Wishing everyone a happy and stress-free day! May we take a moment to be grateful and count the blessings in our lives! May we remember to be kind and to focus our thoughts on light and blessings for the earth and for all her creatures. May all the animals be blessed with peace and well-being, as well as all the plants, the trees, and all the features of the earth – the rivers, the oceans, the forests, the deserts, the rocks, the mountains, and the clouds in the sky. All are expressions of the life of the universe — not inanimate objects, but expressions of cosmic awareness and transcendent beauty, which we too are a part of.
Well, I can hear you thinking – What a silly question, of course, wildlife are important! They are sentient beings, beautiful animals that have feelings. Of course, they are important.
Most kind people who care about animals would reply this way. As for those who genuinely do not care, we lost them when they saw the title. So, this is for those who do care.
But let’s pause for a moment. Many of us, especially at the moment, are quite overwhelmed. If we are fortunate enough to have a relatively secure situation in life – if we have a job, if we are not lining up for a food bank, if we are not in a state of crisis – we may still either be afraid for the future or in a state of distress at the suffering of our fellow human beings. To some extent this is not new – it is worse now, but it is not new. Life has always had difficult times – for those who have a sick child, or elderly parents, or who are sick themselves – or who are struggling in any of many, many ways. And yes, absolutely, if we have a sick child, the child must come first, and we need to care for the child – or whoever else we may need to care for.
Even in the best of times, many of us are just busy – really busy. We rush here. We rush there, and if we stop rushing, things fall behind and do not get done. So to stay on top of our situation, we need to take care of those immediate, insistent things that require our attention. No one is saying that we shouldn’t do this.
Some of us, perhaps most of us though, do have a little bit of leeway – there are the couple of hours in the evening we spend in front of the TV. There is some time here and some time there. There are days, weeks, months when there is no crisis – when we do have some time.
And what are our priorities? In the past few years, statistically speaking, our priorities have been health care, national security, the economy, maybe climate change, social and racial justice – or stability, depending on how we look at the world. If we are asked if we care about wildlife, we say, yes, of course. But really, that’s not at the top of our list. Overwhelmingly, our concerns are human concerns. We care about ourselves and other people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with caring about other people. It’s a wonderful quality to have. It is essential. There is really in our country a state of vast social and racial injustice, and it is fundamentally important – and this moment in time is, we trust, a profound turning point for change.
But, then where are we with wildlife? We care about dogs, cats – sometimes we care about horses, or even elephants and tigers. Somewhere, somehow, the little songbirds, the dragonflies, the coyotes, the squirrels, and the bobcats just do not quite register in our consciousness. And their habitat – without which they cannot survive – even less.
Let me give a couple of examples based on real, factual situations. When there is a water shortage due to lack of rain, and there is a stream – a little stream – and a coal company wants to pollute the waters of the stream just a little bit more than it already does – first, when it appears that this might affect the town’s drinking water, there is huge concern – then, when it is understood, that, no, nobody is talking about drinking water, this would only affect the water way upstream, and any tiny bit of pollution would just be washed away naturally by the rain (forgetting conveniently that there is no rain), without affecting the water downstream (which doesn’t make sense, but nevermind), then, amazingly all concern vanishes – and the same people who were alarmed about their own drinking water, somehow can no long find the time to be interested in this situation. What about the deer, the ring-tailed cats, the badgers, the songbirds who also need to drink? Somehow, they are just not anywhere near the top of our list. They may take our attention for a moment, just a moment – then they are gone from our thoughts.
And what about climate change? For many of us this means our own clean air, our own clean water – it means kids not having asthma (which is absolutely important) – it means developing clean energy so that, whatever the future may bring, we will be able to drive our cars, heat and cool our homes, and live decent, comfortable lives. Yes, these things are important. We’re used to them and we would get frazzled (myself included!) if it were freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. Really, are we giving a single thought to the plight of the birds for whom breathing adequately is even more necessary than it is for us? Have we noticed species after species of songbirds greatly diminished in numbers or gone altogether? Have we noticed that, without rain, there are no butterflies at all? And so few insects that insect-eating birds have nothing to eat? The answer is – no, we haven’t noticed. It’s not because we don’t care. If someone told us, we would care. We just literally haven’t noticed. For the vast majority of us, we simply do not see wildlife. Wildlife just do not appear on our radar screen.
So why does this matter? What difference does it make? And, yes, we don’t want to see wildlife suffer, but really we can’t spend our whole lives worrying about bobcats, let alone butterflies.
