India is wonderful in its own way. We say namaskar to businessmen but we touch the feet of dancers, singers and writers. We look enviously at those who wear a lot of expensive clothes but we touch with love the feet of those who wear almost none. A meeting called by a person to teach you on how to be a successful entrepreneur will attract fifty people; a meeting called by a person to teach you to live life by not wanting anything will attract thousands. We forgive the bad because we believe that they will be punished in their next lives. We believe in reincarnation but we do little to ensure that we will have better lives next time. We believe in charity and yet we do almost none. 
This week I am talking about charity. It has obsessed me for a long time and came into focus this monsoon when my flagship animal shelter of 31 years, Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre, collapsed under the weight of heavy rain, 4000 animals instead of the 200 it was built for and a medical team that did less and less as more and more animals pour in. I now spend 4 hours a day there and things look brighter. The doctors have doubled and are at work, the rooms that fell down have been rebuilt. But we are a long way from ideal status as all the facilities have to be doubled. The police and the wildlife department, the municipal corporation - all dump animals on us every hour of the day. But we do not get a single rupee from the government to look after them, Apart from that we have 24 hour ambulances that respond to 50 calls a day for free rescues. We have an OPD that caters to 150 people’s animals a day, We have any number of pedigreed animals being dumped on us. 
My hospital needs so many things: tiles, bricks, cement, a small van to pick up puppies, a new generator. It runs purely on donations and this month we posted a loss of Rs 2 lakh which always frightens me (The police dumped 35 camels on us that were going for slaughter. These camels were very sick and their feed alone has come to Rs 67,000 per week). I need to make a lot of capital investment in Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre – ten rooms more for sheep, camels, doctors, staff, a new kitchen, 100 new kennels and a lot of repairs. Every morning, we make a list of companies and then I call them to see if they will donate something we need. Sometimes I have to go through a long monologue which bothers me and then am asked to call again as the person cannot take the decision. That embarrasses me. Sometimes, the person surprises me. Last month I rang up a company to ask for a washing machine and the CEO said yes, even before I finished my speech. I was thrilled!! He turned out to Shri Jyoti Basu’s grandson. Yesterday I called someone to ask for an OT light and since he seemed very gruff I trailed off by saying.... if it is possible. He answered “Nothing is impossible. The word itself means I am possible so you will have your light. “I was so joyous! A company head has not even talked to me but has simply responded to an email and promised a cleaning machine. Bless him!! On the other hand, a club that donated 7 street lights made me come to meet them twice on Sundays (my writing day), for 5 hours each, took one million photographs with each member’s family and then I had to pursue them for two months to install the lights. Not good. There are two people who hound me on a weekly basis saying that they will leave the money to animals in their wills – and they have a lot of it. But they refuse to give any now – and I am sure I am going to die before them! 
I give as much as I can away because it makes good sense for my health, economically and karmically. For me, everything that is given away is like being put into a bank for me alone. This business of giving and taking for me is like being in a river. The river carries on flowing. I am simply bathing in the flow and enjoying the rush of water. I am always surprised by revelations of people who make thousands of crores through bribes and open loot. Where, how and when will they use it? Madhu Koda and his gang looted Jharkhand’s poor people and sent the money to a lawless African country called Liberia. Will they ever see it again? Is their quality of life better? Are they happier? 
If the purpose of life is pleasure - and I am a firm believer in this - then the quickest way to get that rush of happiness is not to buy something but to give something away (or , in my experience, to plant something in the ground ) 
Charity makes you feel good. The giver is always indebted to the person he gives to because of that amazing flush of happiness that comes for a little while. You feel that you are some worth in the world, that you have done your duty and that you have a little value in the grand scheme of things. The Japanese have a saying that when you save someone’s life, you owe them forever. That’s how I feel. In fact instead of feeling superior, you should thank the people that you have been allowed by the universal energy to give something to.  
The laws of nature are constructed for your survival and for your emotional and spiritual advancement. Helping those in need is self defence because you will be helped when you are in need. If you believe in another life then any thing that makes another life feel better is acquiring Good Karma. And , if you believe the Gurus, you can trade that in for a good reincarnational slot on Earth. 
To see what a bad survival policy selfishness or greed is look around you. The bad air, the terrible water, the poison in the food ... all your problems stem from some individual greed. Monosodium glutamate that kills so many people was banned in India - it took the bribing of one bureaucrat to allow it and now it is found as a secret ingredient in many edibles. Our current environment minister has given more mining licences in forests than anyone else. He has also repeated the act made by me 20 years ago that disallowed anyone from constructing near a beach. So he has destroyed, through a single person’s greed, the forests and coastline of an entire country. Contrast that with a person who gives his entire life in charity by becoming a voluntary doctor in tribal villages. Or with a man in Gujarat who buys seeds with all his earnings and then goes to public lands to scatter them. Or someone who trains forest guards on how to catch poachers. Or someone who opens a daily feeding centre for the homeless. My mother always kept clothes for children in her car and gave them to anyone she thought needed them. See their faces - they are much happier than this minister .What a fun way to live!! 
In the case of my hospital - I always tell the people who use it that it does not belong to me. I am just the caretaker appointed by the gods to handle it in this lifetime. Imagine yourself a wounded or sick or discarded little puppy. Would you not want a medical facility where you can be cared for? 
Find a place in your city that needs your charity. Start with feeding the birds. Every week give a donation to an animal shelter, a children’s orphanage and a charitable hospital. Put a tap outside your house for water. I read about someone who gives away 31 things from her house every month. Choose a weird number and stick to it so that it becomes an adventure. And remember to give nice things: A biscuit to the dog is not charity. Charity is the biscuit shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.  
 Yogiraj M, whose book I told you about last week, says: When you serve a less fortunate person in any way — material or spiritual — you are not doing him or her favor. In fact, the one who receives your help does you a favor by accepting what you give, and thereby helps you to evolve and move closer to the divine, blissful being, who in reality is within all. “ 
 “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot!” says Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavad-Gita. “My life is a result of what I have done in all my previous lives. I am bound to fulfill a certain role in this life and I can only act within it to a limited degree. But within that parameter can I change my luck? Our holy ones say that it is possible to change one’s fate though charity and meditation/prayer. Helping animals who cannot complain about their suffering or do anything for you in return would be the ultimate karma creation. So, in a way, if you like being selfish – charity is the ultimate shopping experience!
Here is nature’s law: You can buy your next life (or even this life’s coming years’) insurance policy by giving as much as you can in this life. If you keep the river flowing, you will insure that you get to drink from it as well. 
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Sri M is an enlightened soul, a Guru whom I met years ago. Born in Kerala, he became disciple to a very great Guru at a young age, moved to the Himalayas. Later he worked with J. Krishnamurty, another enlightened soul, in Rishi Valley. When my son was twenty he was very keen to learn meditation and went to Madanapalle, a village in Andhra Pradesh to live with Sri M.  

