‘Animal Liberation’

 sickle_s.gif (30476 bytes) People’s Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of
India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 14,2002


From Prejudice To


THE media gave
wide publicity recently to an apparently trivial little item. The well-known
‘animal-rights’ activist and Hollywood bimbo of yesteryear, Brigitte Bardot, as
a mouthpiece of the militantly extremist animal-rights organisation, PETA, had offered
gratuitous advice to a then-union cabinet minister in India to ‘look after’ the
animals being used in biomedical research. This happened on the background of a publicised
quarrel (or ‘disagreement’, if you prefer euphemisms) between two union
ministers, C P Thakur and Maneka Gandhi, on who is to regulate animal experimentation in
India, and how this is to be done. Thakur was, then, the cabinet minister for health and
family welfare, while Gandhi was in charge of statistics and programme implementation,
although both have resigned since then, in the recent famous reshuffle of the union

It is curious
(and amusing) enough that a minister (of state) for statistics and programme
implementation should have been arguing about animal experimentation. Upper-class
‘celebrities’ such as actresses turned candle-makers also keep putting in their
own two bits on Maneka Gandhi’s behalf from time to time on the matter. But when such
notorious international players as PETA and Bardot enter the fray, it is time to sit up
and take more serious notice.


PETA, or People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an organisation based in the USA, and with a
scattered international presence, such as in India. They are associated with covert and
‘moral’ if not actual support for terrorism by animal liberation activists who
attack people thought of as being ‘cruel’ to animals (such as scientists,
farmers and the like). In India, they are best known for their campaign to block the
international purchase of Indian leather on the charge (quite possibly correct in itself)
that cattle being taken to the slaughterhouse are treated inhumanely. The result of their
campaign, however, does not seem to have been any great deal of improvement in the
conditions of the unfortunate cattle, but a loss of substantial revenue and livelihood to
the workers involved in the leather industry.

Bardot is
notorious as the famously mysterious recluse who emerges from her self-imposed
‘isolation’ only for making demands such as banning animal experimentation, or
getting rid of non-white immigrants from France (where she lives), or blocking holding the
Olympics in Seoul because dog meat is eaten in Korea. Thus, neither PETA nor Bardot are
exactly benign presences, and their entry into this issue of animal experimentation should
in itself constitute cause for a hard look at the issues involved. When this cacophony on
behalf of ‘animal rights’ begins to find echoes in the atmosphere of homogeneous
Hindutva currently being assertively acclaimed, in which vegetarianism becomes a serious
contender for the label of ‘moral ethic’, the issue becomes pressing indeed. So
what, exactly is involved in the ongoing brouhaha?


Why do
experiments on animals, in the first place? There are a number of reasons. One is in the
interests of scientific understanding of ourselves and our world, without which we have no
enduring basis on which to improve our own material condition. But not only that, since in
fact, without this curiosity about ourselves and the world around us, we would not be
quite human. A second reason is experimentation for teaching, in schools and colleges. A
third is experimentation for diagnosing some diseases. A fourth is experimentation for
checking whether certain products are safe for use or not, quite a bit of which is legally


Clearly, there
are different justifications for doing animal experimentation. Equally clearly, all forms
of animal experimentation, like any other socially sanctioned activity, must be properly
supervised and regulated to see that they are done properly. What does ‘properly
done’ mean? The basic common rules of ‘humaneness’ are, obviously, the
guiding lights of proper experimentation, and what we need to do is have and implement
stringent rules for transparency and for minimising pain in animal experimentation.

India did not
have such rules until two years ago, while most industrially developed countries have had
them for many years. This was a terrible state of affairs, and it is wonderful that it has
been rectified two years ago. Unfortunately, the rules made and the way they are being
implemented have many biologists in the country both puzzled and upset. So what is their

The body that
regulates animal experimentation in India is the Committee for the Purpose of Control and
Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), under the activist stewardship of Maneka
Gandhi. The CPCSEA comes under the so-called Department of Animal Care (more correctly,
the Animal Welfare Division (AWD)), which has been an orphan section in the government of
India of recent years, following Maneka Gandhi about as she shuttles from ministry to
ministry (and from one political ideology to another). It has thus gone from environment
and forests to social justice and empowerment to culture and now to statistics and
programme implementation. Clearly, Maneka Gandhi is ‘animal rights activist’
enough to demand stewardship of this section each time she gets herself a ministerial
berth, leading in the process to an administrative travesty.

