surround them to persist on a fraction of the annual rainfall and to bounce back after a withering drought. Even when desertification starts to happen in the area, the vegetation on or around the mounds does so well that it will keep reseeding the environment. These mounds prevent fragile dry land from slipping into lifeless wasteland.

Termites have been historically widely eaten by people suffering from malnutrition due to protein deficiency, fed to animals, and used as medicine across the continents of Asia, South America and Africa. In fact, these insects are among the most commonly consumed insects on the planet, second only to grasshoppers. In a survey on the consumption of termites, held in Côte d’Ivoire, from 500 people surveyed, 97% consumed termites, demonstrating that such use is part of the reality of rural and urban populations in that country.

A. Vasconcellos, de Figueirêdo, I.S. Policarpo, and R.R. Nóbrega Alves have done a study on edible and medicinal termites. 45 termite species were recorded as being used by human populations in the human diet, or for livestock feeding, and nine species used as a therapeutic resource. As food or feed for animals they are eaten in 29 countries in Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia. Even Indians eat the Odontotermesfeae species of termite.

Zambia uses termites to combat child malnutrition, Somalia to suture wounds. Brazil uses termites for asthma, flu, bronchitis and as antifungal, India uses them for asthma, ulcers, body pain, rheumatism and the enhancement of lactation. Nigeria uses termites to stop sickness in pregnant women, soothsaying and to ward away ghosts!

Termites of the species Macrotermes have high levels of proteins and lipids and are abundant in Africa. They are known as “big termites”, and are considered one of the favourite foods, not only of humans but also of gorillas and chimpanzees and wild birds.

Their mounds, or termitaria, are also important to humans. For instance, researchers E.Arhin, M.C.Esoah and B.S.Berdie, have studied the Economic Importance of Termitaria in Mineral Exploration. Termites transport deep seated inorganic and organic material into their shelter. In areas where minerals are not immediately apparent, miners analyse the soil of termite mounds before choosing the area. Often gold has been found in the samples.

The mounds are vast, clean, well ventilated with cool circulating air - palaces built of tunnels and galleries of sand, clay and termite excretions. The mounds protect their builders from the sun that would desiccate them, the rain that would drown them, and their many predators. The mounds are refuges for plants, fungi and large herbivores, too. They are cooler in the heat of day and warmer at night. Antelopes often congregate around termite mounds to graze. Cheetahs come to remain cooler during the day. Elephants rub itchy backsides against them.

They are also fascinating insects. The oldest societies on this planet, almost 200 million years old, each colony has three distinct castes : the reproductives (queen and king), the soldiers, and  workers. The colony can consist of more than a million individuals. Their nest is located either underground, on a tree, or in a mound sticking out of the soil.

In almost all species, the workers and soldiers are blind. New reproductive termites are winged, and able to fly. These young kings and queens leave their home colony to find a new place to found their own colony. They break their wings off and settle down in their new home to raise their offspring.

Termites use chemical scents produced by chest glands to talk to one another. Each colony produces a distinct scent. Termites stay clean by grooming each other. Their good hygiene is important to their survival, as it keeps parasites and harmful bacteria under control within the colony.

Termite soldiers guard the nest at all times. When they sense danger they sound the alarm by banging their heads against the gallery walls to send warning vibrations throughout the colony. If workers set out to repair a hole in the mound, they will be surrounded by soldiers who protect them.

Termites are the ultimate model social citizens. They divide their labour and are altruistic and unselfish. In a new study of “panic escape” behaviour among termites as they seek to flee from danger, researchers at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center found that, unlike humans in a crowded theatre, or ants, termites do not panic.

They don’t run about, push and shove, climb over the fallen. They file into a single formation and follow the ones in front in a unidirectional flow at a uniform speed and spacing. If one termite stumbles, or slows down, those behind stop and wait for it to right itself: No trampling allowed.

Unfortunately we build our homes from termite food — wood. And I am still heartbroken. 

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

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 327