Magenta Press has published his book Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography. I have just finished reading it and I would recommend it to everyone who seeks his own soul. I include an excerpt here which I believe to be true – many Gurus I have met and read have said the same thing. Since I was a child, I have believed that the energy of the world lies in snakes. 20 years ago I wrote that, when I read the Mahabharata, I knew Kalyug started the day the snakes were burnt, even though that great book treats the burning of the snakes as simply a place to start the narration.

Sri M is a young man with his Guru Baba Maheshwarnathji in the Arundhati cave in the Himalayas. Here is the excerpt: “I was woken up by what I at first thought was the rumbling of thunder. I opened my eyes and saw Babaji in his usual sitting posture, back towards me, silhouetted by the light of the Dhuni (fire). I looked beyond, and from between two parting clouds, emerged something that was roughly the size of a full moon but could not be the moon. This object was a glowing ball of fire and as it moved closer the rumbling became louder. Then it came towards the cave and landed right on the Dhuni, with the sound of a thunderclap.

I was so scared that I could not even sit up but Babaji sat upright like a statue, unaffected and unmoved. A strange spectacle unfolded before my astounded eyes. The fireball which was about two feet in diameter split vertically and out of it emerged a large snake with a hood like a cobra, glowing electric blue as if made of a transparent glasslike material with electric filaments inside. The creature’s eyes glowed and it hissed softly.

My fear vanished the moment I saw the creature bend down and touch Babaji’s feet with its hood. Babaji blessed it by touching its head with his hand and then did something which made me wonder if what I was seeing was a silly dream. He hissed in reply.

The blue cobra straightened up and sat facing Babaji. A hissing conversation went on. Then Babaji said “Madhu come forward and see the deputy chief of the Sarpa loka. Bow down to Nagaraj. “I bowed low. The snake hissed and touched my head with his forked tongue. Then abruptly it slithered back into the globe, the two halves clicked shut and it took off and vanished into the clouds.

