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Veganism finally has meat eating on the run in the United Kingdom.

Veganism finally has meat eating on the run in the United Kingdom. Not only are the ad campaigns, all over metro stations, really big and powerful showing what happens in slaughterhouses, but people are actually listening to them and making a switch. So much so thatThe Independent newspaper has just revealed (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/save-veganism-abattoirs-animal-cruelty-terrorism-vigils-animal-welfare-a7579251.html) that a meeting was called by the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers and the National Pig Association with the official National Counter Terrorism Police Operations Centre team to find out how they could stop peaceful vegans from holding candlelight vigils outside slaughterhouses, to show love and compassion to pigs, cows and chickens in their final moments and to raise awareness of the cruelty we inflict upon them.

 

Not only should every slaughterhouse have a CCTV, any citizen should be allowed in. That way the enormous cruelty that happens to animals – apart from dragging buffaloes and calves off overloaded trucks by their tails, or throwing them off with one leg, or wing as in chickens, dragging them across the floor, hanging them upside down, slitting their throats to catch the blood, pouring boiling water on them while alive to loosen their skins etc. – there is the gratuitous cruelty of slaughterhouse workers amusing themselves at work. Live chickens are used as footballs, pigs are stabbed repeatedly as target practice with knives, competitions take place on novel ways to kill. The Mayor of North Delhi and Gauri Maulekhi of PFA went to the Delhi Ghazipur slaughterhouse on a surprise inspection last month. Apart from finding no vets there (they get their haftas sitting at home) they found buffaloes being hit many times over by laughing butchers with live electric wires. The animal collapsed repeatedly. When it got to its feet again, they did it again. They took bets on how many times an animal could sustain electric hits before it dissolved into a trembling conscious mass on the floor. Then they slit its throat – in full view of a hundred other buffaloes and their children.

 

One herd of goats had a little kid who ran for her life. She was chased by ten shouting men with heavy sticks, and who would have crushed her to a pulp had Gauri not caught her. She is now in my house. Gauri took a video of the slaughterhouse and was nearly lynched by hundreds of resentful butchers and the owner’s manager (Allana and Co) who knew what they were doing is so wrong but what-the-hell.

 

I once did a survey of the animals being killed. We found 78% of all chickens had broken legs and wings at least three days before being slaughtered; 60% of all large animals had shattered limbs and 45% were diseased. Forget the terrible pain they were in, by law none of them should be killed as they were gangrenous and the meat dangerous for humans.

 

Instead of me saying anything else, let me quote the rest of the Independent article :

“To regard Save vigils as terrorism is genuinely absurd: a panicked, guilty response from the planet’s most brutal industry. Our counter-terrorism experts should be concentrating their efforts on genuine threats against British public safety, not a bunch of vegan campaigners who only wish to expose the reality of a commercial sector that the majority of its consumers remain in the dark about.

 

But although Save protestors are not terrorists, perhaps abattoir bosses have good reason to fear their work.

 

The meat industry is vulnerable when consumers learn the reality of how it operates; when they look directly at the faces of the animals it condemns to short, torturous lives and ferocious deaths. Protestors share videos from the vigils on social media, offering that connection to the general public. This makes an industry that has poured so much money, time and desperation into keeping consumers’ eyes shut feeling nervous.

 

According to latest estimates, 542,000 Brits are now vegans, up from 150,000 in 2006 – a 350 per cent increase in just over a decade. Official supermarket revenue statistics for 2016 showed the biggest losers were meat and dairy, while the biggest gains came for dairy-free products. Overall sales of plant-based products are up 1,500 per cent.

 

Big food and hospitality brands, from Harvester and Wetherspoons to Pret A Manger and Sainsbury’s, are launching successful vegan ranges. Last month, Sainsbury’s reported that sales of its new own-brand vegan cheeses were 300 per cent greater than it had anticipated.

 

Activists are exposing the truth about the meat on your plate: that piglets who grow too slowly are killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors, a standard industry practice called “thumping”; that in many chicken slaughterhouses workers routinely rip the heads off live birds; that pigs scream in gas chambers, or as they are boiled alive; that cattle sometimes experience having their legs sawn off while they are still conscious.

