A grisly discovery prompts a fifty-year campaign, part one

Captain Sundaram

By Sharon St Joan


This is one of a series of stories about the early days of the animal welfare movement in India.


In 1963, in the earliest days of the modern Indian animal welfare movement, Captain Sundaram, Founder of the group that was about to become registered, in 1964, as Blue Cross of India, received a disturbing phone call.

Dr. Nurgesh Ganapathy, the resident medical officer of Kilpauk Medical College, in Madras, called to ask if Blue Cross was aware of the nature of the animal experiments being carried out at the center. She also asked just what exactly they were planning to do about them.

As the resident medical officer, she was second in charge. Clearly, this was of grave concern to her; she felt could no longer remain silent about the circumstances of the animals and chose to come forward as a whistle-blower, regardless of consequences.

As soon as he got off the phone with Dr. Ganapathy, Captain Sundaram telephoned the Inspector General of Police for the State of Tamil Nadu, F.V. Arul; explaining that Blue Cross intended to investigate the animal experiments at the medical college and requesting police protection in case there was a confrontation with the hospital staff. In response, F.V. Arul contacted the local police in Madras and told them to provide a police escort to Blue Cross.

Blue Cross today; Resident Manager, Dawn Williams with a rescued calf.

The local Madras police chief called the Dean of the College to advise him that Blue Cross would be conducting an investigation, accompanied by the police.

At around 10 or 10:30 in the morning, the next day, when it was already quite hot – this was in late spring or early summer – Captain Sundaram, his son nineteen year old son Chinny Krishna, Mr. D. Daivasigamoni who was a Blue Cross Board member, and a police officer, arrived outside the doors of the Medical College.

After some hesitation and delay, they were let into the building. The police officer insisted that they be allowed to see everything. Because the college was a government facility, they were not permitted to take photos.

The Dean of the College showed them around, with Dr. Ganapathy joining them later.

A shocking, ghastly scene awaited them. There were about 40 dogs, all dead, some partly burned. Gruesome experiments had been performed on them, mostly the grafting on of heads, including puppies’ heads grafted on to the bodies of adult dogs – and some dogs with two heads.

It was obvious that, when the college had been alerted about the impending investigation, they had killed any surviving dogs and had begun burning the remains to cover up the evidence. They had not had time to finish their task or to dispose of the bodies.

The Dean, who seemed embarrassed and ill at ease as he gave them a tour, insisted that these were all quite routine experiments, necessary so that medical students could acquire surgical skills.

There were also mice and rabbits present, still alive, used for other experiments.

Earlier, around ’62, Blue Cross had become aware that some experiments with cats were being performed at the college. It was a common practice for gypsies to kidnap cats and sell them to labs. (The term “gypsy” in India is used to refer to various transient groups who make a profit by abusing or exploit animals.)

Though they had been forewarned about the experiments on dogs, they had not been expecting to see anything like the horrible scene that they encountered. They could not prosecute the medical college because the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1960, specifically exempted scientific experiments on lab animals.

The medical college was not off the hook though, because the tide of public opinion had begun to turn.


The Blue Cross investigation had a long-term significant impact. Although the medical college continued to use lab animals, there was no more grafting of heads onto dogs.

The gruesome discovery made that day led directly to a decades-long program, still ongoing, by Blue Cross and others, to control and cut down the use of lab animals in India. It has proceeded slowly, sometimes inching forward, but it has never halted. India is among those countries leading the world in terms of progress to reduce animal research.

For the rest of his life, Captain Sundaram spoke abut this incident, whenever possible, to let people know about the horrors of animal experimentation. Following in his footsteps, his son, Dr. Chinny Krishna, first as Chairperson of Blue Cross, and later as Vice-Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India, and through his positions in other animal organizations, has worked non-stop to end animal experimentation, along with a great many others in India. They have achieved notable successes along the way.

To be continued in part two

Top photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross / Captain Sundaram, in the early days of Blue Cross.

Second photo: Sharon St Joan / Dawn Williams, Resident Manager of Blue Cross, with a rescued calf.

India: A grim reality — and a big victory in the fight to free animals from laboratories, part two



Continued from part one…

To read part one first, click here.


A wave of support


With Humane Society International (HSI) spearheading the campaign Be Cruelty Free, many groups and individuals joined the effort to ban cosmetics testing on animals, including Maneka Gandhi, Blue Cross of India, the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), and a host of others, including celebrities and politicians.


