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.
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.
“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