Save The Asian Elephants: A New Law Beckons – by Duncan McNair KHS

“Don’t bother – elephants are finished.”

“You must be joking. Anyway it’s India’s problem.”

“It’s big money talking, and you’ll never change that.”

“Surely the travel industry will sort it out if you ask them?”

These were amongst the unpromising responses enjoined on me after returning from my first trip to India, in 2014, to assess for myself the horrors to Asian elephants in modern tourism of which I had started hearing and, appalled, urging that something must be done.

The sad refrain had some truth: the species is indeed in desperate peril. Yes too, vested interests like the UK travel industry could do so much, and so could India and the other range states. But these are not policies if nothing is being done. And the UK cannot compel a mighty sovereign State like India, less still Sri Lanka, Thailand or Myanmar, to adopt our own ideals of elephant welfare – aside from the UK’s own cupboards rattling with skeletons like brutal industrialised farming or a legacy of trophy hunting.

India has excellent animal welfare laws, according elephants the highest degree of protection, but they are widely circumvented by political interference and protection of vested interests.

But, I thought, surely the world’s most revered species, the Asian elephant, need not – should not – meet its end under the cruellest of all animal abuse, babies screaming and crying under extreme torture to break their spirits (known as “pajan”) for easy use in tourism?

Back in London I tramped and trailed round many animal welfare organisations searching for a star to hitch my wagon to, but received reproofs. One charity urged me to be realistic and not waste time. A Government minister charged with animal welfare issues told me she had far better things to do than help elephants.

But I started receiving encouragement too, and exhortation. It was so plain that public awareness of the horrors was so low yet when people heard of them, they were as appalled as I. So in early 2015 Save The Asian Elephants was born, with an immediate strategy by every means to drive up awareness of facts omitted from all travel brochures and websites, draped over for years with a mantle of secrecy. After all, in a functioning democracy a proper cause constantly advanced, linked to coherent, credible policies, should prevail over time.

Without funds STAE developed an ethos of voluntary, unpaid help – no wages or perks for anyone, and working off the lowest cost base. Just passion and commitment.

A wonderful team of eminences and experts soon emerged from every quarter, and many others of all ages and specialisms. My childhood dreams of a veterinary career (I had spent forever in libraries poring over the lives of famous vets then seeking them out via the telephone directory hoping for inspirational meetings) were dashed when my ineptitude at sciences became evident. But later I could see my life as a lawyer having worth far beyond fighting for my clients. I was thankful others of my profession came forward to join STAE.

Policies were developed that were not contingent on concurrence of vested interests or governments of indigenous states, but on what we in the UK could achieve by relentless exposition of the facts and proper pressure upon government.

A landmark policy of STAE’s (alongside those previously outlined in Animal Spirit) is new law: to ban the advertising, promotion and sale of unethical Asian elephant-related venues. Self-regulation by the travel industry having failed, and endless promises of change broken, compulsion of law is essential to stem supply (and then demand) of the vast trade in such abuse. Shockingly, to date STAE has identified over 1,000 tour companies promoting 210 venues where extreme brutality is committed to baby and adult elephants to hundreds of thousands of UK tourists. Abused elephants regularly attack and kill. These fetid places are also a storm of risks for tourists to acquire deadly airborne viruses like Covid 19 as well as TB that broken down elephants readily transmit through coughing, sneezing and spraying water.

STAE has been in ongoing negotiation with the Prime Minister’s officials and government departments on our Asian Elephants (Tourism) Bill, drafted for Lord Zac Goldsmith. Hopes of new law soon for the UK are running high based on government assurances. Polls show STAE’s Bill is backed by 90% of Britons, confirmed by STAE’s petition and others aligned to it running at 32 million signatures, and 100 people and organisations of influence including all the major faiths of SE Asia.

STAE considers this law transposable to other countries across the West and beyond. Together they can stem this tide of abuse. And although Asian elephants suffer uniquely from abusive tourism, such law can stand adapted for other species too.

