While the nation of India has found its own new lease on life as it begins to become heavily industrialized, the furry members of its society are facing some new challenges.

For decades India has struggled with the issue of stray animals, and while cows and elephants are considered holy and treated with respect, the dogs and cats of India are facing a much harder time in their attempts to stay alive.

According to the World Health Organization, there are around 18,000 reported cases of rabies every year in India. In order to remedy this, India’s government had called for the euthanization of India’s stray dogs; however, after much discussion, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has asked many states to hold off on this action and attempted to vaccinate the stray animals against several diseases. Essentially, the AWBI believes that such actions taken against these animals is inhumane, as there is no clear distinguishing factor that determines whether an animal should be put down or vaccinated.

When walking the streets of India, it is very common to see dogs and cats roaming around, but travelers are advised not to pet them or interact with them, as they often find food in waste piles and are thus highly prone to disease and infection. However, many residents have been taking care of these animals for years; these animals are thought to have migrated over along with the original inhabitants of the land, thus creating a very blurry line as to which animals are stray and which have been domesticated. The issue with the current laws is that there is no defining point at which an animal becomes a family member and at which point it is still a stray. Many animal rights groups working alongside citizens have been fighting for this distinction to be made.

For now, the AWBI is advising the government to hold off on any euthanization or vaccination tactics that may be used to reduce the stray animal population. Some experts have proposed the idea of neutering definitively stray dogs and cats, so as to reduce the population. Many experts have made it clear that the key to reducing this issue is to better understand the animals themselves and their behavior. Most healthy animals will not bite or scratch a human unless they feel threatened, so a better understanding of animal behavior will allow citizens to express proper caution when dealing with them.

While the government of India remains at a standstill, citizens and animal rights groups have begun to press for better adoption systems and more definitive lines as to an animals ownership. Euthanization of these animals is effectively going against the Indian Supreme Court ruling against the killing of animals, and harm and cruelty toward animals. Many petitions and protests have been held against this action, but no decision has been reached. There is still a long road ahead for these furry friends, but it looks like there may be a light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: CNN, BBC
Photo: CNN

Animal vaccination camp
This week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped initiate a campaign to immunize livestock in Burkina Faso.  The goal is to vaccinate 200,000 animals belonging to 30,000 people.  Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries is teaming up with the Burkinabé Red Cross Society to remove parasites and cut down on diseases.  The campaign is focused in the northern province of Oudalan where an influx of refugees (and their animals) from Mali has bloated the livestock population.

Mali’s ongoing conflict between the military, the government, and the various rebel groups spilled beyond its borders.  Over 200,000 Malians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, at least 50,000 of which have ended up in Burkina Faso.  With the added weight of refugees comes the livelihoods they carry with them, and in many cases this has meant livestock.  Burkina Faso is hardly unfamiliar with the needs of animals.  About 57.7% of the country’s land is pastoral and there are over 45,000 poultry, pigs, sheep, goats and cattle owned by citizens.  Problems arise, however, when the animals are in tightened quarters and thus more likely to spread and succumb to disease and parasites.

Luckily, the trio of organizations and agencies behind the campaign are addressing the influx in livestock and potential disease.  Though it is too early to see what type of progress is made, the concept itself is essential.  Ticks, worms and illnesses are particularly problematic in young animals, but have the ability to be devastating to older ones as well.  The vast majority of Burkina Faso’s citizens reside in rural areas that rely heavily on agricultural or pastoral means of income.  Without proper vaccinations, many people’s livelihoods could fall on hard times via a parasite transferred by passing goats.  The trio backing the campaign aims to prevent further hardship on the refugees and citizens by maintaining the health of their livestock and incomes.

Katey Baker-Smith


ryan gosling
The famous female-favorite movie star Ryan Gosling – notably known for films such as Drive and The Ides of March – is much more than just the typical Hollywood hunk. Over the past few years Gosling has proven to be quite a proactive and admirable advocate.

Gosling’s main advocacy passion is for animal rights: he has on numerous occasions spoken for maltreated farm animals. In the spring of this year, for instance, he learned of an atrocious practice about which he wrote a letter to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), urging them for immediate action. Apparently, farms across the nation would engage in extremely painful dehorning methods of cows. Using dangerous chemicals or simply amputating the appendages would leave a three-month healing time; only about a tenth of all farms use any kind of pain reliever for their animals. Ryan Gosling advocates that the simple solution here would be to breed hornless cows. The letter was publicized in its fullness on PETA’s website and quickly spread across the internet.

In 2011, Gosling appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show raising another important issue: the war in Congo and how we are fueling it by buying products – everyday electronics – which contain minerals obtained there. Advocating for human rights, Gosling states, “We want our products conflict free.” The star personally visited Congo prior to his appearance on the show, meeting with various organizations and actively advocating against the war. He urges viewers of Jimmy Kimmel to do the same by supporting Raise Hope for Congo – a campaign geared against the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo.

In a separate letter to the Globe and Mail, Ryan Gosling advocates for maltreated pigs by drawing a parallel between them and his beloved dog, George. Intelligent and curiously close to humans in plentiful ways, pigs are being kept in solitary confinement for weeks by the pork industry, leading to the deterioration of both mind and muscle. Gosling means that he could never imagine doing that to his four-legged companion; actually, could any Canadian (or sensible person in general)?