I’ve nothing but respect for Save as they rattle and expose those complicit in the meat industry. They are not terrorists.

 

It’s often said that we accuse others of what we secretly know we are doing ourselves. So as abattoir workers toss and turn at night, perhaps they might ask themselves, who is really doing the terrorising?”

 

Why are you eating meat in India when you have at least 50,000 + options of amazing food which are better for you, better for animals and better for the planet. Each one of us has a belief that we are in our hearts good people. Do good people allow so much pain to be caused in beings that are exactly like you in every way, only kinder and smarter?

Sir Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

 

Are you going to wait for the glass walls to show you what is happening, or will you go with your conscience which tells you what you are doing is wrong?

 

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

 

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.inwww.peopleforanimalsindia.org

 

Learning Medicine from Maneka Gandhi

Not many moons ago Maneka Gandhi wrote an article (which was published in her regular page "Write to Live", in "The Island" of October 3 entitled "Fish oil ruins your heart") where she said there is no evidence to say that fish oil protects the heart. In fact, she went a step further, and said it could be harmful to the heart.

Gandhi, citing clinical trials on omega-3-fatty acids points that while omega-3s can in laboratory settings (in-vitro) increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure and give neurons structural strength, these properties don’t translate into any benefits in the human body (in-vivo). She went on to say that a review in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), involving almost 70,000 people, found no compelling evidence linking fish oil supplements to a lower risk of heart attack , stroke or early death.

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http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=155629

Since the colour of food influences consumers.

Since the colour of food influences consumers, many food manufacturers use dyes in foods ranging from meat and candies to wine. The aim is to simulate a colour that is perceived by the consumer as natural, such as adding red colouring to canned cherries which would otherwise be beige. Food companies add more than 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes to foods each year.

How did this begin? In the early 1900s, as the industrial age got underway, workers became dependent on low cost factory produced food. Food producers used the cheapest ingredients and adulterants and then, to hide this, they "restored" the colour. Red lead was used to colour cheese and confectionary. Copper arsenite was used to colour used tea leaves for resale. The bulk of chemically synthesized colours were derived from aniline, a toxic petroleum product and coal tar. Manufacturers phased out natural dyes for economic reasons: chemically synthesized colours were easier and cheaper to produce. Their use spread from paint, plastic and clothing to food.

Processed meat, fish and sauce contained Armenian bole, red lead, or sulphuret of mercury. Curry contained lead and mercury, pickles, bottled fruit and vegetables had copper, candies had any number of poisonous pigments and green tea had Prussian blue pigment mixed in it. Dyes entered all sorts of popular foods and drink. Many people died.

Gradually food dye regulations came, with each country developing their own legislation regulating the use of dangerous minerals such as arsenic, copper, chromium, lead, mercury and zinc, which were frequently used as colorants. In 1962, the WHO and FAO created an international commission, the Codex Alimentarius, to work out the application of food additives. However, this is not legally binding till today. In the United States, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 reduced the permitted list of synthetic colours from 700 down to seven.(The most commonly used dyes are Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which make up 90%+ of the market. These dyes are created synthetically by burning coal tar or are petroleum byproducts like tartrazine and erythrosine.)

Regulations differ from country to country even now. For instance Yellow, which is tartrazine (used in soft drinks, energy drinks, cake mixes, salty snacks, cereals, packaged soups), and has been linked to asthma, allergies and behavioural changes, is banned in some countries and allowed in others.Orange B is banned all over the world but is still used in the US for hot dog and sausage casings. Dyes used in meat, milk, and candies, like Quinoline Yellow, Carmoisine, Ponceau 4R, Patent Blue V and Green S, are not allowed in the US and U.K. Erithrosine, which was recognized as a thyroid carcinogen and is banned in cosmetics, is still used for sausages. Sunset Yellow, which causes adrenal tumours in animals and hypersensitive reactions, is still used in meats and gelatine deserts.

In all processed meats, fish, poultry, milk and eggs,dyes are used to mask quality failure and hygienic shortcomings. For instance, wild salmon has a distinctive pink colour which comes from the krill it eats in the oceans. But the salmon you get in restaurants is raised in crowded ponds and fed artificial food in order to make it fatter faster. This salmon is grey and looks inedible. So, fisheries use artificial dyes to make it pink. The dye is a chemical, Canthaxanthin, which has been linked to retinal damage in humans.