I said “Babaji, if I said this to anybody they would think I am crazy. Please explain to me”…

Babaji said “In the Milky Way there exists a stellar system with seven planets and 18 moons. One of these is Sarpa Loka and is entirely inhabited by highly evolved hooded snakes called the Naga Devatas. The person you saw is the deputy chief of their realm, Nagaraja. The supreme head of the Nagas is the five hooded golden serpent known in ancient Hindu texts as Anantha.

Thousands of years ago when humanity was still at an infant stage of evolution, there was regular contact with Sarpa Loka. The wise and evolved Nagas spent long periods here teaching human beings. The snake worship you come across in all ancient civilizations is a tribute to these Nagas and their deep wisdom. They also taught the secret of kundalini energy symbolized by a snake. Patanjali who gave the world the Ashtanga Yoga sutras was himself a Naga. The snake on the Pharoah’s head and coiled round Shiva are all symbolic of the wisdom imparted to certain humans by Naga teachers.

But as humans became more powerful they became self centred and cunning. Some felt threatened by the spiritually and intellectually superior Nagas and began to use their power against their own teachers. At one point there were massacres of the Nagas. The Supreme Naga Chief decided to recall the Nagas from earth and cut all connections except with some humans who were highly evolved spiritually. Overnight they were transported back to Sarpa Loka. A small number who were too sick, too old or rebels who defied the supreme chief thinking they could still do something with humans, got left behind.

The snakes that exist today are the descendants of those who were left behind. Through years of inbreeding they no longer possess the great qualities of their ancestors. However the channels of contact were kept open with evolved humans. When the great Sai Nath of Shirdi left his body for three days and returned on the fourth, to the great astonishment of the general public who thought he had died, he told his close circle that he had gone to settle a dispute in another world. That was Sarpa Loka. The dispute, which I cannot reveal to you, has not been settled and Nagaraj came to me to discuss the matter.”

Bababji laughed “Truth is stranger than fiction. There is hope that humans might realize that there are greater realms of consciousness which cannot be comprehended by logic and current levels of intelligence.”

Vishnu rests on Anantha. Krisna’s brother Balarama was a Naga. The Ocean of Milk was churned by a snake. At every point in our ancient teachings, there are snakes. Every time you want to kill a snake, remember this narration. 

Sri M is very accessible. He has started a school called Peepal Grove School in Sadum Mandal, Chittoor Dist - 517123, AP and I hope to go there to meet him again. I wish he would take me as a disciple but I will have to wait for another birth when I am more evolved.

Maneka Gandhi

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When my father was posted as an army officer to Bangalore, we lived on Pottery Road near a large slaughterhouse. The smell was infernal. There were fights all the time. We moved very quickly and for many years I completely blocked it from my memory.

When Swami Vivekananda went to America, as he neared Chicago, he is said to have commented that he could see a large black miasma over the city. It was then the largest stockyard and slaughterhouse in the country. It was also the main centre of crime and run by gangs.

Which are the most dangerous cities in India? I would put Rampur on top of my list. The police and armed forces are wary of it too: recently, a full scale attack by terrorists on a paramilitary division took place there. Murders and other forms of violent crime are common. It also has the last number of illegal slaughterhouses killing cows and buffaloes by the thousands every day. The Mewat region of Haryana, where police refuse to go, is the largest illegal slaughter centre in North India, and the centre of the wildlife parts smuggling trade as well. In Delhi it is the walled city Jama Masjid where cow skinning takes place in every lane.

Which is the most dangerous part of your city? Is it not the place where the slaughter of animals takes place? You don’t have to be a vegetarian to feel scared. You know instinctively that anyone who can kill an animal is immune to the morality of killing his fellow man.

In Bareilly recently, A Superintendant of Police tried to stop a truck carrying cows to Rampur. The people on the truck whipped out guns and shot at him. This is not an unusual occurrence. Every overloaded slaughter bound truck carries guns. Many of my people have been shot at. Certainly the first attempt of the driver is to run over the vehicle that is trying to stop it.

