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:
The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.
The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is a treasure for many people who visit it. It protects many wild species by providing their habitat.
During the interview, footage was shown of this incredibly spectacular land – tall cliffs covered in green forests rising up out of clear lakes.
I do absolutely completely understand that in trying to defend old growth forests from logging and other destruction, it is useful to appeal to concerns that are meaningful to most people. It is helpful to stress the importance that the forest has for human health – replenishing the earth’s oxygen – it is also much loved and enjoyed by visitors. It is the essential habitat for so many animals, and wild animals – really all of them – are quite endangered. The forest is useful, it is loved, it is rare now on the planet, and it is important to take care of it. Absolutely!
A missing element
But there is a missing element, which is a very key element. The forest – quite apart from its value to humans and other animal species – also has an intrinsic value all its own. Its value does not lie solely in its usefulness to human beings or in its beauty as perceived by humans. The forest is not just a thing. It is not an object – and this is true of the entire earth. The trees, the rivers, the cliffs, the lakes, the sagebrush, the moon and the sun overhead, the clouds, the birds – these are not just physical things. They have a spirit.
So, what is the point of actually saying this – of making sure that we mention it often, whenever possible? Of speaking up, without being intimidated or being afraid of being ridiculed? After all, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that people laugh. As long as we do not mention what we see as the truth, then we are ceding the most important point to the side that wishes to objectify the world of nature. We are tacitly agreeing that the natural world really only has value if it is beneficial to us as humans – or has value only by preserving habitat for wild animals so that we may go and visit them or at least watch them on film.
But ceding this point is not right. It is not correct.
Protecting the earth isn’t all about us as humans.
It is the objectification of the natural world by human beings – especially in modern times, and especially in the west (where this worldview originated) — that is the root cause and the justification for the destruction of the earth which is taking place all around us. It is our collective alienation from the natural world that gives some the excuse basically to kill nature. We’re not just talking about climate change – though it is that as well – it is also the very direct, immediate destruction through industrialization and pollution – drowning the earth and the sea in chemicals – and removing the sand that holds water that prevents drought.
A great many people, myself among them, feel that all the beings of the earth have a spirit and a spiritual dimension – not only the animals, but also all the trees and the plants, and even the rocks, the cliffs, and the oceans. They are not just physical things. This is not as odd a concept as it might seem. Virtually all tribal peoples and all ancient peoples saw the earth this way. It is only the modern world that differs from this age-old, traditional view. It is the modern world that is the outlier – and perhaps not coincidentally, it is the modern world that is dismantling all the life of the planet more rapidly than any society that has gone before us. So, are we modern people as wise as we think we are? Perhaps we are simply more decadent, and farther removed from the basic truths of existence.
An older, wiser view
It is well-known that Native Americans viewed all of nature as alive and as having a spirit. Among some of these stories and legends, known and not-so-well-known – the Abenaki nation of Maine see the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The Munsee of Delaware tell of great thunderbirds that cause storms and lightning. The Shoshone people of western states tell stories about the trickster coyote, and his elder brother, the wolf, who is a creator hero. The north wind, known as Winter or Biboon, is the spirit of winter for the northeast woodland tribes, like the Iroquois. The Paiutes of Utah have a story about a mountain sheep who became a star. In other words, all of creation is seen as alive and sentient. There is no sharp distinction between animals and rocks or lakes or other geological features – all are considered living beings. This appears to be true of all tribal people everywhere – from the Americas to the Pacific islands to the native peoples of Australia.
Furthermore, it is not only tribal people who see the world in this way – virtually every early civilization and every civilization which still has some connection with its roots also recognize a spiritual dimension as belonging to the earth and to every aspect of nature – from the ancient Egyptian, and on into modern times – to the Chinese and Japanese, just to mention a few.
The most striking example is the complex, intricate beliefs of Hinduism, which go back perhaps 10,000 years and which, even today are as alive as ever. The moon, the sun, and the wind are among the millions of gods. Every major Hindu god has an animal vahana or vehicle. The rivers are goddesses and the mountains, generally, are gods. All things have life. And, as is stated in the earliest writings, all the gods and all that exists are ultimately part of one God, Brahman. A deep reverence for nature is intertwined with the Hindu worldview.
In March of 2017, The Guardian reported that a court in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand had accorded the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers the status of personhood, citing as precedent the declaration by the New Zealand government of the Whanganui River, long revered by the Maori people, as a living entity. This modern legal recognition of the personhood of rivers is in accordance with the perception of many people all over the world, today, as always in the past.
It is exclusively a modern, western viewpoint to assume that the world of nature is composed of objects or things – that rocks, rivers, mountains have no spiritual nature, and even in the western world, this may be a minority view. Many everyday people acknowledge the spiritual nature of the living world around us. Sadly, it is those who seek to exploit the natural world that talk about it as inanimate, lifeless, insentient – and existing only as “natural resources” to be gobbled up by mining, oil and gas, fracking, and every form of destruction and desecration.
For those of us for whom the earth and all the beings of the earth, have an intrinsic value, a profound beauty in and of themselves – the more we say this clearly, the more accessible that view will be to more people – and the more we all will be able to see plainly that the Tongass Forest, for example, is far from being just a resource to be devoured by humans. It is a living entity filled with spirits and presences, and astonishing beauty, which as humans we can only begin to see and appreciate.
Among environmentalists, all perspectives that value the earth are very much needed – scientific facts, legal arguments, and also views that take into account the benefits to humanity. Our lives and happiness do indeed depend on the natural world.
Still, the many millions, billions, of us across the planet, who see the natural world and the earth as spirit, as well as physical, should not be afraid to say so. As is so often quoted, “We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.” The earth is Mother Earth and is a living being – far older, greater, and more worthy of reverence than the human race could ever be.
Standing up for the essential life-essence of the earth is a missing key in the fight to protect and preserve our fast-vanishing planet. We who see the earth, and all of nature, as spectacularly alive with an intrinsic beauty and validity must speak up and not be silent.
It is our alienation, as humans, from the natural world that leads to its destruction, and it is our re-connection with the earth that can hold the prospect of some help for all the myriads of beautiful, majestic, innocent beings with whom we share the planet. So, we must see clearly, and speak bravely.