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.

1978 – Rhesus Monkeys – stopping their export for research



By Sharon St Joan


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


In March 1978, the Illustrated Weekly of India published an article by Nanditha Krishna, “Slaughter for Science,” about laboratory experiments on animals that were being carried out in India.


Nanditha Krishna had gained access to the King Laboratory in Chennai simply by calling them up, explaining that she was working on an article about animal research in laboratories, and asking if she might come by to learn more about the scientific work they were doing. She spent a couple of days at the laboratory. She expressed interest in their work, and they were cordial.


The article she wrote contained real and graphic examples of research on animals, from King laboratory and many other sources, as well as statements by medical authorities.


It began with Dr. Krishna’s own experience as a schoolgirl in which their class performed dissection on frogs who had been ineffectively euthanized with chloroform, so the experiment was cruel. She described it as being an unnecessary and useless waste of life.


Professor Lawson Tait, one of the ablest of British surgeons was quoted as saying, “I do not believe that vivisection has helped the surgeon one bit, but I know that it has often led him astray.”


A law in 1876 had been enacted to regulate the use of vivisection in Britain; this, in effect, meant that the law allowed it to continue to take place. Dr. Krishna also pointed out, on a positive note, that Britain was the first nation in which organized groups fought against cruelty to animals.


India continued the British tradition of performing animal experiments. In 1953, a Bill for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was introduced into the Indian Parliament by Rukmini Devi Arundale, an early animal advocate who used her fame as an Indian classical dancer to promote the cause of animal welfare. A committee was then set up to control and supervise experiments. The committee, however, in the beginning, was made up almost entirely of the heads of laboratories that experimented on animals, so, in practice, it did nothing except to reassure the public that these experiments were necessary for the advance of scientific knowledge.


Dr. Krishna wrote, “The majority of experiments, particularly those done in India, are repetitious and serve no purpose.” She then outlined a number of experiments performed with excessive cruelty, which were unnecessary and repetitious.


Without going into the graphic details of these experiments, the first mentioned was an experiment on fifteen dogs to study the effects of blood loss; the results of this experiment had already been discovered earlier by another vivisector, Mr. Morowitz. Dr. Krishna pointed out that one could easily reach the same conclusion by visiting the casualty ward of any hospital.


Six healthy male buffalo calves were exposed to another similar experiment, with similar results.


In virtually every experiment involving lab animals anywhere in the world, the animals are killed so that the dead animals can be studied and the results tabulated.




In a district in West Bengal, 105 birds and 121 rodents were captured from the wild and experimented on to determine whether or not they were involved in spreading the Japanese encephalitis virus. It was concluded that they were not involved. Dr. Krishna asked, “Was such mass slaughter necessary to find that out?”


31 rabbits and 8 monkeys were sacrificed to study the effect of methanol poisoning in order to understand how the alcohol produced by bootleggers effects human beings. Noting that a great many instances of humans drinking bootleg liquor were available, Dr. Krishna observed that “all the symptoms have been amply studied and analyzed, and a sufficient number of humans have been sacrificed.”


Ten adult male dogs were subjected to an experiment to study the effect of blocking the blood supply. Like a number of the experiments cited, this one was described in the Indian Journal of Medical Research. Dr. Krishna wrote, “Any child could tell you what would happen if the blood supply to any part of the body was cut off. Why submit the animals to such indignity and pain? Was it merely to satisfy someone’s curiosity? Or is it to justify the receipt of large grants for research in science and medicine?”


The British Medical Officer Dr. George Wilson, LLD, was quoted as saying that animal experiments are “inherently misleading in their application to man, and, therefore, always more or less unreliable.”


In an experiment to study the brain, twenty-nine cats and thirteen monkeys, all fully conscious, were implanted with electrodes. Then various areas of their brains were stimulated to cause them to become fearful and violent – or quiet and passive. The conclusion reached was that it was important to understand “the physiology of the limbic system.” Dr. Krishna commented, “What a ghastly way of going about it!”




Dr. Krishna noted that the greatest suffering was being borne by Rhesus monkeys, because of their similarity to humans – who were being captured in the wild and exported to foreign countries for laboratory experiments abroad. They were transported in horrible conditions, and most of them died on the way. Those that survived met an even worse and more prolonged fate.


Dr. Krishna mentioned that these kinds of experiments are carried out in many countries, including the UK and the US; however, “two wrongs do not make a right,” and “Cruelty elsewhere does not justify its existence here [in India].”


Immediately after this article came out, there was a huge furor in India. So many people had never realized or had never stopped to think of the cruelty involved in animal experiments, and suddenly this harsh, shocking reality had been brought to light. Here, I have left out the graphic details that reveal the suffering experienced by the animals, but they were quite clear in the original article.


The idea that innocent forest animals, Rhesus monkeys in particular, were being snatched from their natural homes and sent abroad in horrifying conditions to undergo a life of pain in laboratories was too much for Indian authorities to contemplate. Within a week following the article by Dr. Nanditha Krishna, all export of Rhesus monkeys out of India was halted, and it has never resumed.