In 2009, an interesting study was published after 9 years of research: Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From “The Jungle” Into the Surrounding Community by Amy J. Fitzgerald, University of Windsor, Linda Kalof, Michigan State University, and Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University . It was published in Organization & Environment, June 2009

One hundred years ago the famous author Upton Sinclair wrote a book entitled The Jungle which detailed the working and living conditions of workers in and around the stockyard slaughterhouses in Chicago. In explaining the numerous fights instigated by slaughterhouse workers after hours, Sinclair noted a connection between these fights and the killing and dismembering of animals all day at work. According to Sinclair, “these two-o’clock-in- the-morning fights, are like a forest fire. Men who have to crack the heads of animals all day seem to get into the habit, and practice on their friends, and even on their families, between times. “The book denounced the massive slaughterhouse complex in Chicago as a “jungle,” and said that all crime and criminals in America were born out of it. 

The purpose of this study was to prove/disprove the Sinclair contention. The authors write: “Contemporary studies conducted by social scientists documenting the negative effects of slaughterhouses on communities have not attended to the possibility (which Sinclair alludes to) that the type of work undertaken in slaughterhouses is a contributing factor to increased crime rates in slaughterhouse communities. 

The meatpacking industry’s effect on physical environment and human health and on the high rate of injuries to workers has been carefully documented by scholars. This study analyzes population/jobs/crime data of 1994-2002 in 581 nonmetropolitan counties to analyze the effect of slaughterhouses on the surrounding communities. 

The findings indicate that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, rape, other sex offenses, vandalism, arson, robbery, assault and disorderly conduct in comparison with other industries. Research demonstrates that in communities where slaughterhouses open there is an increase in crime. For instance, documented crime increases include a 130% increase in violent crimes in Finney County, Kansas and a 63% increase in Lexington, Nebraska. The Canadian town of Brooks, Alberta witnessed a 70% increase in reported crime. Particularly telling is the fact that the arrests in counties with 7,500 slaughterhouse employees are more than double than in those where there are no slaughterhouse employees. This proves the existence of a “Sinclair effect” unique to the violent workplace of the slaughterhouse, a factor ignored previously in the sociology of violence. 

Various explanations for these increases in crime have been proposed. The objective of this study is (1) to test the theories that explain the crime increases and (2) to compare the effects of slaughterhouse employment on crime rates to the effects of similar industries, to see if the effects of slaughterhouses are unique. 

These were the theories that existed and this is what they found: 

a. “The workers were mainly immigrants and more likely to be involved in criminal activities . “A link between immigrant populations and crime rates, however, has not been found. On the contrary, studies have found that typical immigration does not result in crime increases.

b. “The much increased violence in these communities is not because of the slaughterhouses but because the workers are lower middle class , usually uneducated hard drinking people who are mainly young males.” Studies have found that age does not have a significant effect on some types of crimes, such as burglary and homicide.  

c. “Crime increases are the result of population booms and social disorganization. “In simple terms that means that the population is poor with a great tendency to shift jobs and migrate both in and out of the towns resulting in social disorganization and consequent increases in crime. But these explanations do not hold water because people in identical low paid, filthy, dangerous , blue collar towns with high unemployment and heavy alcohol habits have not got the same spike in violence. The study took similar towns with comparative industries : "Iron and steel forging, truck trailer manufacturing, motor vehicle metal stamping, sign manufacturing, and industrial laundering. These industries are categorized as manufacturing, have high immigrant worker concentrations, low pay, routinized labor, repetitive, and dangerous conditions. These were not associated with a rise in crime at all. In fact crime rates were on their way down. No connection was found between high unemployment rates and violent crime. 

The researchers concluded that: ”the industrialization of slaughter has the strongest adverse effects”. The unique work of killing and dismembering animals in slaughterhouses has resulted in the types of crime which Upton Sinclair referred to as ‘the jungle’ in the community. Fitzgerald says at the end "We believe that this is another of a growing list of social problems that need explicit attention."

The findings seem so obvious to me: When a person removes a non-human animal from moral consideration, he removes humans from moral consideration as well. This is seen in historical examples where colonialism or genocide used the idea of the victims as 'animals' to justify murder or oppression.

Someone who has the ability to rip thousands of animals throats is not a gentle and law abiding person. People who have made documentaries about slaughterhouses show workers kicking animals, playing football with chickens, throwing cow eyeballs at each other, urinating on bodies and masturbating on dying animals, a state of desensitization so extreme that it could only spill over into general violence. 

The rise of factory-style slaughter has inured our whole civilization to mass killing of animals and humans and enabled us to wreak havoc on each other, each war surpassing the previous one in its acceptance of mass murder of humans as a feature of conflict among nations. We are not shocked by the slaughter in Iraq or Afghanistan or even angry with the country that is doing it as mindlessly as they kill animals. In killing animals we kill the better part of ourselves, and pay the price in the form of wars, crime, obesity and poor health.