Who knows the destiny of this ancient species, denizens of the Earth long before Man? But what Man has done so wrong, he can put right. Whilst Christian precepts apply to the protection of all of God’s creation, no religious faith is needed to believe that we should stand and fight for these gentle creatures, “megagardeners of the forests” on which we all rely. We hope and pray there is time for the elephants.


Duncan McNair KHS

Duncan McNair KHS is a lawyer and founder and CEO of Save The Asian Elephants http://www.stae.org (07852 416696).

STAE’s petition for change can be signed at: bit.ly/STAEpetition

Suggested cut and paste letters of support to Minister Zac Goldsmith and to your MP are at: http://stae.org/uk-minister/ and http://stae.org/your-mp/.

Peter Singer Prize Awarded to AIA President Dr Richard Ryder

Congratulations to AIA’s President, Dr Richard Ryder for being awarded the 7th Peter Singer Prize for strategies to reduce the suffering of animals.  This will be awarded on Saturday 29th May 2021.  We would also like to congratulate Maneka Gandhi who is being awarded the 6th Peter Singer prize.

Why is Richard Ryder Being Honoured?
Dr Richard Ryder is an English animal rights advocate, psychologist and writer. He has a special place in the history of the Animal Rights Movement. With the term “speciesism” he described the exclusion of nonhuman animals from the protections available of human beings and created with this word a central idea in the movement.

Richard Ryder first became involved with animal rights in 1969. As an animal researcher he criticized experiments on animals based on his own experiences in universities. Together with other postgraduate students at Oxford he reconsidered our attitudes and practices regarding animals. An important part of this new way of thinking about animals of the members of the so-called “Oxford Vegetarians” or the “Oxford Group” was that there is a parallel between the attitudes most of us have towards animals and the racist and sexist attitudes being rejected nowadays by almost everyone. Jeremy Bentham’s (the founder of utilitarianism) famous footnote “But the question is not, Can they (the animals) reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?” was not famous at all at that time. The question, how the suffering of animals could be less significant than the suffering of members of our own species affected also the young Peter Singer, who approached Richard Ryder and asked him to co-author with him. Ryder turned down this offer, but his term “speciesism” was popularized by Peter Singer’s most important book “Animal Liberation”, published in 1975. In coining the word speciesism, Richard Ryder achieved a very important contribution and refocused an entire debate about the relationship of humans to their fellow animals, with greatly beneficial consequences both to the debate and to the animals everywhere.

Ryder’s accomplishments in the field of animal rights are extensive. ln 1972 he joined the council of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). ln 1977, he became its chairman and tried to get rid of reactionary and prohunting elements within the organization. In the early 2000s Richard Ryder established the Eurogroup for Animals, the major coordinating and lobbying organization in the European community in this field. In 1990, he described in his book “Painism – A Modern Morality” his wider moral theory.

Why is Maneka Gandhi Being Honoured?
Maneka Gandhi was and is doing for animals what Mahatma Gandhi did for the people of India.

She is the widow of Sanjay Gandhi, who was an Indian politician and the son of Indira Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi died in an airplane crash in 1980. At the time Maneka was only 23 years old and mother of a 3-month-old baby boy, Varun.

After this stroke of fate she singlehandedly paved the way for animal welfare in India with unprecedented energy.
She is the founder and chairperson of People for Animals (PFA), which is India’s largest welfare organization with about 250,000 members. The PFA runs a nationwide network of 165 units, 26 hospitals and 60 mobile units throughout India. Maneka Gandhi also revived and headed the Committee on the Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA).

She was responsible for the ban of cruel animal testing methods for cosmetic products in India and successfully initiated public interest ligations to protect animals in the Supreme Court of India.

Maneka Gandhi was Union Minister in Indian Cabinets four times:
1989 – 1991 Minister for Environment and Forests,
1998 – 1999 Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment
2001 – 2002 Minister of State, Culture and for Programme
Implantation and Statistics with additional charge of animal care (the first Animal Welfare Ministry in the world)
2014 – 2019 Minister of Women and Child Development

In addition to her political work Maneka Gandhi is a journalist, initiator of films and TV programs, as well as author of more than 20 books about plants, environment, vegetarianism and animals. She is also co-author of the renowned work “Animal Laws in India“. Among her more than 30 national and international awards, she was voted “Recipient of the Vegetarian of the Year 1995“.