Why are wildlife important?
But there is one extremely relevant reason why wildlife are important – not just for their own sake, but for our sake as well – and this is the reason: Wildlife are the children of the earth. They are part of the earth. They may be invisible to us, but they are an essential part of the universe. As children of the earth, they, in a truly meaningful way, are life itself. Yes, we are all children of the earth – but to us as humans this is mostly an abstraction – a truth to be remembered only occasionally, if at all. But a wild being – a deer, a wolf, an eagle – is the earth – is part of the fabric of life. And when we deny life, deny nature, deny existence, and deny the universe, then we will soon be in trouble, just as we are now. When we alienate ourselves from the natural world – to the extreme extent that we no longer even think about the natural world, not even in passing, then we have climbed to the end of the tree branch, and we are about to saw off the branch on which we are sitting, thereby sending ourselves plummeting down to injury and death – and that is precisely where we are now. We have alienated ourselves from life.
The consequence of we, as the human race, alienating ourselves from life is this: We have become parasites – unthinking, unconscious parasites who are destroying life, and nature – maybe not intentionally, but sometimes just accidentally – unaware, unconcerned. And the only solution that will make the slightest difference, ultimately, is not the Paris climate accords, or the Clean Air Act or clean energy or any number of government meetings and agreements (which are not happening much, but even if they were, they would not reach the root of the problem). The root of the problem is our disassociation, our alienation from nature. This concept is woven into the fabric of western civilization – which is a topic for another time. But this is killing us. Alienation from nature is killing the source of our lives – the earth herself – who we, without even paying attention, have thoughtlessly and unconsciously – abandoned, neglected, ignored, and then slaughtered and destroyed. When we kill the earth, we kill ourselves.
The first thing we can do – is un-alienate ourselves. This may not save the planet. It is quite late for that and, until we can engage others, we are, by ourselves, just one person. Yet still we must start somewhere. We must shine a small light into the darkness. Not by feeling bad – feeling bad accomplishes nothing, but instead by re-connecting with nature. Just simply doing that.
Take a walk in the woods. If there are no woods because you are in a city, then go to a park, sit by a tree. No trees? Then go to a flower shop and smell the flowers. If nothing else, then watch the clouds overhead – watch the sunlight or the rain. Watch a pigeon fly through the air. Be thankful, be grateful, and acknowledge the reality that you and I are not superior beings at all. We are at one with the natural world, with the earth – and this will be a step. The first thing this will do is put us in touch, just a little bit, with the peace of the universe. And the second thing it will do, is create a little wave in the ether – a little life-giving wave that will help someone somewhere – another being – a fish in a river, a tree in a park, another human being – and by becoming part of the resurrection of life – we will have played some small part in renewing the earth – if not in this age, then in the age that is to come – building a bit of a bridge to a world of light.
I know this seems simplistic, and it is not a remedy meant for everyone – if it were, we would all already be doing this, and there would be no problem. But if we are to some extent, in touch with real reality, then this will not be incomprehensible to us. We will remember sometime in our life when we felt in contact with the earth, with a tree or a bird or a sunset, and we will understand that this is the point where we must begin – to be at one, once again, with the web of life that is the earth – that is our life and the life of the universe.
So far, the history of the human race on this planet has not been a happy story.
In recent days, something surprising has happened. We have all seen the photos of clear skies and waterways. Towns near the Himalayas can now see the face of these mountains for the first time. In Los Angeles and New Delhi the pollution has lifted, and it’s possible to see clearly. In Venice, in unclouded waters, fish can be seen swimming.
Leatherback turtles, almost gone in recent years from the world’s beaches, are now returning to nest on beaches in Florida and Thailand.
With an absence of humans who are mostly on lockdown because of the coronavirus, the world of nature is experiencing a spell of relief.
An overbearing presence
In a May 21, 2018 article in the Guardian, the Environmental Editor, Daminan Carrington, wrote, “Of all the mammals on Earth, 96% are livestock and humans, only 4% are wild mammals.”
The presence of humans on the planet is overbearing and has been catastrophic for the other creatures of the earth – both animals and plants. We have occupied the whole earth and are squeezing everything else out of the way.
Really, the universe would not mind if we, as humans, took a little something for ourselves – some food to eat, and some shelter. But that is not what we do – instead we dominate all of life – driving much of earth’s life completely out of existence all together. As human beings, we take far more than our fair share. We are, as most of us now realize, destroying the planet.
