Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

There are many things we do without thinking and, in the process, we cause great pain.

In my universe, the Ten Commandments have no meaning at all: Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt honour thy parents, etc. My universe just has one commandment that takes in all: thou shalt not cause pain. In short: live mindfully. Check what you eat, where you walk, what you use, what you say and what you aspire for. If you can do that, you will live the most wonderful, exciting life and the universe will lay itself at your feet.

Leather, meat, eggs, milk: these are absolute 'No Nos. But there are some of the thoughtless things you do which you could do without:

1. Do not buy, keep, or accept, bonsai trees. These are huge trees that are weakened and stunted constantly by cutting their roots, and not allowing them to grow. Imagine a pipal tree in a three inch deep container, and put yourself there. The Chinese used to bind women’s feet as soon as they were born, and a grown woman would have feet that were less than two inches long. She was in pain her whole life. That is how trees feel. The process is  brutal, cruel and unethical. Torn, brutalized, twisted into caricatures with wire and suffering prolonged torture for years, and sold to rich people who need to have something “unusual” in their houses to prove what great collectors they are. People who make them are vicious and hungry for power over nature –  “huge trees on a tray” – not a connect to it. Their excuse : we give them free food and water, we protect them against insects, we apply medicines to their wounds, we control their weather, they have an easy life”. So do people in jail, or animals in experimental laboratories.

2. Do not use horses for marriages. These are female horses, specially bred white, and they get sunburnt so easily. Horses have very sensitive ears and mouths. Here they are walked miles every night to get to the venue, stood for hours till the baraat gets ready, and then exposed to unbearably high sound levels with bands, firecrackers exploding and people screaming around them for hours. So that they don’t bite and remain in control, spiked bits are rammed into their mouths, causing lesions, bleeding, and pain and causing permanent injuries to their teeth. They are beaten regularly by their handlers during “training” sessions prior to making them submissive. Is this the level of suffering you want during a happy time? Does it make you happier to torture this animal, for no value addition to the marriage? 

3. A cage for the bird, a tank for the fish and a leash for the dog? A dog is a creature that needs to run, smell explore. Yet, there are so many “beloved” pets that have never been let off the leash when they emerge into the open with their owners. They walk at the speed of their owner’s will, do their business in a controlled line and then go back to their flats. Is it not possible for you to choose a time to walk the dog in a park when there are fewer people around and, even though it may be inconvenient to you, it means the world of happiness for the dog. Don’t forget to pick up the faeces, otherwise people might object after a while.

4. Feed the birds, but don’t give them bread. Bread has no nutrition. It is white flour with sugar, and it is filling. It removes their appetite, and prevents them from eating their natural diet such as insects, fruit and seeds, which keeps them healthy and allows them to grow. Eating improper food can rapidly cause incorrect bone development, as well as malformations. When bread gets wet, it becomes sticky and can get lodged in the bird’s digestive system causing impaction and fermentation, resulting in death. This happens even when the bread is small, dry or stale. ANGEL WING is a malformation caused by improper nutrition, such as from eating bread or bird seeds during growth. This condition is irreversible and the bird will never be able to fly. It is NOT treatable. So give them peanuts and sunflower and pumpkin, lauki seeds, some uncooked rice and whatever fruit is in season- except for citrus, which they do not eat.

5. Fish tanks, or aquariums at home or in office, are vulgar and unnecessary. They simply scream that the owner is as cruel as the person who keeps a row of caged birds for his amusement. A fish tank is simply a coop for fish that have been taken out of their natural habitat where they travel miles in groups. Now, they have been confined to a  small, crowded area with fish of other species, fighting and hiding for their survival, being fed the dried dead bodies of other fish as “ fish meal” till they die in a few weeks. What is the sense of this? Most of our waters, especially coral reefs, are being denuded of these fish which are caught by throwing cyanide into the water. Not a single person knows anything about the fish they keep, they are fed by servants irregularly - especially the ones in offices, their lights are on while the office is open and then shut off for hours. There is a vested interest in putting up these tanks : each time a fish dies, the supplier earns more money. and the staff of the office take their cut. And, for this wretched tawdry trade, we are losing all the magnificence of the seas. You need to protest whenever you see one.

6. Do not take cute pictures with wild animals. It does not make you look powerful, or attractive, to be seen with a cheetah at the end of the leash, or having an elephant bow before you at a temple, or holding a snake. The animal has been beaten, drugged, and often dies (especially the snake, because their skin is very sensitive), after your photo op. Do not touch fish in an aquaria just because the caretaker allows you to. They can be killed by the bacteria on your hands. Petting zoos are no fun for animals and they certainly show that you are no animal lover – just a vicious exploiter of the weak.

7. Do not throw out your leftover food, fruit peels etc., in plastic bags. It may seem very hygienic for you to do that but, in reality, the plastic bags go into open garbage areas on the street corners . The food smell comes through the plastic. While dogs may be able  to tear the plastic (not the black one ), the cows are so hungry that they eat the food with the plastic. Over a lakh cows die monthly, their intestines choked with kilos of plastic that come from your houses. Better to segregate the food and throw it where it can be eaten by street animals and birds.

There is a beautiful poem, called 'Thoughtless Cruelty' by Charles Lamb, which should be in every school book. 

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