On a personal note, I was in New York City in 1978 when I read in the newspaper that India had stopped all capture in the wild and shipping of Rhesus monkeys out of the country for use in foreign laboratories.


I recall being struck by a sense of profound admiration for the Indian people who had brought about this result. Finally, someone somewhere in the world had stood up to the entrenched brutality and insensitivity that, in the name of modern science, disregards the lives and well-being of innocent wild animals. Indian people had simply refused to provide any more of their native species to be gobbled up by this vast, arrogant machine.


Wondering who had achieved this, I knew nothing about the article that had been published or how this had come about, and assumed I would most likely never know. Little did I realize that, over thirty years later, these people would cross my path, and I would be blessed to know them well as close friends.


The stopping of the export of Rhesus monkeys is only one aspect of animal laboratory experiments, and sadly, other experiments do still continue in India. In fact, western pharmaceutical companies often outsource laboratory experiments to India and to other developing countries, so it is an ongoing situation. Dr. Nanditha Krishna, and her husband, Dr. Chinny Krishna who is one of the foremost leaders of the Indian animal welfare movement, along with many other courageous animal advocates across India, continue to fight against this ongoing injustice towards animals, and are making progress, but there is much that remains to be done.


Top photo: Thomas Schoch / Wikpedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.”/ Rhesus macaques at the Red Fort in northern India.


Second photo: JayDalal5 / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / A rose-ringed parakeet in India, eating fresh leaves.


Aiwok / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. / A rhesus macaque with here two babies near the Jakhu Temple in Shimla Himachal Pradesh.



1965 – The first anti-vivisection seminar in India




By Sharon St Joan


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


In 1965 Blue Cross of India sponsored the first anti-vivisection seminar ever held in India.


Diana Hamilton Andrews, a leading British animal advocate at the time, wrote a report on the seminar, which she had flown to India in order to attend. “Even at 9:30 in the morning,” she wrote, “It was almost unbearably hot, and I was grateful for the fans which whirred in the ceiling.” She describes the women wearing brilliant saris and brightly-colored flowers in their hair – all so very different from the snow-covered London airport she had left the day before.


The Chief Minister of Madras, the Hon. Sri M. Bhaktavatsalam inaugurated the seminar, and Srimathi Rukmini Devi, the Chairperson of the Animal Welfare Board of India, presided.





Captain V. Sundaram, President of the Blue Cross of India, welcomed the delegates. His Organising Secretary, Sri D. Daivasigamony gave the audience an introduction to the topic of vivisection, which many of them were hearing about for the first time. He explained the cruelty involved and presented strong medical evidence that research on animals is scientifically unsound and does not work, as well as being inherently immoral. He reminded those present of “ahimsa,” the Indian tradition of non-violence.




When the Chief Minister spoke he also referred to Indian history, to the great third-century BC emperor Asoka, who set up the first veterinary hospitals in the world, and to Buddha; he made the case that accepting animal research in India would be entirely inconsistent with Indian ideals and ethics.


Rukmini Devi thanked Blue Cross for calling the meeting, talked about her efforts to prevent animal experimentation from taking hold in India, and expressed her hope that the conference would lead to recommendations to prevent all forms of cruelty.


Diana Hamilton Andrews spoke then, talking about her experiences in England opposing animal research and some of the pitfalls they had encountered, especially that of compromising more than they ought to have done. She cautioned those in India not to repeat that mistake. She also mentioned the ancient Indian system of ethics, and added that “the East has not yet been drawn to such an extent as Europe and the U.S.A. into the sinister cult of science-worship.”


In the afternoon the delegates turned their attention to resolutions to be presented to the government and came up with 23 resolutions.


Some of the key points in the resolutions were that all experiments should be subject to government supervision and that there should be “no infliction of any kind of suffering on animals.”


“That repetition of experiments shall not be permitted.”


That no experiments should be done for financial gain; in other words, they should not be conducted by commercial or pharmaceutical companies.


No experiments in schools or universities should be performed on live animals.


No animals should be experimented on for the purpose of developing surgical or manual skills.


That complete anesthesia should be used for all animals being experimented on.


That alternative methods of research to the use of animals should be developed.


That experiments should only be permitted on premises able to provide adequate care for the animals.


That good records should be kept.


That animal welfare groups should be allowed access to any laboratory.


That animals should no longeer be exported or imported for the purposes of experimentation, and specifically that the export of monkeys from India should be banned.


That debarking of dogs should be banned.


That further seminars should be held to promote kindness to animals.


After listing the resolutions, Diana Hamilton Andrews concluded her report by stating that she was grateful to have attended the seminar and for the chance to have had a conversation with Rukmini Devi, especially about the topic of exporting the wild monkeys of India to American and British laboratories. She had long been surprised that this practice could happen in a country where the monkey was regarded as a sacred animal, and where more than 80% of the population were Hindu. Rukmini Devi assured her that the Animal Welfare Board of India would continue to press the government for a complete ban on the export of monkeys, which in the preceding year had involved around 50,000 monkeys.




