A grisly discovery prompts a fifty year campaign, part two

Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram
Mrs. Usha Sundaram and 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.


To read part one first, click here.


Later that same year, in 1963, the CPCSEA was formed — thanks to the initiative of the well-known Indian classical dancer and animal activist, Rukmini Devi. The CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals) oversees the facilities that perform animal experiments. Dr. Krishna, his mother, and his father, met twice with the CPCSEA committee members to give an account of the experiments at the Kilpauk Medical Center. At first they weren’t taken seriously. Some people even laughed, and there was some disbelief that such things as grafting of dogs’ heads had actually happened. But later on, the committee members were able to see for themselves what was happening with animal experiments – and then they were taken more seriously.


The Blue Cross investigation at the medical college gave the Indian public their first real glimpse behind the closed doors of facilities experimenting on animals. It began a decades-long campaign to put a stop to the suffering of lab animals.


In 1965, Blue Cross held the first Animal Welfare Seminar in India.


On October 4, 1968, the CPCSEA published the first set of official government guidelines to regulate the use of lab animals. These were, word for word, the same resolutions that had been passed by the Blue Cross Seminar in 1965 – and were a strong statement on behalf of animals.


Rukmini Devi
Rukmini Devi


Dr. Krishna recalls two factors, especially, that really helped early on – the first, that Rukmini Devi, such a widely-known and well-loved celebrity, had been the Chief Guest at the Blue Cross Seminar and, secondly, around the same time, his dad had been awarded the Queen Victoria Medal of Honor for his work on behalf of animals in India. These caught public attention. The movement to ban research on animals grew and people began to take note. It has never stopped.


Banning pound seizure


In the 1970’s, the Indian National Science Academy issued the statement that “Animals of unknown background provide faulty data.” This set the stage for a future law. Till 1996, labs habitually and cheaply acquired animals from disreputable backyard breeders, stolen animals from dealers, or animals picked up and sold by dog pounds.


Also in 1996, Maneka Gandhi, Member of Parliament, reconstituted the CPCSEA, which had been disbanded. The first rule of their guidelines was that only animals specifically bred for research could be used, thus cutting off the availability of cheap animal sources. India formally banned pound seizure in 1996; now, by law, animals could no longer be seized from pounds to end up in laboratories.


Conditions for lab animals and the numbers used over the years have steadily improved, and there is less egregious use of the animals.


Excessively stupid experiments, like grafting dogs heads, are no longer being done in India.


Banning dissection in schools


In 1991, Gujarat became the first Indian state to ban dissection in school biology classes.


Rajasthan also completely banned school dissection.


In 1998, a Delhi High Court ruling brought an end to Indian students being forced dissect frogs and other animals in schools below university level. Now one dissection is done as a demonstration, with the students watching, rather than each student doing their own dissection.


In 2011, India’s University Grants Commission banned the dissection of animals in universities and colleges. It has been estimated that this decision has saved the lives of 19 million animals a year.


Whittling away at animal research


In 1977, India banned the export of rhesus monkeys for research, immediately following the publication of an article in an illustrated weekly by Dr. Nanditha Krishna.


In January 2014, India banned cosmetics testing on animals. In December 2014, the importation of cosmetics that had been tested on animals in any other country was also banned.


The CPCSEA is focusing now on making sure that all places that use animals for experiments are registered. About 2,000 in India are registered, but around 5,000 exist. The government will soon require that labs using animals be registered before they can receive grants. Registration provides greater control and more oversight.



Dr. Krishna recalls, “Back in the 60’s, lab conditions and experiments were deplorable. Now the CPCSEA are making sure that internationally recognized best practices are being followed.”


Despite steady progress and the lives of many millions of animals saved, much still remains to be done.


Dr. Chinny Krishna
Dr. Chinny Krishna


“There is much unnecessary repetition,” Dr. Krishna noted, “For example, a second species is required in toxicology testing. They use mice, and for the second species, they use either monkeys, which are expensive, or dogs. Generally, beagles are used. The second species is unnecessary and provides virtually no additional useful data. We’re trying our best now to ban testing on dogs.”


Imposing limits and restrictions whittles away at the cruel practice of animal research and cuts down on the numbers of animals used.


About a dozen members of the CPCSEA meet every two months, taking up one issue after another in the determined process to make the suffering of animals in laboratories a thing of the past.


Bit by bit, progress has been made — the suffering of animals in labs in India has lessened – and a spotlight has been thrown on the inhumanity and uselessness of animal experimentation.




