A voice for the voiceless

Gauri Maulekhi, animals rights activist Photo: Aswin V. N.   | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.

Gauri Maulekhi, Dehradun-based animal rights activist, has always loved animals and cared for them. In the 90s she became an animal rights activist inspired by the movement led by the current Union Minister for Women and Child Development and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi. Today, Gauri is a co-opted member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), advisor to Maneka Gandhi and also the member-secretary of People For Animals (PFA), Uttharakhand. She has been a close associative of Maneka Gandhi for more than two decades and has led successful campaigns against the practice of sacrificial slaughtering of cattle. Gauri has been in Kerala for the past few weeks to advice the government on the stray dog issue and help implement the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme as defined by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the laws passed by Parliament in 2001. Edited excerpts from an interview…

There are reports of widespread stray dog attacks in Kerala. What do you think is the prime reason?

All developing countries face this issue. Stray dogs feed on the garbage and their number will grow as the amount of garbage on the streets increase. The dogs will turn violent during mating season and also while protecting their territory.

There have been reports of mass culling of dogs. Why should it be condemned? What will be the consequences?

It’s an inhuman practice and something that is not expected from a civilised society. The killings will force the dogs to fight back for survival, which will result in more attacks. Also, as long as there is garbage on the streets, the stray dog number will increase. There can be other consequences. An example would be the outbreak of plague in Surat (1994), which was partly due to the mass killing of stray dogs. With stray dogs gone from the streets, rodent numbers started to grow, which lead to the spread of the dreaded disease. It claimed 52 lives. This can happen again.

What is the right solution, then?

Sterilisation. WHO suggests that ABC is the only sustainable solution to control street dog population and thus eradicate rabies. A full-fledged ABC programme needs to be implemented in Kerala, like that is in practice in other places such as Chennai and Jaipur. Many cities have successfully implemented it. The Delhi High Court even issued an order in 2009 to create feeding grounds for stray dogs, so that they can be confined to a particular area. The order also directs the authorities to give the dogs annual vaccinations.

You have also been campaigning against violence suffered by captive elephants and Kerala has a large amount of captive elephants…

Hundreds of people have died in Kerala, in the last decade, due to elephant attacks. The way captive elephants are being treated in many places is extremely despicable.

The government has not been able to do a lot to solve this issue. Is it because of the religious connection?

The elephant issue is a religious and a commercial one, as the elephant is also a means to earn money. Even though it is illegal to have an unregistered elephant, there are still hundreds of them in Kerala. Also, Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 bans the entrapment of wild elephants and the trade of such elephants. Most of the elephants in Kerala, a huge number of them bought from Sonepur Mela, were born after 1972. Where could these have come from other than from the wild? The same neglect for law is happening in the case of abominable slaughter practices, such as hammering cattle to death that’s followed by many slaughter houses.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2021 10:13:12 AM |

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