Go to a large factory slaughterhouse in your town. It is a terrifying experience, enough to make you cry and vomit. 

Suppose all the abattoirs are changed into soybean processing plants. Doesn’t even thinking about it make you feel better?

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Mundane astrology is astrology applied to world affairs and events. It is a branch of astrology which deals with the rise and fall of nations, formation/duration of governments, political events which affect nations and their people, fate of the head of the states, economy and prosperity of the country, war and peace, natural calamities, communal/religious riots, weather etc.

 Mundane astrology is based on the belief in “cosmic consciousness” – the belief that that any celestial event anywhere in the universe also affects the earth and all on it. No matter how far away the celestial bodies are, the unique vibration they generate through their movements in the space affects everything on our earth. The Tandava or cosmic dance of Shiva – the endless whirling of each atom and body through space, in musical harmony and empathy- is how we describe it. Everything has its own place and nothing happens without a meaning – even though we are unaware of it at the time. 

 We, means humans. Animals seem far more attuned to the cosmic dance. How do they sense earthquakes and floods ? No scientists have been able to understand this. Can they sense the earth's vibrations or detect changes in the air or gases ? How do they know how severe the winter will be or even the day that winter sets in when our most sophisticated weather stations fail? What triggers their survival mechanisms ? 

Researchers observed the movement of a group of sharks just before Tropical Storm Gabrielle and Hurricane Charlie. After the barometric pressure dropped just a few millibars they swam to deeper waters, where there was more protection from the storm.Birds and bees also sense this drop iand will instinctively seek the cover of their nests or hives. 

These are reactions to immediate events. How do animals predict long term events like how harsh winter will be? And how do we help ourselves to their knowledge ?

Predicting the weather has been a human passion for ages. Farmers wanted to know what kind of a season was coming -- would there be enough rain or would there be drought? Would the winter be cold or mild? How could they tell if a violent storm was coming? This being a pre radio/TV and weather station time, they relied on natural signs to help them predict the weather. The most convenient barometers were their own farm animals and these were rarely wrong. Fishermen, for instance,notice that in autumn, migrating fish come back early in years when winter will bring an early freezes, but come out later in years when the rivers freeze late.

In the USA , a groundhog is still used to predict the weather for up to six weeks in advance. If you see a groundhog’s shadow at noon on the 2nd of February (Groundhog Day), then the weather will be cold and wintry for another six weeks. 

Animal folklore has passed on from generation to generation. Much of it is now forgotten, retreating in the face of scientific ridicule. But our ancestors did not need fertilizer or pesticides and they had a lot more to eat. The Earth delivered much more. (If you think that this is another old wives tale, read this one statistic: In India we only started using fertilizer in 1960. This went up in 1965 to 1 million tonnes. Today it is 75 million tonnes. The amount of grain produced has not increased)

 Native Americans believe black bears choose different sleeping spots in their caves depending on how cold the winter will be, or the fur on a rabbit's feet will grow fluffier if the winter is to bring heavier snow. Simply coincidences ? But science is based on observation, and folklore is based on centuries of observation . The creature with a 100% accuracy in predicting the weather is the ladybird. They announce the coming cold by disappearing and are the first insects to announce the arrival of spring.

Here are some sayings:

-- Cats scratch a post before a wind, wash their faces before a rain, and sit with their back toward the fire before a snow.

-- If a rooster crows at night, there will be rain by morning.

-- Pigs gather leaves and straw before a storm.

-- If a dog starts to whine for no reason, you can expect a major storm .

-- Birds on a telephone wire predict the coming of rain.

-- loud singing crickets predict the coming of violent storms. 

-- Locusts sing when the air is hot and dry.

-- When toads appear in large numbers, you can expect rain.

-- If bears and horses get thick coats early, then expect a severe winter.

-- Squirrels are busier gathering nuts before a bad winter.

-- If wasps build their nests high, a severe winter is on its way.

-- Frogs croak louder when bad weather is due. 

--Birds fly lower and gather in large numbers on tree branches when bad weather is due

. --If roosters crow later than their precise morning hour this is a bad weather prediction.

 --Bees and butterflies will vanish from the flowers just before the coming storm or rain .

--Bees refuse to leave their hives when rain is due

--Dolphins find shelter in protected bays in order to avoid a coming storm.