On May 3, 2012, a human-sized mouse, holding a pink heart with the words, “Ban Cosmetic Testing on Animals” met, as part of a delegation of animal protection groups, with Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, Ministry of Environment and Forests, to thank the minister for making India the first country in the world to ban the use of  research on live animals in education and to ask her support for the cosmetics testing ban.


Dr. Chinny Krishna, member of the CPCSEA, wrote a letter, on behalf of HSI, CPREEC, and Blue Cross, to three ministries, including the Bureau of Indian Standards, which falls under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, presenting the case against animal cosmetics testing on the grounds that it is both cruel and entirely unnecessary.


Many thousands of people signed petitions and wrote letters to both the Bureau of Indian Standards and to the Drug Controller of India. Ms. Alokparna Sengupta, the HSI Campaign Manager for Be Cruelty Free, also served as a member of the Bureau of Indian Standards.



In November of 2012, HSI, CPREEC, and Blue Cross held a conference in Chennai, where Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), spoke out passionately against cosmetics testing on animals.


In the early weeks of December, on behalf of HSI, Dr. Chinny Krishna, drafted a suggested amendment to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, for a meeting that Maneka Gandhi was about to have with the Drug Controller General of India.


During December, the initiative to ban cosmetics testing picked up significant parliamentarian support. Legislators Ms. Debasree Roy, a well-known actress from West Bengal, and Shri Ramalinga Reddy, from Karnataka, wrote letters to the relevant ministries in support of the ban.


In January, a press conference was held in Kolkata, hosted jointly by HSI and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). Ms. Debasree Roy, attired as a white rabbit, spoke eloquently on the need to spare animals from any further suffering in cosmetics testing.


In the spring of 2013, at least ten elected representatives took part in HSI’s Be Cruelty Free campaign.  MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, from Odisha, called for the end of cosmetics testing on animals as soon as possible, lending his support to the use of alternative testing methods, now readily available, which are both cheap and effective. MP Suresh Kumar Shetkar, from Andhra Pradesh, made a similar appeal for the ending of archaic cosmetics testing on animals.



At the beginning of the year, Israel had banned the import of cosmetics tested on animals, following an earlier ban on conducting such testing within Israel.  In March, the EU followed suit with a similar ban, having also earlier banned cosmetics testing on animals within the EU.  Throughout 2012, HSI conducted a sustained, dynamic, global campaign with initiatives in the U.S., Brazil, Australia, South Korea, and other countries.




On June 28, 2013, the Bureau of Indian Standards modified the rules of the Drug Control Act, eliminating animal testing for cosmetics and requiring non-animal testing instead. At last, the use of animals in India for cosmetics testing was banned.


The wording of the ban was supported by Dr. Chinny Krishna, member of CPCSEA, Mrs. Norma Alvarez, Chairperson of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and member of CPCSEA, and by leading Indian toxicology scientists and many Indian citizens.  In her role as HSI Campaign Manager, Ms. Alokparna Sengupta had provided the driving force behind the successful campaign.


With this major milestone, many thousands of animals have been spared suffering, mostly small animals; rabbits, mice, and guinea pigs.  Up until this time, companies had still been conducting testing.  In many cases, these were unnecessary, repetitive experiments, re-testing ingredients that had already been tested previously, for the sole purpose of being sure that companies could not be held liable in law suits. Now this kind of testing can no longer be done in India.


It is still possible to buy cosmetic products in India that have been tested on animals in other countries, but this ban is a huge leap forward in the struggle to ban all animal testing in India.  Like so many of India’s very enlightened animal laws, this establishes a model for the rest of the world to follow.


Dr. Chinny Krishna said, “With this ban now in effect, people using cosmetics that are made in India can be assured that these products were produced without any cruelty to animals.”


Thanks to all who played a role in this groundbreaking legislation. May the time soon come when no animals anywhere will be used in laboratories.


Top photo: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/0400_0499/pantheon/vahanas/vahanas.html /
Author Ravi Varna Studio  / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired. This file may not be in the public domain outside India. The creator and year of publication are essential information and must be provided.” / “Ganesh sits affectionately with his vahana, Mushika [a mouse] (carved and painted ivory plaque, later 1900’s).” 


Second photo: 

Attribution: Larry D. Moore / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Wikimedia Commons / A cottontail in the wild in Montana.


Third photo:

Author: Peter Maas / / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.” / Wikimedia Commons / A Syrian hamster filling his cheek pouches with Dandelion leaves.