In meat processing, red and yellow colour types are preferred, with brand names such as “red blood”, “orange yellow” or “sunset yellow”. Tartrazine (E 102, yellow), cochineal extract (E 120, red) or carnoisine (E 122, red). While the first is made from coal tar and is very contentious for its role in allergies, the other two are made from crushed beetles.

Nitrates and nitrites are used to cure meat and poultry. They help kill bacteria and give meat a pink, or red, colour. Nitrite is highly toxic (the lethal dose in humans is about 22 mg/kg body weight). The use of nitrites is controversial, because nitrosamines are formed when it is cooked at high temperatures and these are carcinogenic.

The meat industry keeps the raw meat packaged in carbon monoxide. This is called "modified atmosphere packaging" (MAP) so that it can last longer in shops. When meat is exposed to carbon monoxide, it gives the meat a bright red colour. As meat ages it becomes brown or grey, but carbon monoxide keeps it looking artificially fresh for up to a full year, and can hide the growth of bacteria.

Annatto is a commercial dye produced from the red pulp of the seed of the achiote tree. It is used in cheese, butter and smoked fish. Betanin, or Beetroot Red, is a red glycosidic food dye obtained from beets and used for colouring meat and sausages to dark brown. Caramel is one of the oldest and most widely-used food colourings and is found in almost every kind of fish, shellfish, roast beef, ham, pastrami or chicken.

Carmine, made of killed insects, is routinely added to food products such as meat. yogurt and ice cream.

Carotene, which is a pigment found in many dark green, leafy, and yellow vegetables such as collards, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash and in the fatty tissues of plant-eating animals, imparts the yellow coloration to milk-fat and butter. Turmeric is used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow colour to dairy products and yogurt.

Synthetic astaxanthin is not approved for human consumption, but is permitted to be used in fish feed that humans ultimately eat. Astaxanthin is used to keep the flesh of farmed fish pink, no matter how diseased their bodies are.

Consumers like yellow yolks. But birds that don’t eat fresh grass, or see the sun, cannot produce eggs with yellow yolks. So egg producers put various dyes into the poultry feed. There are eight dyes registered as feed additives for poultry. Canthaxanthin is used here as well, even though, in 2007, the European Food Safety Authority established maximum residue limit as 30 milligrams/kg.

Illegal dyes are used as well in poultries. Sudan IV has been detected in hen and duck eggs. Sudan dyes are carcinogenic. Egg yolk yellow is also achieved with xanthophylls extracted from plants.

Cadmium is a yellow metal used in squid and cuttlefish.

Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, colour additives may not be used to deceive consumers, or to conceal blemishes or inferiorities in food products. Usage is prohibited "if it is found to induce cancer when ingested” by people or animals.

Both these conditions are violated. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a 68-page report “ Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” detailing the potential of artificial food dyes to contribute to hyperactivity in children, increase cancer risk and lead to other health problems. In CSPI's summary of studies on food dyes, some of the most commonly used food dyes could be linked to cancer. CSPI reported:

"The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply."

CSPI revealed that nine of the food dyes, currently approved for use in the United States, are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions -- and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.

As CSPI reported: "Almost all the toxicological studies on dyes were commissioned, conducted, and analyzed by the chemical industry and academic consultants. Ideally, dyes (and other regulated chemicals) would be tested by independent researchers.

In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children.

… Because of those toxicological considerations, including carcinogenicity, hypersensitivity reactions, and behavioral effects, food dyes cannot be considered safe. The FDA should ban food dyes, which serve no purpose other than a cosmetic effect…

In the meantime, companies voluntarily should replace dyes with safer, natural colorings." The UK Food Standards Agency commissioned a study at Southampton University of the effect of six food dyes (Tartrazine, Allura Red, Ponceau 4R, Quinoline Yellow WS, Sunset Yellow and Carmoisine)on children. Published in 2007, the study found "a possible link between the consumption of these artificial colours and a sodium benzoate preservative and increased hyperactivity"

Research suggests that some children may be susceptible to even tiny amounts of artificial dyes, but that a significant number of children were affected by amounts over 35 mg per day. It was estimated that many children are consuming 3-4 times the 35mg amount per day. Food colorants sometimes cause allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in sensitive individuals. Even natural colouring agents can be potential hazards and include annatto, cochineal and carmine

An important study, published in the journal The Lancet in 2009, concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate, cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. The study also found that the E-numbered food dyes do as much damage to children's brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ. The results of this study were what prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behaviour. In July 2010, most foods in the EU that contain artificial food dyes were labelled with warning labels stating the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." No other country has done so. What food dyes are used in India? Does anyone know or care?