About Peter Singer
Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics and one of the most highly regarded philosophers in the animal rights movement.

His book Animal Liberation, first published in 1975, is considered a classic in the modern animal rights movement. It has been translated into more than 20 languages all over the world and has a total circulation of more than one million copies. In his work Singer primarily criticizes anthropocentricism (speciesism), which is the root of animal-abusive factory farming and unethical animal testing.

In his book The Most Good You Can Do, published in 2015, Singer promotes the targeted use of time and money to hit three essential goals:

  1. The fight against poverty in developing countries.
  2. The reduction of animal suffering, primarily in factory farming.
  3. Taking measures that are essential in ensuring the long-term future of our planet.
    Harvard professor Joshua Greene considers Peter Singer the world’s most influential living philosopher.
    On the 26th of May, 2015 Professor Peter Singer was the first winner of our award, which was named after him.

Goals Associated with this Award
After World War II, factory farming, with all of its animal abusive side effects and increasing brutality, managed to establish globally. Due to the lack of a global government with internationally binding laws, companies operating on a global level do not apply adequate regulation to prevent most severe human and animal exploitation. The result is the freedom to undercut every moral standard on the global market.

The demands for stronger growth in the gross national product are best accomplished by a rapidly expanding population. However, in a few decades this disastrous growth of population will lead to a collapse of civilized living conditions on earth if we don’t put an end to this.

The population is increasing by around 230,000 people daily. With them the number of animals kept under horrific conditions in industrial farming is going up, too. Around 65 billion farm animals are slaughtered and about 85 billion fishes and other sea animals are caught annually worldwide. The climate change is closely related to the increasing emission of gases, that impair our environmental conditions and our quality of life continually to a foreseeable point of no return. The excessive consumption of meat and the associated animal factory farming create more harmful gases than all forms of transportation in the world combined, including air, water and land.

Having in mind that one person alone can only do very little to help the animals, the “Peter Singer Association for Strategies to Reduce the Suffering of Animals” honours those, who have contributed by innovative strategies in philosophical, political, medical or legal publications or other activities to reduce these sufferings in a qualitative and quantitative manner. The award has an honourable and financial value.

This prize is meant as a powerful signal to encourage everybody to reflect and act in order to avoid and reduce unnecessary suffering not only for humans and pets, but for all sentient living beings.

Homo Ahimsa – by Judy Carmen

Book available from Amazon here

In this brilliant and inspiring new book, Judy Carmen describes how the time has come for humans to evolve from Homo sapiens to Homos ahimsa – and we don’t have much time to do it.

Homo sapiens (‘Wise’ man) has brought devastation to the world – climate change, environmental destruction, pollution, poverty, mass industrial cruelty to and abuse of animals, and now a pandemic that is bringing the human race to its knees.  Only Homo ahimsa (‘Non-harming’ man) can reverse the damage. 

“Ahimsa” is a Sanskrit word which means “non-harm”, the opposite of “Himsa” which means “harm”.

Homo sapiens may try to use his brain and “wisdom” to find a technical ‘fix’ for the mess he has made, but this will not resolve the problems.  A spiritual transformation is required whereby humans learn to treat others – including animals, of course – with compassion and to recognise their interrelationship and interconnectedness with the planet, the environment and all other living beings, and to treat them with love and respect.

Homo ahimsa lives a vegan lifestyle of non-harming.  One of the key points that Judy makes is that, as long as we have no compassion for animals and use and abuse them, we will never remove the violence from our nature that leads to greed, environmental destruction, poverty and war. We cannot separate our efforts to resolve these problems from our efforts to correct the way we have misused and abused animals.  Our compassion for and treatment of animals is at the heart of the issue.