Ryan Gosling as an advocate is a true knight in shining armor for the world of the weak and the voiceless. The characters he portrays in his films are often troubled yet highly likable. Using that same charisma outside of the big screen is Gosling’s advocacy wild card. Decidedly down-to-earth and concerned with making the world a better place, he manages to seamlessly intertwine his career with his passion for aiding those in need. Instead of putting on glamorous events or the likes, he often chooses the more subtle, yet efficient approach of going straight to the source. As individuals stumble upon these letters he’s taken the time to personally write, they may stop and think for an extra moment, and feel more motivated to act themselves. Because, let’s be frank: few can resist the inspiring, mysterious, yet heartwarming appeal of Ryan Gosling.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: IMDB, PETA, Ecorazzi, Raise Hope for Congo, Buzzfeed, The Globe and Mail
Photo: Mirror UK

The Effect Global Poverty has on Wildlife

The debilitating effects of extreme poverty on the citizens of afflicted countries are well-documented. Poverty leads to illness, shame, violence, and overpopulation. Yet poverty is not only detrimental to the human populations of the countries in which it exists, but also the animal populations which coexist alongside it.

It is well known that the earth cannot produce the resources to adequately sustain the current human population, much less at its current rate of growth. We are currently stripping our planet of all its available resources, with little room to maintain ourselves, much less wildlife. The situation is at its most dire in poor, rural villages where people are caught in an uncomfortable co-existence with native wildlife.

Those who still survive by a hunter-gathered lifestyle get food, clothing, and medicine from their surroundings. A research paper by the Department for International Development’s Wildlife and Advisory Group states: “We estimate that wildlife plays a significant role in the lives of up to 150 million poor people. Of the estimated 1.2 billion people who live on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day, about 250 million live in agriculturally marginal areas, and a further 350 million live in or near forests. Wildlife plays some role in the lives of many of these people, and is thought to be a primary livelihood asset in the lives of up to one-eighth of them. Where wildlife is declining or access to wildlife is denied, poor people adapt, but often at a cost to their livelihoods in terms of reduced income, fewer diversification opportunities and increased vulnerability.”

Resources are not the only problem, but also direct competition. Many are often forced into destruction of wildlife, not for a willful hatred of animals themselves or for recreational purposes, but out of sheer necessity. Tigers in India are often killed by rural communities which fear losing irreplaceable livestock. Poaching is a result of a desperate need for money, as ivory and other endangered animal parts often fetch handsome prices. Better education and greater opportunities for the individuals committing these acts would be far more effective than punishing a crime that the current system inevitably forces them to commit.

What this means is that the existence of poverty and conservation of our wildlife are mutually exclusive. One, by necessity, prevents the other. To conserve wildlife is to rob poor communities of the few resources they have, and to not intervene means the inevitable destruction of our environment and the creatures in it.  We have created a system where, if we do not act, we are choosing to destroy either our fellow humans or our fellow creatures. We cannot currently sustain both.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Wildlife and Poverty Study
Photo: Jukani

A Penny Saved, A World Changed? Diverting
Let me start by saying that I love my dog.

When I’m not working on this blog I am teaching English to Ethiopian immigrants here in Columbus, OH. I work mostly with adults and so far the class has been a great experience and I learn a few neat things as I teach and converse with the students. Just the other day we spent a long time learning the new term “pet”. Most English speakers will be able to recognize that word and meaning right away because they have heard it or used it many, many times and they have the linguistic competence to use the word without thinking much about it. The first step of explaining the new word was easy enough and led to the understanding that these “pets” where animals. We would ask “Did you have any pets back home?” “Yes, three cows and a goat.”

We spent a few minutes more explaining the difference between domesticated pets and livestock and continued with the day’s lesson. One man asked whether pets should be called “it” or “he/she”. After answering that man’s question I realized how much we really do love our pets. To many pet owners, their animals are almost human. I’m much more than guilty of being “that dog guy”, I will talk to the dog of a stranger in a foggy park at dusk, I will share the bed with my dog and I’ll even talk to the dogs’ owners sometimes.

That being said, my dog is a dog. She (I still can’t call her “it”) may seem almost human, but she is just a dog. I was thinking about this recently as I stopped in the store to buy some dog food. My healthy, four-year-old dog eats generic, dry, boring dog food that comes in 50 lb. bags. Walking around the dog care aisle I saw designer foods that cost a hefty penny more and I remembered the simple fact that people love their dogs. But, what about the difference? One national name brand dog food is about $12.50 for about 18.5lbs. of food. One designer name brand food costs $29 for 15 lbs. Even if we disregard 3.5 lb. the difference in favor of the cheaper alternative that gives us about $16.50 saved. Now, $16.50 saved for every 15lbs of dog food will add up to a significant sum by the end of the year, especially with multiple dogs.

What if that money went to help other humans, other people? The idea of diverting isn’t anything new, save a bit of money on things here and there and give to a greater cause, but it does work. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t love animals, or that we shouldn’t occasionally spoil the creatures we spend so much time with, but maybe we could take a chunk of that saved change and share it with our human brothers and sisters as well, be it through groups like The Borgen Project or any organization you’d like.

– Kevin Sullivan

Photo: DoggySpace