Top photo: Courtesy of Blue Cross of India / Mrs. Usha Sundaram and Captain Sundaram, Co-Founders of Blue Cross.


Second photo: 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 because it was first published in India….” / Rukmini Devi 


Third photo: Sharon St Joan / Dr. Chinny Krishna






















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

macaque Pavupathu sacred grove phsh 2013IMG_6540 2
A monkey at Pavapatthu sacred grove, not one of the Blue Cross monkeys.

Seven monkeys run and play together in the sun, in a large, open grass-covered area. They come and go freely indoors and out, where they’ve been for several years, at the Kunnam Center of Blue Cross of India, in the Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu.

Their lives weren’t always so happy.

The monkeys at Blue Cross came from laboratories, where they were used for experiments.

Companies that do testing on animals gloss over the reality of the life and death of the animals.  Usually they avoid mentioning animal testing altogether. Occasionally, on a TV show, an apparently happy animal may be shown, in lovely, sanitized surroundings, with seemingly caring people who are neatly dressed in white coats.  Who could object, when a well-fed mouse is shown obviously enjoying life in his clear plastic cage? The reality though is radically different, and, should you be in any doubt about this, you can read about the use of animals in laboratories on any number of websites which will give you the graphic details.

The circumstances in which lab animals live and die are terrible. In the end, they are, with rare exceptions, killed, so that the test results can be compiled into statistics.

The principle of laboratory testing on animals is to cause injury or sickness to the animal, so that possible cures or drugs can be tested.  When the testing is done for product safety, to prove that a product is “safe” for humans, the animal is given enough of the product to cause harm and injury to the animal – this is meant to indicate the level of safety of the product.  Suffering for the animals is inherent in the basic principles and practice of animal testing. The only way around causing suffering to lab animals is not to use animals in laboratories.

Five of the Blue Cross monkeys arrived, in a group with seven others who have since died, from the Christian Medical College and Hospital at Vellore, a city west of Chennai. There they had been used to study spinal injuries. First they were injured, then they were studied.

Two of the monkeys there are survivors of a group of five that came from A.L. Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Madras, where they had been used to study chemical burns. Again, the burns were first inflicted on the animals, then they were studied.

In all lab experiments, suffering and injury are first inflicted on the animals, to cause the condition that is to be researched, then they are studied.

Three guinea pigs in captivity.

Even if no injuries were ever caused to them, the use of animals in laboratories would still be cruel. In the case of these monkeys, they were captured as youngsters in the wild; the mere fact of removing an animal from the wild and putting him or her into a small cage causes intense suffering to any wild creature.  As for those who are bred in captivity, they have never even known a life of freedom in nature.

Cosmetics testing

The monkeys at Blue Cross were not used in cosmetics testing; however, many animals are, and it’s important to be aware that testing for cosmetics is no kinder than any other form of animal testing. No, the animals do not simply put on a bit of lipstick or some mascara, and then gaze at themselves in the mirror. Because the tests are meant to measure toxicity, they cause painful injury and death.

That is the grim reality.

A baby rabbit in the wild.

A landmark victory


In June, 2013, a major victory was won in India, with the banning of the use of lab animals for cosmetics testing.  No more animals can be used in labs in India to test cosmetics or the ingredients in cosmetics. The ban will save many thousands of animals from suffering.

On April 20, 2012,  Humane Society International launched its Be-Cruelty Free campaign with the aim of bringing a worldwide halt to the testing of cosmetics on animals. The banning of animal cosmetics testing in India a year later is a resounding victory for the animals.

The tireless work that led up to this victory goes back fifty years. In 1965, Blue Cross held a seminar, Animals in Research, in which they called for a ban to be imposed on all use of animals for cosmetics testing.

In 1996, the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), with parliamentarian and animal advocate Maneka Gandhi as the chairperson, adopted two resolutions related to animal experimentation. The first called for a ban on all experimentation on animals in secondary schools.

The second resolution called for the banning of all use of animals for cosmetics testing.

The decades long struggle to bring about this ban is based on the fact that while medical experimentation, which is equally cruel, may be believed to save human lives (a point that is contested by animal advocates), no such argument can be made on behalf of cosmetics. Cosmetics are not a life or death issue for humans, and not wearing cosmetics will not kill any of us. So a ban on cosmetics testing is a good place to start, and offers a toehold in the fight against all testing on animals.

To be continued….

To read part two, click here.



Top photo: Sharon St Joan / A wild macaque at Pavupatthu sacred grove.