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

I am really sad that Dr. Sanjeev Balyan has been moved out of the Animal Husbandry department.

I am really sad that Dr. Sanjeev Balyan has been moved out of the Animal Husbandry department which he headed as MOS Agriculture for the last two years. He is a vet himself and an excellent administrator. For the first time in my life I will tell you about a Minister’s achievements.

The first thing he did was to change the Veterinary Council and put two outstanding people as the heads – Dr. Sharma and Dr. Gurdial Singh. The secretary, who was the worst officer in the history of India and had destroyed the entire institution, was made accountable for all the cheating he had done for years, and left in a panic.

What was the situation that Dr. Balyan and this Government inherited: a totally useless Veterinary Council that had no control over the quality of veterinary colleges or the behaviour and knowledge of vets – in fact it was totally unaware of how many vets there are in the country and what they did. The syllabus was outdated and there were no courses for wildlife, ophthalmology, or any specific organ. No vets were taught how to castrate (crushing the testicles between two stones is the normal practice), dehorn or follow any hygienic methods of insemination – leading to sweeping diseases of foot and mouth and bovine leukaemia. No vet ever studied to increase his knowledge after he got his initial degree.

In the last two years Dr. Balyan worked at changing the veterinary syllabus, making standards for veterinary practices, making it compulsory for all vets to attend a refresher course every year or have their licences cancelled, and making an all India register of vets and where they were practicing so that anyone who needed a vet could find out immediately.

Veterinary education and veterinary practices in India have undergone sweeping changes. The new veterinary syllabus of 2016 will stop the cruel use of live healthy animals for veterinary teaching and training. It will, instead, ensure the use of ethically sourced cadavers for anatomical studies and simulation methods for students to acquire better clinical skills, before handling and treating animals under supervised clinical training. Veterinary students and teachers had often protested about using live animals to teach veterinary science, since all over the world this has been replaced with technology. Numerous studies have proved that the learning generated by non-animal teaching methods are better than those achieved by animal use. Non-animal teaching methods do not cause students psychological trauma, or force them to be a part of something that they consider to be cruel and abusive. The new curriculum also makes students undergo internship programmes at animal welfare organisations so that they learn animal welfare.

The new Veterinary Practice Regulations, once implemented, will ensure that minimum standards of veterinary services are made available to animals through static and mobile veterinary clinics. These facilities will be well equipped with man power, essential veterinary medicines, instruments, diagnostic facilities, and waste disposal system and will function on Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and humane veterinary practice protocols. The protocol on humane veterinary practices mandates that animals must be given anaesthesia before invasive and painful animal husbandry procedures, such as castration, and that when euthanasia is required, such as to alleviate suffering from terminal illness, it must be done in a painless manner by a veterinarian. New modern courses have been introduced, especially in the area of wildlife and birds. We finally have a syllabus that is on par with foreign colleges. Now all we need is a type of student who likes animals, rather than aiming to simply get a ‘Doctor’ in front of his name so that his dowry rates go up.

Continuing Veterinary Education is not a new concept. Doctors need to learn the latest knowledge whether they are in government or private practice. Each vet will participate in one training course per year. To bring a mechanism for compulsory CVE programme for veterinary practitioners in India, VCI will set up a credit based system of certification for compulsory knowledge upgradation of practitioners.

For the first time, online registration will be made compulsory with VCI, for veterinarians, to practice anywhere in the country. The animal husbandry sector needs about 2 lakh veterinarians – as of now there are only 63,000. The VCI has increased the number of seats in colleges from 60 to 100 seats and made it easier to start new colleges.