Humans stand at a precipice in their evolution with a stark choice ahead – self-destruction along with the extinction of many other species or spiritual evolution.  Surely spiritual evolution is the destiny of the unfolding Universe?  Humans have reached this point and their future lies in their own hands.

Many people will believe that, whilst some individuals can make this spiritual transformation (and there have been many such individuals recorded over the last 10,000 years) many will not, and we will all sink in the same boat because of them. Personally, when I look around at humanity as a whole, I struggle to be optimistic. Judy, on the other hand, is optimistic. She believes that those individuals who are already Homo ahimsa can change the energies of the world with their actions and also with their prayers and meditations. She describes them as the ‘Vision Keepers’ who share the vision. 

Isaiah had a similar vision of a Peaceable Kingdom 2,800 years ago.  We still haven’t achieved it. But this time it is different. With a global population of 7.7 billion people and a damaged world, we are at a critical turning point.  We have to change this time and Judy makes the recommendations of how this can be achieved – ‘How we’re going to save the world’.

In fact, Judy is a living example of Homo ahimsa.  She is the co-founder of Prayer Circle for Animals, writing prayers and sharing them widely on the internet.  We have featured some of her prayers in previous editions of The Ark.  She is also co-founder of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition in the US which has recently partnered with the Animal Interfaith Alliance, of which CCA is a member.

This is not just a theoretical or philosophical book, it is also a very practical book which explains how we can make the changes necessary to evolve. This is why I am recommending Homo Ahimsa to everyone to read.

Review by Barbara Gardner


Homo Ahimsa was printed by Circle of Compassion Publishing, 2020 and can be purchased on Amazon here.

The Worldwide Noon Prayer

Compassion encircles the Earth for all beings everywhere.

Circleofcompassion.org

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be free.

AIA Focus on Earth Day – Resolving the Environmental Crisis requires Internal Transformation

Along with many other organisations, the Animal Interfaith Alliance is focusing on Earth Day, today on the 22nd April.

But, whilst acknowledging that we must do so much more to fix the external problems of climate change, pollution, deforestation and global pandemics, we also recognise that we cannot resolve these issues without internal transformation and an end to the abuse of our fellow creatures.

Not only is our insatiable demand for meat (including the creatures that live in the sea) causing devastation to forests and oceans, but our greed and violence in abusing animals has made us wage war on nature, when we should be recognising our interrelatedness and interconnectedness with the world around us and working with nature.

Only an internal transformation, where we become compassionate and humble, and where we stand in awe of nature and its beautiful creatures can save us, the planet and everything that depends on her. All the faith-based member organisations of AIA recognise this and strive to create a world where this understanding is shared by all.

Interfaith Celebration for Animals – 2021

Theme: Extending the Golden Rule to Animals in All Faiths

Sunday 21st March – 3.00pm-4.30pm GMT – by Zoom

ALL WELCOME!

Join the Animal Interfaith Alliance in their annual Interfaith Celebration for Animals led by AIA Chair, Rev. Feargus O’Connor, featuring talks, readings, prayers and reflections from all the major faiths.
To register and obtain the link to join the meeting, please contact Barbara at Barbgard.aia@gmail.com

AIA Partners with the Interfaith Vegan Coalition

The Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) has formed a partnership with the Interfaith Vegan Coalition, its counterpart based in the US. The Interfaith Vegan Coalition (IVC) is an initiative set up by In Defence of Animals (IDA) and its founders are Lisa Levinson, IDA’s Sustainable Campaign Director, and Judy Carmen joint founder of Prayer Circle for Animals and Peace To All Beings. Judy is also author of the book Homo Ahimsa.

Barbara Gardner of AIA said: “I’m delighted that AIA is partnering with the Interfaith Vegan Coalition as this means that we can share our resources and extend our reach to further the interfaith message of extending our circle of compassion to animals. AIA is an alliance of seventeen faith-based animal advocacy organisations. IVC is also made up of faith-based members and so the partnership represents a fantastic synergy”.