PETA, India chief Dr Manilal Valliyate comes down heavily on e-commerce resell websites — Quikr, OLX on violating multiple laws by selling dogs and fooling consumers too. He condemns illegal captivation of elephants in Kerala and other states and pins hopes on the apex court to put an end to the misery of bulls in Tamil Nadu.
Dr Manilal started his career in 1998 as a teaching assistant at the College of Veterinary and Animal Science–Mannuthy and later worked as a vet surgeon for the Kerala State Animal Husbandry Department in 1999. In 2000, he joined the Brooke before joining the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India in 2010. He also holds two post-graduate degrees in business administration and environmental laws and policy.
Q. As a member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board, were you able to intervene in the disastrous mass culling of street dogs in 2016? What do you think went wrong then and how is the state making sure that it never repeats the episode?
Kerala State Animal Welfare Board is non-operational and no initiatives have been taken so far by the state government to revive it, set up byelaws and a budget for its effective functioning. Most of the complaints PETA India received about the decisions of municipalities, housing societies and few individuals to kill “rabid and dangerous” stray dogs, came from concerned Keralites themselves. They were concerned about a lack of adequate scientific approach to the stray dog population in cities throughout the state and that, any dog can be arbitrarily labelled “dangerous” and killed.
Though dog bites are often cited as a justification to kill Kerala’s stray dogs, it seems that most dog bites may be from companion dogs, such as those who play roughly, and not from strays. For example, statistics show that stray dogs were not responsible for the majority of the bite cases reported by General Hospital Ernakulam between 1 January and 12 July, 2015. Companion dogs, not strays, were reportedly the cause of 75.6 percent of the bite cases.
However, today, various government authorities in the state such as Department of Animal Husbandry and Local Self Government bodies including Kudumbashree (state poverty eradication mission), Suchitwa Kerala Mission, Zila Panchayats and municipalities / municipal corporations and Non-Governmental Organisations have taken up Animal Birth Control and anti-rabies vaccination programme for stray dogs.
The government is also not only to blame for the stray dog crisis. As long as dogs are not sterilised and people continue to buy dogs from pet stores and breeders instead of adopting dogs in need from the shelter or the street, the stray-animal crisis will persist. The public can help by choosing to always adopt, never buy, and supporting sterilisation efforts.
Q. PETA played vital role in freeing Gajraj in 2017. However, there are hundreds of Gajrajs in uncountable temples across India and Kerala has the highest numbers of captive elephants in temples. Being part of the state animal welfare board and an animal welfare activist, don’t you think these elephants belong to the wild and not the temples? What is the state doing in this regard?
Elephants belong in the wild, not in cities, temples, circuses or used for rides. PETA India has been fighting to stop cruelty to captive elephants in India since its inception in 2000 and the rescue and rehabilitation of elephants like Sunder, Ramprasad and Gajraj from Maharashtra are some of the major victories of our campaign.
We have also been part of removing elephants from several circuses. PETA India’s numerous investigations have revealed that, forcing injured and unfit elephants (including those who are visually impaired) to work; using iron ankuses to beat and prod them; using chains or hobbles with spikes or sharp edges to restrain them; tethering or chaining them continuously by more than one foot with short heavy chains; mutilating their ears; not providing sufficient food, drink or shelter and failing to treat injuries and diseases are common abuses where elephants are held captive that violate The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Most captive elephants are also held illegally, with outdated or otherwise invalid ownership certificates, in violation of The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Often, the elephant owners and/or caretakers do not maintain vaccination records, disease and treatment records, movement registers, feeding registers and work registers, as recommended by the Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants, issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests’ Project Elephant.
PETA India investigations have revealed that tusks and tushes of elephants in temples are often cut or modified without permission from wildlife departments, and we’ve found similar with elephants used for rides, which is an apparent violation of The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972 and may indicate a contribution of ivory or other products to the illegal wildlife trade.
Q. Street dogs are said to be a menace in every town and city. While the SC had ordered implementation of ABC program across all states in 2015, it is yet to take off and become success in any state. According to you, what are the reasons behind failure of ABC implementation across the country?
As per the Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules 2001, governments are supposed to sterilise and vaccinate dogs and put them back where they are found. Yet this is often not adequately taken up.
Killing stray dogs is completely ineffective in controlling rabies or the dog population, and is very cruel, as dogs across India have been commonly made to endure slow deaths from poison. Dogs are territorial and when territories become free, those from surrounding areas simply move in to take the place of those who were killed, and they reproduce – creating even more homeless dogs.
Under an effective sterilisation and release program, the dog population becomes stable, non-breeding, rabies-free, and it gradually decreases over a period of time. Dog bites also reduce since the dogs are less likely to fight over territory, or a mate, or have puppies to protect. That’s why in 1990, the World Health Organisation and The World Society for the Protection of Animals (now called World Animal Protection) collaborated on the publication of “Guidelines for Dog Population Management”, which proposed a long-term method for the control of stray-dog populations by means of a methodical sterilisation program. The sterilisation method was tested and found to be successful, and is thus now also recommended by Animal Welfare Board of India. Sterilisation is also required of municipalities under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, though this obligation has largely been ignored in Kerala so far.
