Helping dogs find homes, feeding birds, or saving cattle from slaughter... Kausalya Santhanam discovers that young people in the city are increasingly involving themselves in animal welfare
Maitreyi Sundar was disconsolate when her dog died. Her mother, a Blue Cross volunteer, persuaded the child to accompany her on her visits to the animal welfare organisation. “Now this is my favourite haunt and helping a puppy find a home is my favourite activity,” says the Class VII student of Sishya, picking up Veeran, a two-and-a-half legged canine resident of the Blue Cross.
Whether it is helping dogs find homes, protecting the nesting sites of Olive Ridley turtles, feeding birds, or saving camels or cattle from slaughter, young people in the city are stepping in to make a difference.
“More youngsters are committed today to more causes than in the past, be it animal welfare, preserving the environment, rooting out corruption or engaging in social service,” says Chinny Krishna, co-founder, Blue Cross of India and vice-chairman, Animal Welfare Board. “At the recent Great Indian Dog Show in Bangalore, four rag-pickers’ children involved with animal welfare, made water colours and auctioned them, and gave the proceeds to Sarvodaya, the animal welfare organisation. The Facebook of the Blue Cross of India has more than 8,000 likes,” he says. “Most of the volunteers are college and school students and a large number are IT professionals.”
Chinny cites the example of Sathya Radhakrishnan (36), honorary joint secretary, Blue Cross, who left a high-flying corporate job and set up a business to be able to work at the organisation.
Sathya finds a 50 per cent increase in the last three years in the number of young volunteers at the Blue Cross. “The social media is greatly responsible for this. Around 200 young people pitch in with their services when we need them and 60 are actively involved in the shelter — dog walking, bathing, painting, cleaning and offering counselling during adoption drives. The others help in outreach activities such as putting out bowls of water for stray animals during summer. More than 60 per cent of those who volunteer are aged below 30. Our volunteers also donate material such as medicines and newspapers.” The youngsters are committed, he says, pointing to the group stationed at the entrance with its merchandise of keychains, T-shirts and the like to achieve the Rs. 8 lakh mark to build a new aviary. The girls and boys belong to a social service organisation called SPAAAK. The young members of the Chennai Social Services also help in a big way, says Sathya.
“Youngsters love jobs requiring dynamism such as night visits to the police station to check illegal transportation of animals or illegal slaughter. They are willing to make sacrifices such as cutting out movies and giving up their pocket money to help animals,” adds Dawn Williams, general manager, Blue Cross.
The youth arm of PETA India — “petaDishoom”— empowers and enables teens and twenty-somethings to “dishoom” animal abuse, says Sachin Bangera, manager, Media and Celebrity Projects of PETA India, who is stationed in Mumbai. Working through outreach, social networking and PETAIndia.com, petaDishoom arms young people with the information, literature, advice and the moral support they need to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.
“PETA India has over one lakh members and supporters across India, most of them youngsters. It has 36,000 fans on Facebook and more than 4000 followers on Twitter. Its YouTube channel has one lakh views while its website gets 25,000 hits,” says Sachin. Twenty-six-year-old Niranjan Amarnath, the chief volunteer for PETA in Chennai, became interested in the organisation’s activities in school. “PETA distributes free educational material for children. I read A Chicken’s Life in Class 12 and my life changed. I then thought of spreading the word,” says Niranjan, who recently interned with PETA, Manila. “On an average, 1120 students sign up every month for petaDishoom,” says Niranjan.
Celebrities such as actor Trisha who have joined the movement play a significant role in influencing young people.” The move to ban dissection in colleges is a triumph for animal lovers. “We visited city colleges and the Madras University and obtained thousands of signatures,” says Niranjan.
Aashish Kumbhat, another PETA volunteer, works to save cows and send them to Goshalas. He has set up a voluntary organisation, the “Rotaract Club of Visionaries”, with 30 young people to work for animal welfare. Aashish also visits the Pinjrapole in Aminjikarai to feed pigeons. He runs his own business and is able to contribute financially too sometimes. Aashish and other PETA volunteers helped get petitions signed to bring about a ban on bullock carts.
Even youngsters in need or who are homeless. are willing to reach out to animals. Devika Khazvani of Cattitude Trust runs an animal shelter at an orphanage at Batlagundu. “Twenty-two semi-orphaned girls take care of the cats here,” she says while Shirani Periera, co-founder of People for Animals finds less-privileged children chipping in with their time and effort despite being handicapped by lack of funds and transport facilities.
“My visits to the Blue Cross for the past one-and-a-half years have not only made me love animals but also become a compassionate person,” sums up Priya Kalidindi, a young architect.