Let’s look at our current world situation. The human race is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists come to different views as to the possible origins of this disease. Did it come from wildlife markets or from an accident in a lab where experiments where being carried out on bats? Or maybe from huge pig farms? What does seem clear is that the disease came originally from animals and was then transferred to humans.
So, some people have blamed animals; there have even been a number of bats killed by irrational humans. Yet, the problem, of course, does not lie with the bats, but rather with the disruption and disturbance of nature caused by human beings. Everywhere on earth, the world of nature is under extreme stress caused by human beings. It is not surprising that diseases emerge in such a situation – and then are carried, again by human beings, all across the globe.
Those who are brave
As we know, in countless countries, there are many very brave and self-sacrificing human beings who risk their lives daily, both in their jobs in service industries, and, especially those in the medical profession, to care for those who are sick, who confront first-hand the tragedy of so many ill and dying people.
There is no doubt that many courageous and kind individuals have arisen in this crisis to act nobly, to put the interests of others above themselves.
Individuals can and do act with great courage and kindness, and they are heroes. However, though we do not wish to see it, there is a darker side to the human story – and that is the way we as a species behave towards our fellow beings of other species on this planet.
Where do we look for help?
There is no doubt that this pandemic was caused by cruelty to animals – whether it was cruelty to bats or other animals in markets or laboratories, or perhaps cruelty on giant industrial pig farms – it is in the horrible conditions in these places that the virus arose and was transmitted to humans.
Cities, hospitals, nursing homes, even rural areas are overwhelmed with this disease that is suddenly upon us. Where does our attention go in this crisis? Where do we look for an answer, a resolution, something that will alleviate all this suffering?
Understandably, we look for a cure, or for prevention – especially for a vaccine – a vaccine that will put an end to human suffering.
Nearly every doctor and every anchor we see on TV speculates on when, where, and how a vaccine may be created. All express hope that this will be soon and that this vaccine will put an end to the enormous death toll and suffering that is being experienced all over the world. Doctors and researchers devote their careers – and billionaires spend their fortunes – to find this elusive vaccine.
The unmentionable reality
But how is a vaccine developed? A vaccine is developed first by testing on animals, and then as a later step by testing on human beings. In the U.S., the FDA requires that animal testing be carried out when developing new drugs or a vaccine, and that animal testing precede testing on humans. Most countries have similar laws. The reasoning behind this is that, in case a potential vaccine is dangerous, this will be discovered while it is being tested on animals, and only a vaccine that is believed to be safe will then be tested on humans.
The underlying rationale for this is that human beings are worth more than animals, and the suffering and death of animals does not matter in comparison to harm that might be caused to human beings.
Apparently, most human beings do not question this reasoning. Yet animals in laboratories suffer far more than do humans who volunteer for testing.
Animals are deprived of their freedom and their lives in their natural habitats; they are usually killed to obtain the results of the experiments, and they suffer greatly, unlike human beings who are given only an already tested product, believed to be harmless. A little imagination will suffice to see that this is true, even for those who have read very little about animal experiments.
Make no mistake, every authority on television, talking about a vaccine, who mentions “animal models” or who talks about getting ready to do “testing on humans” is acknowledging that large-scale testing is already being carried out on animals.
On CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church, on April 28, Dr. Fauchi mentioned testing being done on rhesus monkeys.
In short, what are we doing really? We are subjecting innocent animals – mice, monkeys and other animals who should be free to live out their lives – to extreme suffering and death because we, as a species, feel that we are much more important, more significant, and more worthy of protection from pain.
We sacrifice the innocent lives of beings who have no power to defend themselves or to understand what is happening or why.
In this way, once again, we are exploiting the world of nature, as if we had a right to do that – causing pain to all those beings who we feel are less than ourselves. And this is just a further step in the very, very long destruction and desecration of the earth and her children by the human race.
This is not the right road to be on, and it will lead not only to the destruction of the earth and all creatures, but also to the destruction of ourselves as well.
Yet blame will not help. It is not for us to blame others, those who work towards a vaccine, who are doing their best, in an imperfect world, to follow what our society of today deems to be right and correct. We are all, in one way or another, following the norms of society. That is what we do as human beings. But we do need to find a different path.
How do we see nature?
This is not written to change anyone’s view, which is not likely to happen. Most human beings really do believe that we are superior to animals – and that it is far more important to protect human beings than it is actually to consider the fate, the feelings, or the experiences of animals. And so, we hide the truth from ourselves – we minimize reality — saying to ourselves that animals in labs don’t suffer, that of course they are well treated, that they are lesser creatures and so don’t really feel pain. We close our eyes. As a society, we choose to ignore and not recognize the reality of pain, suffering, and death that is experienced by beings who cannot speak for themselves – and who have absolutely nothing at all to do with causing a disease that is contracted by humans.