Q. The central government recently proposed prohibition on the use of animals for performances, exhibition at any circus or mobile entertainment facilities. What is the current status of the proposal?
PETA India declared its support to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on draft rules proposing to ban the use of elephants, horses, camels, dogs, and all other animals in circuses across the country. We also specified that, with the support of other organisations, we are committed to helping to rehabilitate animals who are voluntarily relinquished by circuses or seized by law-enforcement agencies by finding them suitable homes where they will have quality of life, free from caging, chaining, pain, and suffering.
Regarding the captive elephants in circuses, PETA India also stated that as per the provisions of the WPA, state Chief Wildlife Wardens who have issued Ownership Certificates to the circuses under Section 42 of the Act are vested with responsibility for securing the rehabilitation of these animals and that they should do so at reputable, chain-free elephant care centres, following humane elephant care and management practices.
The ministry had invited objections or suggestions within 30 days of the draft notification issued on 28 November 2018 and it is expected that, the ministry will notify the same draft as final rules, soon.
Q. PETA India recently called on to online portals OLX.in and Quikr.com by sending letters calling on both websites to join Amazon, eBay, and Locanto in banning the online sale of “pets”. However, the ads selling animals are still up. Going a step further, Quikr has now started using ‘under adoption’ category, trying to fool animal welfare workers. What do you have to say about this and to OLX and Quikr heads?
By relocating animal ads by breeders and other sellers to the misnamed “Pet Adoption” category, Quikr has only reinforced that animal welfare is not their priority and that they appear to think consumers are fools. Consumers expect companies today to be clear and ethical, and Quikr is not meeting these expectations.
Many sellers are letting potential buyers know the price of animals immediately upon contact, while a number of listings have clearly mentioned that the animals are, indeed, for sale. In any case, giving animals away to anyone who wants them – without reasonable suitability checks – would not be considered adoption. There are also ads in which breeders boast that they can provide virtually any breed of dog. It is absurd to try to pass off such blatantly commercial practices as adoption.
Companies such as OLX and Quikr, which currently promotes sale of live animals on their e-commerce platform appears to be in violation of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, issued by the central government under the Information Technology Act, 2000. These guidelines mandate that as intermediaries, these online platforms must observe due diligence while discharging their duties in order to ensure that users of their website do not host, display, or publish any information that violates any law in force, such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018.
Q. Animals are not only being used in temples, festivals, circuses, entertainment, but also in weddings. How do you think such mindset can be changed and these animals can be rescued?
Animals do not want to perform painful, confusing and demeaning acts, but many have no choice. Owners, trainers and handlers use abusive tools, including whips, ankushes and electric prods, to force them to perform. Not only are elephants, horses, camels and other animals often beaten by their owners and handlers to be used in weddings and other such events, these animals are denied everything that is natural and important to them, and so they suffer from loneliness, boredom and frustration from being tethered or chained for months on end as they travel from city to city or until they are used. Instead of being loaded and unloaded like furniture into trucks and warehouses, these animals should be in their natural habitats – exploring, seeking mates and raising families.
Animals held captive in circuses, zoos and other entertainment venues need us to speak out for them. It’s important to inform our community about why, for animals’ sake, parents should take their children for a hike or to a cricket game instead of patronising cruel animal acts.
Q. What are primary issues that PETA is focusing on for 2019? What is your premonition about Jallikattu judgment?
PETA India operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way, while also educating policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promoting an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect. In 2019 too, PETA India will focus primarily on these areas in which the greatest numbers of animals suffer the most such as in laboratories, in the food industry, in the leather trade, and in the entertainment business.
After conducting investigations into jallikattu events in 2017, 2018 and 2019, it has become glaringly obvious that no amount of regulation can prevent cruelty to animals. Jallikattu inevitably inflicts extreme mental and physical abuse on animals and also endangers both the human participants and the spectators. PETA India has submitted its findings from 2017 and 2018 to the Honourable Supreme Court in support of its ongoing case challenging the constitutional validity of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017.
In its 2014 judgement, the Honourable Supreme Court has already acknowledged that bulls are anatomically unfit to be made to race, and thus their use in spectacles like jallikattu and bull races is inherently cruel. The state regulations allowing jallikattu will not change the anatomy of bulls and we believe that the Honourable Supreme Court should uphold its own judgment banning jallikattu and bullock cart races in the country.
Q. PETA Certificate for vegan free products is very admirable. Do you think the trend is picking up in India too?
Finding animal-friendly clothing, accessories and retail products is easier now with the “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo. Popping up on products everywhere, this nifty new logo makes it a snap to spot animal-friendly items at a glance. All companies that use the “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo must sign PETA India’s statement of assurance verifying that their products that use the logo are vegan, so you can shop with confidence. Once certified, companies can use our logo on their products, tags, literature, in-store displays, websites and social media with regard to vegan items.
Check out the Indian companies that are already using the “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo here: https://www.petaindia.com/living/fashion/introducing-our-peta-approved-vegan-logo-for-easy-shopping/