Dr. Balyan also banned the commercial import of dogs for breeding. Thousands of diseased and unsuitable dogs were pouring into the country, being bought illegally by breeders. The notification from Director General of Foreign Trade came in consultation with the Agriculture Ministry. India has an unregulated pet trade, growing at a rate of about 20% per year, and these imported breeds are responsible for 90% of the dog bites and zoonotic diseases. Animal shelters like mine are crowded with pedigrees that have been thrown away by owners a few months after they buy them.

Dr. Balyan has gone to the department of water preservation. There are hundreds of issues still pending – from amending the sizes of battery cages for chickens to making minimum standards for all the hideous rotting government veterinary hospitals in the country. From banning exotic skins and meat to reforming slaughterhouses. The most important step in conserving animals and people is to ban oxytocin and remove antibiotics from farm animal feed, and this should be the topmost priority of his successor. Let me keep my fingers crossed that we get someone who understands the importance of animal welfare.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

My favourite Zen story is when a question is asked of a Zen monk

My favourite Zen story is when a question is asked of a Zen monk – ‘‘A house is on fire. What is the most important thing that you would save?’’ He replies – “I would save the fire.”

This story has stayed with me for 40 years teaching me to look deeper into what we consider valuable.

Let’s talk about the single tiniest living being on the planet – the bacterium, a tiny single cell being so small that millions live together and are collectively known as bacteria. A gram of soil contains about 40 million bacterial cells. A millilitre of fresh water usually holds about one million. Earth is estimated to hold at least 5 nonillion (54 zeros!).

A bacterium is a proper being. It can communicate, travel, multiply, generate energy, understand its environment. There are three types: ball shaped or cocci, rod shaped or bacilli, and spiral or spirilla. They are found everywhere – from your stomach to the Arctic ice and volcanoes, the bottom of the ocean to 30 miles up in the sky. Soil, plants, animals – all of us are walking mountains of bacteria.

Some of them are extremophiles, surviving in such toxic conditions or extremes of temperature where no other being can survive.

Bacteria are the first forms of life on this planet about 4 billion years ago. You are their descendants.

They were first attempted to be identified by Marcus Terentius Varro (Roman - 116 BC-27 BC) who suggested that disease may be caused by miniscule animals that floated in the air. They were finally identified by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (Dutch 1632-1723) who made microscopes, with which he saw what he called animacules in 1676 (to be called bacteria 162 years later). He is known as the father of microbiology. Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (German 1795-1876) introduced the term bacterium in 1838. Robert Koch (German 1843-1910) was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905 for proving diseases were caused by bacteria. Paul Ehrlich (German - 1854-1915) won the Nobel prize for pioneering the use of stains to detect them.

Bacteria feed themselves in a variety of ways. Some eat other organisms. Some absorb dead organic material, such as decomposing flesh. Some parasitic bacteria kill their host. Some make their own food out of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. In fact, these helped create the oxygen atmosphere of the earth. Some use water, and chemicals such as ammonia, sulphur, phosphorus, nitrogen, zinc, iron to produce their food. We call them nitrogen fixers. They are common in plant roots.

Aerobic bacteria grow only in the presence of oxygen. They can cause corrosion and bad smells. Anaerobic bacteria can only grow if there is no oxygen present. In humans, they are most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. They cause gangrene, tetanus, botulism and dental infections. Some grow with or without oxygen and are found in soil, water, vegetation, humans and animals. One example is salmonella. Human bacterial infections are mainly caused by mesophilic bacteria (like ecoli) - because our bodies are moderate (37 Celsius). Mesophiles thrive in moderate temperatures. The human intestine contains many beneficial mesophilic bacteria, such as dietary Lactobacillus acidophilus as well. Extremophiles thrive in conditions considered too extreme for most life forms - temperatures from 85 to 113 degrees Celsius, salt lakes, acidic or alkaline environments.

They multiply by dividing themselves, or by passing genes from one cell to another when they come in contact through a tube called pilus. Some bacteria move by gliding on surfaces. Others control their movement through internal gas bubbles. Some bacteria have tails and they rotate them like propellers going as fast as 0.00017 km per hour - the equivalent of a man running at 100 meters per second. E.coli can travel 25 times their own length in 1 second, equivalent to a horse running 215 km per hour.