The far-sighted resolutions passed at this first seminar held by Blue Cross of India formed the framework of principles on which those fighting against animal research in India have been working over the 50 years since the seminar took place.


Progress has been made – banning the export of monkeys to foreign laboratories, banning the use of live animals for experimentation in schools and universities, and banning animal experimentation for the purpose of producing cosmetics, as well as banning the importation of cosmetics tested on animals. This progress, though it may seem, correctly, that much remains to be accomplished, has diminished the suffering of, and saved the lives of, many hundreds of thousands of animals.


The principles remain the same, and the struggle to prevent the suffering of animals in laboratories in India is on-going today.


Top photo: Rukmini Devi / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / “This work is in the public domain in the United States…” / Rukmini Devi, classical Indian dancer.


Second Photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Captain V. Sundaram


Third and fourth photos: Sharon St Joan / Taken at Blue Cross of India.


To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here




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. 


India: Chennai: Bailing out Moksha, Mukti, and all their friends, Part One

Moksha and Mukti
Moksha and Mukti

Moksha and Mukti almost missed the chance to spend their days playing tug of war with Ruffles, a gigantic yellow lab.  Ruffles is incredibly gentle with them.  They like to play with slippers, which is forbidden, but never mind.  The slippers end up on the sofa or outside in the garden.

The two adorable puppies arrived as part of a batch of 70 rescued beagle puppies. 45 went to the home of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna to be adopted out to carefully screened, loving homes.  All were healthy except that Mukti had a worrying spinal problem, and Moksha was rather skinny, so, naturally, these were the two that Dr. Nanditha Krishna decided to keep.

In November of 2012, a PETA representative had seen the 70 beagle puppies at the Customs Office in Chennai and had informed the CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals) out of concern for the puppies.

In response, one of the CPCSEA committee members, Dr. Chinny Krishna, who is also Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, looked into the circumstances of the puppies and how they came to be held by Customs.

Marshall BioResources, an American company in China, had bred the beagles and shipped them to India to be used for laboratory experiments.  They had been shipped on Cathay Pacific, although the airline had voluntarily undertaken not to ship any animals destined for laboratories.  The puppies had been mislabeled as “pets.”

There was a larger legal issue as well. It turned out that the CPCSEA had previously given ADVINUS labs, in Bangalore, permission to use 430 beagles in lab tests. ADVINUS is a toxicology testing lab that does contract laboratory testing for foreign companies – mostly pharmaceutical and agrochemical testing.

As a government body whose function is to regulate the use of animals in laboratories; the CPCSEA has no authority to prohibit testing; its powers are limited to ensuring that all guidelines are followed.

The question at hand was, did ADVINUS import the puppies legally?

Although ADVINUS, a member of the group of TATA companies, did have permission to use 430 beagles in testing, apparently those tests had already been completed.  It seemed that the 70 beagles were imported afterwards, and that would mean they were imported illegally.

When Dr. Krishna learned about the plight of the beagles, who were stuck in the Quarantine Station, he called the Chairman of ADVINUS, who was in Mumbai, and told him, that it looked like “these animals have been brought here illegally.”

The ADVINUS Chairman then flew from Mumbai to Chennai, with another company officer.  Joined by their chief vet in Bangalore, the three from ADVINUS sat down for a meeting with Dr. Krishna, and Dr. Shiranee Periera, of People for Animals (PFA), also a CPCSEA member.

Known worldwide, the TATA group has an excellent reputation for being above board. The ADVINUS company Chairman insisted that the puppies had not entered India illegally and said that he would fight the charge.  However, he also expressed a wish not to have the puppies suffer any further distress and said he wanted to release them so that homes could be found for them.

Normally, the puppies would be quarantined for 45 days, but the 70 puppies had already been in quarantine for 60 days, kept in cages the whole time, two to a cage.  It must have felt to them like being in jail. ADVINUS wanted them released for adoption, even though this meant that the company had spent about $25,000 to procure the puppies and would be charged for their time spent in quarantine.

ADVINUS provided papers, legally releasing the puppies to the Animal Welfare Board of India, with the arrangement that they would then be consigned to the animal welfare organization, Blue Cross of India. The story wasn’t quite over yet though.  Getting an agreement for the puppies to be released was one thing, but actually obtaining their physical release was a different thing altogether. There were more hurdles to go.

Maneka Gandhi, well-known animal rights advocate who has held a number of ministerial posts in the government, and Dr. Chinny Krishna, spent a marathon of three weeks of intense negotiations for the actual, real transfer of the puppies out of Quarantine.

Talks took place with the TATA company, with the Quarantine people, with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Finance (in charge of Customs and Excise), and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.  There were visits to Finance Committees, to Customs officials in both Delhi and Chennai, and requests to about 30 other officials.  It took a lot of work…

To be continued in Part Two; click here.

Photo: Dr. Chinny Krishna

To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here