Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Of shelter, love and PeTA

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.


Anonymous said...

I hope u get this published.. for publicity (which to them will seem negative) might just induce PeTa to do something (to change their image offcourse!) n maybe use their resources better!

Ashish Gorde said...

I couldn't agree more with what you've written here. I have always been a little suspicious of PeTA's advertising campaign because I just can't fathom how posters with lots of eye candy can ever stir people to think about animal welfare. I'm sure the creative team knows what they are doing but silly little me in distant Juffair just cannot. However, the main problem lies with the attitude of people towards animals. The day people think of dogs and cats as living creatures with the same rights as cows and elephants will we see some change. Till then, these adorable creatures will remain epithets.

R. said...

Brilliant Post! I agree with you 100%. We've 3 dogs at home and we can't see cruelty to animals anywyere, mom never can resist giving a home to a stray pup. But we also are nonvegitarians, its the only way of life that we know.

I'm a member of greenpeace and I believe in their movement, PETA in my opinion are attention grabbers and nothing more. To give you an example, visit their website, there are more pictures of celebrities (and one of nude streakers) than of animals. And one of the issue that they are 'fighting' for is to remove an ad which has a chimpanzee wearing a bib. Get a life folks!

p.s. if you are buying life sized teddy bears for a kid, you might wanna reconsider anyways. Apparently lil children find life sized teddy bears scary.

uma said...

there's a shelter called jeev raksha in pune, run by lila parulekar. I just left a cat and four kittens there a few weeks ago. if anyone would like the phone number, feel free to mail me at

and actually, i think every strategy counts, including peta.

Annie Zaidi said...

anon - amen to that. but apparently, my personal opinions aren't important enough. yet.
ashish - i guess this is what people mean by the phrase 'putting your money where your mouth is'... PeTA should.
r., me too. big fan of Tunde Kebabs. the temptation to punch people who suggest that such dishes be banned, is high. But then, I'm a non-violent type :)
Uma, you're right... must not suspect their intentions. To each their own.
It's just that my 'own' refuses to get along with their 'each'. What to do, eh?

sakthi said...

I went thru the same pain as ur friend when he had to let go 5 puppies coz of 'societal' issues... and teh saddest thing is only one of the 5 r alive now ....

Anonymous said...

There is no logical reason for you to be miffed at PETA for not operating homeless animal shelters because the purpose of PETA is to advocate for the end of animal abuse, not to operate shelters.
PETA does not operate animal shelters; neither does the HSUS or ASPCA.

Unknown said...

Hi All! I completely agrre with u all! Where are the Shelters, instead of spending that money on publicity they should create more shelter homes for the strays . I have 4 puppies now in my building all about a month old. Am taking care of them , tried to call all possible so called shelter homes to take them as society might just push them out. Am trying my best to keep them but i urgently require any shelter house which can adopt them or any person who would like to adopt please contact

Anonymous said...

For all the cats you are feeling bad about and the shelters you are raving about...while Eating birds and goats and fish, PETA is fighting for all these animals on multiple levels. They are working on govt policies, laws, and awareness work. PETA uses celeb ads to make people notice the msg, but yes, some people focus on the messenger so it bounces off them. If you were to put out an article, how many ppl would read it as compared to a John Abraham saying something? so thats the reason for celebs.

Do visit the website,PETA has done undercover investigations, which 'dog and cat' lovers who call themselves animal lovers should see.

Do see how terrified live hens are dumped into boiling water after being electrocuted, this is done for making removing of their feathers easy for all 'dressed chickens'.

Do see how goats are dragged by their ears and kicked around and tied for days outside butcher shops watching other goats being killed, waiting terrified for their turn.

Do also see how new born calves are starved to death in front of their mothers so we can use the mother cows milk and have more cheese and ice creams.

Would also suggest you see the investigation into the leather trade and experiments. The agony these animals are in and they have no one to fight for them. Brave ppl have endangered their lives risking to get that footage, but most ppl dont want to watch the violence, only enjoy the fruits of it.

The easiset thing to do is say, i cant help being Non veg, but PETA should open shelters...really? the max violence on animals happens in the food industry..

And yes,PETA does expect people who feel 'bereft' at leaving cats on the road, to spay and neuter them before Abandoning them, so that that many more kittens dont have to suffer!
Take some goddamn responsibility for the hell we have created for all animal life today people, instead of pointing fingers. Grow up and do something too.

Anonymous said...

PETA works on awareness campaigns...whats with the shelter thing?!

Tweets by @anniezaidi