And we go on, as we always have, subjecting and abusing the creatures of the earth, the world of nature, and all the species who live on the earth – all the individuals who ought to be left free to live out their own lives in peace.
Although most may agree that animals should be sacrificed for humans, not everyone agrees. There are those who definitely do not agree. That false view is not built into the nature of human beings, and it has not always been there.
For some people, myself included, it makes no sense at all to sacrifice innocent animals and to cause them pain and suffering. We need to look for another way to heal ourselves. As humans we have been on the earth for something like 200,000 or 300,000 years, and it is only in the last few centuries that we have turned to experimenting on animals.
Where to look for an answer?
Not all human beings have always seen nature in this upside-down, mistaken way. If we look to the traditions and beliefs of the earlier societies on the earth, we see that they did not make a distinction between the lives of animals and the lives of humans. We can see this still today in the traditions of some countries. In India, for example, in the concept of ahimsa – a word that means, “Do no harm.” Ahimsa is an ancient philosophy which honors the essential oneness of all existence. Many peoples in many countries – indigenous and tribal peoples, island peoples, hill peoples – often those left behind by the pervasive modern worldview – do still feel an affinity with animals and nature. Also, just regular people on every continent who love animals – whose hearts have not been turned astray and taught a strange modern worldview – often do simply care about animals as conscious, sentient beings whose lives have an intrinsic value. There is no need for us to continue down a mistaken path – of cruelty, of indifference, of blindness.
Whether we are talking about developing a vaccine or about renewing the earth so it can once again become a planet habitable by wild creatures and humans alike – we, as a race, need to go back to seeing ourselves as part of nature – as one with the earth and all her children. Only in that way can we and the earth return to a pathway of light and justice.
That will be a beginning – setting out on a path of kindness – and from there we can find a way toward solutions and ways of being that benefit all of life – ourselves included.
We will never be able to save ourselves through cruelty. We need to leave behind a worldview that mistakenly places ourselves above all other living beings – because that view is neither correct, nor just. That worldview leads only to death, not life.
Instead, we can turn back from the wrong road we are on and once again walk on a road that is a path of beauty, of truth, of kindness, of respect for all that lives.
We need to learn again to see all life as connected, as one, as worthy of protection and caring. Only that worldview will lead us along a life-giving course.
With us or without us, one day the earth will be released from oppression and renewed – if not in this age, then in an age to come.
This is a message from CHAL-USA, a U.S. based organization that helps organizations in India. It is about the street dogs in India who are going hungry during the current lockdown, while the kind people who usually feed them are required to stay inside.
Hope you and your family are well and safe. In these trying times around the world, our hearts go out to people fighting to stay healthy, struggling to get by and facing so much insecurity in the near future.
In India, as in many countries with considerable stray animal populations, this crisis has indirectly manifested itself as a deadly killer of helpless and confused animals. Tens of thousands of street animals have lost their only source of food – the people who are forced to stay inside their homes in the ongoing lockdown.
Our partner organization in Chennai, Blue Cross of India, Chennai has stepped up big time during this pandemic.
Please, please give generously and help us save these innocent souls. It is heart wrenching to see the scenes of hungry stray animals and abandonment of pets by misinformed people in the sweltering, unforgiving streets.
At the same time, the best of humanity comes out every day in the form of good-samaritans, angels and organizations like BCI toiling day and night to prepare meals, deliver across all zones while observing safety measures and obtaining the required paperwork to be out despite the lockdown.
Let’s dig deep in our pockets and help our fellow animals and the people making it all possible!
Costs and how to donate:
On a given day, it is costing Blue Cross of India an average of $500 for the food, transport charges and protective gear for volunteers (not taking into account the budget for creating a disinfectant chamber on-premise and loss of regular income and freeze of corporate donations).
Procuring vast amounts of food has been a huge challenge and BCI has been moving mountains to make it happen! CHAL has sent two emergency grants to date within the last month and a third one is in the works to assist with the extended lockdown period. But we alone are unable to fund the vast amounts needed and desperately seek your assistance.