As Chairperson
of the CPCSEA, Maneka Gandhi wields a great deal of clout in the matter. This is
notwithstanding the large group of both scientists and non-scientists that comprises the
CPCSEA, since the pliancy of bureaucrats and technocrats in the face of ministers is a
well known phenomenon.

It is
nobody’s case that there should be no regulation of laboratory animal
experimentation, nor that poor conditions of animal facilities should be condoned. But the
AWD/CPCSEA, under Maneka Gandhi’s leadership, have repeatedly revealed their covert
anti-science, anti-vivisectionist agenda in the process of establishing and implementing
the rules and regulations for animal experimentation. The original draft rules prepared by
these bodies would have completely blocked all animal experimentation (as PETA and Bardot
have repeatedly demanded). After an outcry, modifications were introduced to bring them in
line with international practices. Nonetheless, demands for unreasonable paperwork and
prejudiced evaluation of animal facilities of research centres continue under the guise of
implementation of these rules. Maneka Gandhi herself is on record as saying that she will
create so much paperwork that scientists cannot do any experimentation. The AWD/CPCSEA
looks fair set to do precisely this.

Recent events
have reinforced the notion that the AWD/CPCSEA is treating scientists as de facto
criminals who need to be restrained, in addition to displaying a profound ignorance and
arrogance about the purpose of the CPCSEA in the regulation of animal experimentation. In
all these cases, the AWD/CPCSEA attitude lacks professionalism, takes recourse to vague
and unsubstantiated claims and is cavalier about fairness and due process; – generating
the suspicion that they are primarily interested in halting all animal experimentation and
not in any genuine welfare of experimental animals or in facilitating their appropriate


The covert
anti-science ‘animal liberation’ agenda of these involved activists is also
shown by the newspaper advertisement that the CPCSEA placed last year on the occasion of a
spurious ‘world day for lab animals’. This advertisment effectively called all
scientific experimenters evil monsters. The AWD proposed extraordinarily draconian
legislative modifications to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA), which have
currently been shelved only because of the outcry over them within the government. Again,
these modifications are inconsistent, view experimenters and other animal users with
contempt as ‘non-humanitarians’, and clearly have the agenda of altering the
spirit and tenor of the PCAA so as to make it antagonistic to any animal usage.

The covert
agenda that is being pushed under the guise of legitimate ‘regulation’ is one
that sees the issue in terms of ‘animal rights’ rather than ‘animal
welfare’. It is a mindset that would like to stop all animal usage (although even
among their ranks there are dissensions about which species are to be included in this
protected category of ‘animals’). This usage is to be banned not only in
experimentation, but also as food or for labour, – both productive labour such as for
draught or milk, and other labour such as entertainment. The only ‘use’ of
animals permitted, in many of these ‘animal rights’ (or ‘animal
liberation’, as these activists put it) theologies, is as pets, and it is not quite
clear why such ‘animal labour for entertainment’ is to be ‘allowed’ in
their books. In any event, arguing this stance in an open, transparent democratic debate
is one thing, and a fascist trick of trying to achieve the goals of ‘animal
rights’ movements under the guise of rules for animal welfare is another matter

This animosity
of the AWD, under Maneka Gandhi’s leadership, extends to the traditional usage of
animals for draught and for entertainment purposes by large sections of India’s
poorest citizens such as the Madaris, as well as to the use of animals for food, which
finds echoes in the brahminical, vegetarian and xenophobic Hindutva that is current these
days. It is curious that this xenophobia of the Hindutva kind should come together with
xenophobia of the White kind that Bardot frequently appears to espouse.

There is, thus,
ground for extreme concern about the current status regarding the regulation of animal
usage in the country. Both the livelihood of the poorest, and the freedom of cultural
choice in matters of food are at stake, in addition to the fact that the prejudiced
activities of the AWD have led to either a withdrawal of the Indian biotech and pharma
sector industry from animal system-based drug trials, or an exodus of such centres to
overseas sites, auguring ill both for India’s industrial strength in biotechnology
and for its ability to generate (relatively) cheaper drugs for its own citizens. It is no
wonder that anti-poor, anti-third world interests such as transnational corporations
anxiously eyeing their emerging Indian competitors and their tools such as PETA and Bardot
are playing a major role in the inimical way regulation of animal usage is developing in

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