When bacteria do not have enough resources to live they turn inactive. Spores can remain dormant for centuries. They are resistant to radiation, desiccation, starvation, chemicals and extremes of temperature. In 2007, biologists revived a 8-million-year-old bacterium from the Antarctic ice.

Most people react negatively to bacteria. But they create the air we breathe; the nitrogen in the soil that plants need. Friendly bacteria help the human body survive. Bacteria in the digestive system are crucial for the breakdown of nutrients, such as complex sugars, into forms the body can use. Friendly bacteria protect us from dangerous ones by occupying places in the body that disease causing bacteria want to occupy. Some friendly bacteria rescue us by attacking bad bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria have been used for the preparation of foods as cheese, soy sauce, vinegar, yoghurt and pickles and fermented foods for thousands of years. Bacteria can break down organic compounds at remarkable speed and help in waste processing. They are frequently used for cleaning up oil spills and clearing up toxic waste. Pharmaceutical and chemical industries use bacteria in the production of chemicals. Bacteria, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, can be used in agriculture instead of pesticides without the undesirable consequences of pesticides.

On the other hand some of the most deadly epidemics in human history have been caused by bacteria – Cholera, Diphtheria, Dysentery, Plague, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Typhus.

Here are some more odd facts:

1,458 new species of bacteria live in the bellybutton of human beings. Everyone’s bellybutton ecology is unique and one volunteer’s belly button harboured bacteria that had previously been found only in soil from Japan, where he had never been.

Bacteria only multiply – unlike humans - to the extent that there is food. The amount of bacteria on a pair of jeans reaches a maximum after 2 weeks of wear. You can wear them for the rest of your life without worrying about them getting any dirtier!

Human faeces is mostly bacteria that are both dead and alive.

Magnetospirillium magneticum has the ability to take in iron, convert it to magnetic magnetite, align it along its body, and travel using magnetic fields.

Millions of people don’t actually need to use deodorant (especially East Asians) because they have a gene that stops them from producing sweat that attracts body-odour-causing bacteria.

One teaspoon of the bacterium C. botulinum, properly distributed, could kill every human being in Asia.

The “smell” of rain on the earth is produced by bacteria.

Floating bacteria are effective at spurring condensation, leading to snow and rain. Some scientists propose spraying bacteria into the clouds to end droughts.

Deinococcus radiodurans can survive 10,000 times the dose of radiation lethal to humans, making it a prime candidate for the clean-up of nuclear waste.

Ralstonia metallidurans can turn dissolved gold into solid nuggets.

Some marine animals have specialized light organs which contain bioluminescent bacteria which turn on and off like a flashlight. The flashlight fish uses its light to communicate with other fish, attract prey and avoid predators. The bacteria benefit by receiving nutrients and oxygen from the fish's blood.

Bacteria signal to each other through chemicals produced. Through these signals, bacterial species know how many others of their kind exist and whether there is a “ quorum”. The bacteria change and coordinate their behaviour when a "quorum" is present.

Are humans beings the dominant life forms of the Earth, or are bacteria? The terrifying "thought control" talent of the Toxoplasma gondii protozoa is amazing. It infects rats and then alters their brains so that the rodents seek out their natural predator, cats. This is because T. gondii can only complete its reproductive cycle in feline intestines. The rats offer themselves to be eaten and the T. gondii parasites complete their lives. It also infects humans and I wonder how much of our activities come from its orders. After all, your body has 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

All Hindu mythology is intertwined with animals.

All Hindu mythology is intertwined with animals. Thousands of stories abound in all the texts, and the largest of wars is often due to a small insect being killed. Devdutt Pattanaik has put some of these stories into a book called Pashu.

Of these myriad stories that exist in all the 300 versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, in the Vedas and Puranas, here are some of my favourites. They carry lessons to live by:

The Pandava prince Arjuna saw an unusual creature in the forest. It had the head of a rooster, a peacock’s neck, a lion’s waist, the hump of a bull, a snake’s tail and various limbs of a tiger, deer, elephant and human. Arjuna raised his bow to kill it. Then he thought – just because a creature is unfamiliar, why suppose it is a monster? He lowered his bow and the creature raised its human hand in blessing. It was God himself, testing Arjuna’s wisdom and tolerance.