Donors in the US can give tax-deductible donations on the CHAL website at and mark (add a note) your donation as COVID-19 for BCI:
The CHAL team on behalf of Blue Cross of India, Chennai
Here’s the report from Blue Cross of India on their work and typical daily routine during this period:
80,000 plus – that’s the number of street dogs in Chennai by the most conservative of estimates, some like Wikipedia put this number at 185,000. But there is no debate on how they have been affected by the shut down …They are confused and they are starving.
The lockdown has been disproportionately harsh on them as humans have retreated and restaurants, roadside eateries and tea shops have shut, leaving the streeties no option but to scavenge their last refuge – the quintessential garbage bins of Chennai. With people hibernating, even the garbage bins were no longer abundant.
Starving, confused, restless and moving outside their usual territories searching for food and water, competition intense for the limited food sources, fighting and cowering, it is a cocktail of primal fear and basic instinct – a struggle for survival.
Blue Cross of India – for 56 years the voice for the voiceless – a household name in Chennai, amongst the oldest and arguably the largest and most well known animal welfare organisation in the country stepped in to reverse the tide the very next day of the lockdown. Our day now starts the previous day – with processed food in short supply, our kitchen now runs continuously to cook as many batches of meals as possible, load up and leave early to feed the street animals. The sweltering heat does not help either. Short of manpower, and running to full capacity, we are now seeking help from leading hotels in Chennai to help us increase cooking capacity to feed more and more everyday.
This back-end team has creatively mobilised grains and ingredients and arranged in-house and outside cooking, thus reducing the dependence on things not in our control – the presently gridlocked supply chain of processed animal foods.
In The Trenches:
The bravehearts of our out-door team drive to and walk the streets of Chennai not only feeding but also distributing food to community feeders. Our own team of feeders that include volunteers like Neelagandan (featured in this news article) go into non-residential areas like the marina, industrial estates and gated office complexes while other teams fan out to distribute to a network of community feeders (what we now call ‘the last mile’) who have been enlisted primarily from our volunteer pool and expanded to different corners of Chennai through community engagement. All this in a matter of a few days since the lockdown came into effect.
We are now “all hands on deck” with every available resource going into dealing with this emergency. All this while still continuing to rescue seriously distressed animals, providing medical care for hundreds of in-patient animals and keeping the over 2,000 animals in our three locations fed and cared for..
The use of our cash reserves and resources towards the un-budgeted street feeding program combined with reduced personnel has severely impacted us. On top of this the lockdown necessitated the complete stoppage of ‘Out Patient’ consultation and the ABC programmes that were providing a steady stream of donations.
The combined result of all these has quickly eroded up the limited reserves in BCI and severely impacted our working capital for running the shelter in the medium to long term.
Why should you donate to us when there are so many others asking?
Short answer – because of how efficiently your money would be put to work for basic sustenance of street animals.
Long answer –
A. Because we are creative and frugal in how we are feeding the street animals, not depending on easy solutions like processed food that are more expensive and scarce.
B. Because much of our work is done by a group of professionals who donate their time and effort on a purely voluntary basis to ensure donations are not eroded by administrative expenses.
C. Because the Blue Cross of India is the only animal welfare organisation which has been audited by GuideStar and awarded the GuideStar Platinum level certification for transparency.
D. And last but not least, Ketto has recognised this and waived the entire fee for this fundraiser so every rupee will reach where it counts for the most.
So, how will we use your donation?
-Buy needed grains and ingredients for cooking more meals in our kitchen and in hotels that have opened their kitchens for this noble cause.
(Presently 200 kgs of grains and ingredients are being cooked into meals for over 1500 animals everyday)
-Buy animal feed for the over 1200 animals in our shelter.
-Place orders for at least 10 tons processed animal food so we can further expand feeding activities without cooking capacity limitations.
-Place orders for feed for abandoned cattle and horses that now scavenge on the deserted streets
-Buy Fuel and Supplies for running our ambulances and our contact-less food delivery vehicles and to ‘last mile’ feeders in Chennai
-Buy medical supplies for our rescued animals
-Care for, foster and eventually rehome scores of pets abandoned due to baseless fear mongering during the pandemic.
-Buy and Install a disinfection walk-through chamber at the Blue Cross to sustain through this situation without a shutdown
-Last but not the least buy masks, gloves, hand sanitisers for our outdoor staff and volunteers who brave all odds to rescue and feed animals in distress
Do check out our work during the lockdown and what’s happening in Chennai now:
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to all of you!
May the coming year bring greater peace, protection, and abundant blessings to the world of nature and the whole earth – to all peoples, to all the animals, the trees and plants, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, the forests, and to all wild lands. May they all be blessed.