Second photo: Author Mikerussell at en.wikipedia / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mikerussell

/ Wikimedia Commons / Three guinea pigs in captivity.


Third photo: Ksd5 / “This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” / Wikimedia Commons. / A baby rabbit.

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

Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear
Mukti looking for a treat, the lab number can be seen in her ear

This is Part Two, to read Part One first, click here.

While the marathon of talks was ongoing, Blue Cross was taking steps to get ready to receive the puppies.  Laboratory-bred puppies would have no immunity to real-world conditions, so great care must be taken not to expose them to any germs commonly carried by dogs.  For this reason, they couldn’t be kept on the grounds of a shelter, neither at Blue Cross nor at PFA Chennai. Even transportation for them would have to be in sanitized vehicles.

Blue Cross runs a 24 hour a day regular ambulance service for injured street dogs, with nearly a dozen ambulances on hand.  They took the two largest ambulances out of service for two weeks to fumigate them, disinfect them, and scrub them from top to toe.  Then they repainted the insides of the ambulances.  No germ was left alive.

At 4pm on Friday, Dawn Williams, representative of Blue Cross, went to the Quarantine Station, with papers in hand – the letter from ADVINUS, plus the notification from the Ministry of Environment and Forests authorizing the puppies to be handed over to the AWBI.

This was still not enough, however.  He was informed that since Customs had sent the puppies to the Quarantine Station, only Customs could get them released.

Dr. Krishna called the Chief Customs Officer for the whole of India, who was in a meeting in Delhi.  By 7pm, he had given his okay, and by 8pm, Dawn Williams was back at the Quarantine Station with the additional papers.  Everything seemed fine then, except that it was after dark, and it would be best to come back in the morning.

The indefatigable Dawn Williams returned at 8 am the next morning, which was Saturday, with the two ambulances to get the puppies. At 9:45 am, someone showed up, but nothing further happened, and at noon, he was still waiting.

At one pm, the Quarantine Officer appeared, and announced that he would need permission from the Minister of Agriculture to release the puppies.

Dr. Krishna made another round of 100 phone calls, trying to reach someone —  anyone who could do something. At last, in desperation, he called Mr. Doulat Jain, a former Vice Chairman of the AWBI.  An industrialist who is still a member of the AWBI, he was kind enough to contact the Agriculture Minister of India, who then instructed that the puppies be released.  By then, it was 5 pm on Saturday afternoon.

At 7pm, the puppies were at long last turned over to Dawn Williams. 25 of the puppies were immediately given to Dr. Shiranee Periera of People for Animals, Chennai, who adopted all of them out, on the spot, to pre-screened families. This took place just outside the doors of the Quarantine Office.

The other 45, under the auspices of Blue Cross, were loaded into the immaculate ambulances and made their way to the home of Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna.

At 7:30 pm, the puppies arrived on a comfortably cool South India January evening, where they were kept in an enclosed garden that had been carefully cleaned and disinfected, outside one of the compound buildings.

Soon 100 people, buzzing with excitement converged on the scene, all anxious to get a glimpse of the puppies. There were forty-five pre-screened, qualified families. All had to have a family vet, and had to commit to getting their adopted puppies vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

Between 7:30 and 10pm that evening 28 puppies were adopted.  No adoption fees were charged, but about half the families gave donations to Blue Cross.

The following night, Sunday, the 17 remaining puppies found homes. It was a happy occasion for both people and puppies.

Despite the joy of this truly happy event, Dr. Nanditha and Dr. Chinny Krishna noted that some of the 45 puppies could not bark.  They seemed to have been debarked.  Also, they were not normal size and seemed to have been bred intentionally to be dwarf beagles.

Moksha, Mukti, and all the others, have large numbers tattooed in their ears.  The numbers are an 8, followed by 6 digits.  Even if one assumes that the 8 is a batch number, that still means that the number of beagle puppies bred in the lab they came from is in the six figures.

The beagle pups were six months old by this time. They all, of course, needed housetraining.  Despite having been kept caged the entire time, Dr. Chinny Krishna says that every dog was “so friendly.”  These 70 innocent beagle puppies will now be blessed with a chance to have long, happy lives, and Moksha and Mukti can play with Ruffles.

Following the great love and care she was given, Mukti’s spinal problem vanished, as if it had never been.

This was a bright spot in a lengthy battle. The struggle continues in the long fight to arrive at a moment when all animals everywhere in the world are free from the threat of being used in laboratories.

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

Photo: Sharon St Joan

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