Tumburu, the Gandharva, was a great and vain musician. He and Narada competed for the title of best singer. They went to Vishnu to decide. Vishnu, mischievously, said that he thought Hanuman was a better singer than both. Insulted, they went in search of Hanuman and found him on a snow covered peak. Sing for us, they commanded and Hanuman’s low and beautiful voice caused the snow to melt. When he finished, the molten snow froze again. Not good enough, they said. Hanuman bowed his head humbly and left. When they got up to leave they found their feet sealed in the snow. They called to Vishnu in distress. If you are better than Hanuman, sing and melt the snow, he said. They did – with no impact. Finally, they conceded that Hanuman, who sang out of devotion and not to show off, was better.

Gandhari accidently stepped on the hundred eggs of an insect. Heartbroken, the mother insect cursed Gandhari that she would see her hundred children die before her eyes. The cries of animals are heard by the gods as clearly as those by humans and it takes one act like this to change a person’s life.

Mandavya, the hermit, was arrested by the king who had him impaled on a stick. His crime was that he had stolen goods in his hermitage – something he was unaware of. He died during torture and when he stood before Yama, the record keeper, he demanded to know the reason for this unjust punishment. Not unjust, said Yama, when you were a child you tortured birds and pinned them to the ground with sticks. The pain you caused animals has to be understood and paid for in the same way.

When Rama’s army was building the bridge across the sea to Lanka, a little squirrel carried grains of sand on its back in order to help the bridge come up faster. When the others laughed at his efforts, Rama picked him up, stroked him while thanking him and left the marks of his hands as stripes. No good deed is too small that it is not noticed.

King Yudhisthira held a great yagna and thousands of people were fed. A mongoose, with a half golden body, entered and lay on the ashes of the yagna fire saying, “If this is a true sacrifice, let my body become all golden.” It didn’t happen and the mongoose was sarcastic. The priests were curious and he explained “During a drought, a farmer had a few rice grains left for his family. A stranger – old, tired, hungry- knocked on the door. The farmer gave him the entire family’s food and he left, satisfied. The family died of starvation that night. I entered the house and rubbed my face on the plate and it turned golden. I have travelled the world looking for a sacrifice as great as the farmer’s so that the rest of my body would change. I have not found it till today.” The king realised that meaning of a sacrifice was more than mere ritual.

Gunakeshi , the daughter of Indra’s charioteer, Matali, fell in love with a Naga, Sumukha. He couldn’t marry her as Garuda, the eagle, had been promised one naga a day as his food so that he wouldn’t kill all of them together. It was Sumukha’s turn the next day. Matali begged Indra who went to Vishnu for help. Spare him, said Vishnu. Garuda refused – I will remain hungry, he said. Vishnu placed his hand on Garuda and the eagle found he could not flap his wings any more. He was pinned. Have compassion on me, he begged Vishnu. For that, you must show compassion to another - for that is how all life is sustained. Garuda let the Naga go.

(My absolute favourite) : The Pandavas and Draupadi, after ruling for 36 years, decided to climb the mountains and enter the home of the gods. “If we have lived virtuous lives, the Gods will let us enter”, said Yudhishthira. But as they walked one by one they fell down till only Yudhisthira and a dog, that had come unbidden with them, stood before the gates. “You can enter, not the dog,” said the Gods. “But, he has equal rights since he has come on the same arduous journey and has never faltered in his desire and diligence”, argued Yudhisthira. “The flesh may be different but the soul is the same. If he can’t come in, I will stay out as well.” The Gods smiled and blessed Yudhisthira. “The dog is Dharma and you have demonstrated your innate spirituality in recognizing that all creatures are the same.” They welcomed both in to Paradise.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Birds in tropical climates face predators.

Birds in tropical climates face predators- larger birds, mammals and snakes- who rob their nests, stealing eggs or killing chicks. In a study published in The American Naturalist, scientists report a novel nesting strategy adopted by a tropical lowland bird that inhabits an area with very high losses to nest predators. The newly hatched chicks of the Cinereous Mourner in Peru have downy feathers with white tipped long orange barbs. The nestling moves its head very slowly from side to side in a way typical of a poisonous caterpillar nearby with similar size and coloration as the nestling. The nestling tricks predators into thinking that it is a toxic, spiny caterpillar rather than an edible nestling. This remarkable adaptation decreases nest predation.

