Last week, the office received a press release from PeTA.
It was the expectedly glamourous photo of Sheetal Mallar, sitting in the lap of this giant teddy-bear. The message was... animal rights, I assume.
Since this is not about my opinion of such campaigns, I will stop at saying that, the picture would inspire me to buy life-sized teddies - and, if I were given to alternate orientations, Sheetal Mallar as well - but I wouldn't be tempted to give up my tikkas and kebabs (and, for the umpteenth time, there is no such thing as a veggie kebab, okay?).
Yesterday, a friend wrote to me telling me about the trauma of having to let a whole litter of kittens out of the house, and into the streets.
How are the two subjects related?
My friend takes pity upon a poor stray cat, who decides to simply adopt her (my friend's) home. Then, this cat decides to have kittens. In my friend's home. The kittens are duly cuddled, and pampered and fed.
But the cat, being a cat, has the ability to kill birds, and evidently takes great pleasure in doing so, even if she gets fed tastier non-veg tidbits by friend's family. This bringing in dead birds is a sore point with the 'society' (the building's other residents, that is).
Perhaps, this is because some people like birds better than they like cats. Or perhaps, this is because some people can't stand watching violence of any sort...
The long and short of it is this: the 'society' wanted the cats out. And societies, being elected bodies, make the rules.
The kittens (all of them possessing the same potential ability to kill birds) also had to go.
So, my friend's family took the hard-hearted decision of turning out the cat and her babies.
They did the first sensible thing - call every single animal shelter in Bombay; it turned out that no one had the space, or the inclination, to take in six kittens.
Dogs are easily taken in, since strays are always a problem. Dogs fight and bite. Besides, there are many more dog shelters and kennels, dogs being popular. Cows have their own fan following, as do rescued parrots (from Crawford Market) and other species that win sympathy and space in urban shelters.
Cats - being fairly self-reliant, invisible (compared to dogs), and not holy creatures, unlike cows or snakes - are not welcomed with open arms. At least, this particular family didn't get any welcomes.
When all resources were exhausted, all helplines called, all answers given in the firmly negative, my friend's family was forced to abandon the kittens to their fate. They took care, though, to leave them near a fish market (incidentally, now the cats are quite happy there, fending for themselves very easily, and have apparently forgotten my friend's affectionate hospitality - which has left her family feeling quite bereft, if somewhat relieved).
My point is this -
How many shelters has PeTA set up, in Indian cities, over the last decade?
How many shelters do they finance?
Don't they have the money? But press releases and publicity stunts are expensive propositions...
It's great to have fancy photo shoots and make neat little press kits and pile up shoes outside embassies... it's fun to make some noise, but the animals that are alive and need help, will not be helped by noise alone.
Because, Mahima Chowdhary is very pretty but she's not going to adopt all the strays of the city. Even if she wanted to, her house is not large enough. Sheetal Mallar's legs are very fine, as is John Abraham's expansive chest, but they're not much use to cats who find themselves without a home, suddenly.
PeTA could easily set up a string of animal shelters, with the kind of funds they have. Have they? How many vets do they have on their payroll? How many charitable hospitals have they built? How many animal old-age/retirement homes? How many poachers have they caught? How many forest-dwellers have they trained to fight, or complain about, poachers?
Here's some advice (free... naturally) from PeTA's website:
"SHELTERS: Visit the animal shelters in your area. Check the facilities provided for animals and find out how the animals are cared for and housed. How do the shelters insure that new homes are good? Do they refuse to release animals to laboratories? Are they overcrowded? Are the animals starved for attention? Do they seem withdrawn and depressed? If your local shelter provides inadequate care, what other options exist? (It’s important to understand the problems animal shelters face — many are overburdened with huge numbers of animals in poor condition and are able to find very few acceptable homes.)If you find conditions at any of your local shelters unacceptable, contact PETA for information on how to improve the situation."
This is wonderful!
Contact PeTA about what you should do about a given bad situation. PeTA will tell you what to do... and while you're doing it, PeTA will busy itself with photo-shoots - leggy models, cuddling teddies. How incredibly shweeeet!!
I've seen dog shelters in Bombay. I almost threw up the first time I visited. But for all the filth and depression and wounds and misery in that place, I give it 10 on 10, for being there!
(Now I think of it, someone had said to me, once - love is all about 'being there'. By that definition, the lousiest animal shelter loves animals better than all the noise-making volunteers put together.)
As for PeTA, I wish they'd understand this - all the pictures of the world with humans posing as packaged meat are not going to put me on a veggie diet. But setting up shelters might induce me to volunteer. Me, and a lot of others.