Even chickens exhibit intelligent behaviour within just a few hours of hatching. Newly born chicks are able to keep track of numbers up to five. When given a choice between two groups of plastic eggs they invariably choose the bigger one, even when the decision was between two eggs or three. And their mathematical ability does not end there. In a paper, The Intelligent Hen, spanning 20 years of research, Professor Nicol proves that the birds are born with an understanding of physics – and particularly structural engineering. This is demonstrated by experiments in which they showed more interest in a diagram of an object that could actually be built rather than one that defied the laws of physics. Experiments also showed that very young chicks understand that an object that moves out of sight still exists. It takes human babies two years to grasp the key concept that out of sight does not mean out of existence. Chicks also show basic empathy and can plan ahead and exhibit self-control until the time is right. For instance, birds quickly learnt that if they waited longer to start eating food, they would be allowed access to it for longer. Further evidence of hen intelligence comes from tests showing that at just two weeks’ old, they can navigate using the sun, something that requires the creatures to take account of the height and position of the sun during the day.

Even newborn ducklings, according to a study in Science journal, challenge our idea of what it means to be a birdbrain. Zoologists at the University of Oxford devised an experiment. 1-day-old ducklings were exposed to a pair of moving objects. The two objects were either the same or different in shape or colour. Then they exposed each duckling to two entirely new pairs of moving objects. The researchers found that about 70 percent of the ducklings they studied preferred to move toward the pair of objects that had the same shape or colour relationship as the first objects they saw. In other words, a duckling that was first shown two green spheres was more likely to move toward a pair of blue spheres than a mismatched pair of orange and violet spheres. Ducklings go through a rapid learning process, called imprinting, shortly after birth — it’s what allows them to identify and follow their mothers. These findings show that ducklings use abstract relationships between sensory inputs like colour, shape, sounds and smell to recognize their mothers – meaning that an animal baby can learn relationships between concepts without training.

When people want to direct the attention of others, they naturally do so by pointing their hands/fingers. Researchers, reporting in Current Biology, have shown that even baby elephants spontaneously, without any training, get the gist of human pointing and can use it as a cue for finding food. Elephants that were born or kept in captivity were the same as wild-born individuals when it came to following pointing gestures. Scientists say it is possible that elephants may do something akin to pointing as a means of communicating with each other, using their long trunk. Elephants do regularly make prominent trunk gestures and these motions may be "points."

Foals can get up and gallop in the first minute of life. Whale calves can instantly swim with their pod. Puppies understand social hierarchies within a few days of opening their eyes: “who’s moving up or down the social ladder, and who is sleeping with whom.”

What is animal intelligence? Life has taught me that the answers are irrelevant: it is the questions that are important. A new book called “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal argues that the mental powers of animals are far more complex than often generally assumed. Many scientists have been asking the wrong questions about animal intelligence, blaming the creature in the cage for poor test results when it’s the person in the lab coat who is flawed.

It’s a mistake to compare animal intelligence to that of humans instead of seeing it on its own terms, he writes. The Clark’s nutcracker, a bird, can remember exactly where it put many of the 20,000 pine nuts it buries each year — but people forget where they put their car keys all the time.

Young bees can solve complex mathematical problems which keep computers busy for days, researchers from the School of Biological Sciences, University of London have shown. The tiny insects are able to calculate the shortest possible route between flowers discovered in random order.

The classic puzzle involves finding the shortest route that allows a travelling salesman to call at all the locations he has to visit. Computers solve the problem by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the one that is shortest. Bees manage to reach the same solution. When researchers showed them a bunch of artificially controlled flowers, the foraging bees took one look at the place and were instantly able to figure out the shortest route between them After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the best route for saving time and energy.

The author says that chimpanzees might do better at cognition studies if somebody tickled them first, rather than scaring them by separating them from their parents. And the same applies to rats and fish. If you really wanted to know, signs of animal intelligence are all around you. When you eat and abuse an animal you are really eating someone as bright- if not brighter – than you. The only thing that makes the animal “stupider” is that it refuses to learn violence for violence’s sake – something that a human child is taught in its infancy by watching its parents be cruel to the rest of the world.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

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