--If there are many bats at night, or flying much longer than they usually fly, there is a glorious day ahead. If there are fewer bats than usual this indicate bad weather coming.

-- Crows croaking loudly in the morning is a sign of a good day

--If hens roll around in the dust rain is coming

--Swallows flying at very low levels means bad weather. Hawks flying high means the weather will continue to be fine.

--Gnats circling in a mass before sunset denotes good weather approaching

--Before a big storm, fish tend to bite more often, hence the phrase, “trout jump high, when rain is nigh.” 

--Ants scuttle around busily before a storm and even cover up the entrance to the ant-hill to keep out rainwater.

--Before a hurricane, sharks that rarely leave their home waters will flee the path of the storm while seagulls instinctively fly inland.

--Earthworms come out of their holes before it rains 

--When the cuckoo is heard in low lands, it indicates rain; when on high lands, fair weather.

 --Horses sweating in the stable is a sign of rain.

--Flies sting and are more troublesome than usual before rain.

--When cattle go out to pasture and lie down early in the day or assemble at one end of a field with their tails to windward indicate rain or wind.

--Before a storm comes sheep become frisky, leap, and butt or "box" each other.

--When horses and cattle stretch out their necks and sniff the air it will rain.

--When birds cease to sing, rain and thunder will probably occur.

--If crows make much noise and fly round and round, expect rain.

--Wild geese flying past large bodies of water indicate change of weather. Going south, cold; going north, warm.

--Gulls will soar aloft, and, circling around, utter shrill cries before a storm.

--When the peacock loudly bawls, expect both rain and squalls.

--Air bubbles over clam beds indicate rain.

--When pike lie on the bed of a stream quietly, expect rain or wind.

--When porpoises sport and chase one another about ships, expect stormy weather.

--Expect stormy weather when ants travel in lines, and fair weather when they scatter.

--If garden spiders forsake their cobwebs, rain is at hand.

Start observing the behaviour of animals, birds and insects. Perhaps you will learn to predict the increasingly unpredictable weather.

Maneka Gandhi

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Which chicken do you eat?

Last month, two people were caught in Bhubaneswar with hundreds of dead crows. They had fed the crows fish waste mixed with poison. They told the police that crow meat was used in fast food centres and dhabas to prepare chicken based items – Chinese chicken soup, chicken dumplings, chow mien etc. Since crow meat is cheaper than chicken the smaller eateries bought their meat. 

These two are only a small part of a large gang that does this in Orissa. Since the crow is a scavenger – and since the crow has been poisoned, god knows how many humans have had food poisoning after eating the meat. 

There are over 500 varieties of vegetables in India. How many varieties of chicken do you eat? Let me tell you.

In Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra you are likely to be eating dog-chicken. Many stray dogs are caught illegally by gangs and killed by bashing their heads in with stones or by feeding poisoned sweets. The skin, provided they are not suffering from skin disease is taken for the shoe industry. The meat is sold as chicken to small eateries.

In Bihar you will probably be eating rat chicken. The Musahars are a caste of very poor people who catch rats for a living. They sell the meat. In fact this is so common that the Bihar government, in the first year of Natish Kumar’s Chief Ministership, attempted to legalise the eating of rats and make it compulsory for eating establishments to carry at least one item of rat meat on their menus. It was felt that this would be better than disguising the meat as chicken. Unfortunately there was a lot of opposition to bringing the trade out into the open and the idea was dropped. However the meat continues to be sold.

In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka you will be eating squirrel-chicken. The Narikauravas are a tribe that roam around freely , ignored by the forest department inspite of the damage they wreak. They catch squirrels in cities and then sell them to the meat sellers. Sometimes they catch other small wild animals like mongoose as well and these becomes chicken as well.

In North India you will be eating cat-chicken and sometimes monkey- chicken. The Bahelias of Haryana are the equivalent of the Narikauravas. They kill anything that moves – humans included. All of them, including the women, are the main culprits in killing tigers and selling their parts. As soon as they get information about an available tiger the families decamp from Haryana and come back only when they have killed it. When they can’t find a big cat they roam the cities and kill all the small cats and the odd monkey which are sold to the dhabas , especially the ones making Northeastern, Tibetan and Chinese food. 

In Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra you get rabbit-chicken. Rabbit farming was promoted by the government as an industry in which everyone was supposed to get rich growing the animals at home. It did not happen as it is a very delicate animal and dies easily. So professional slaughterhouse people set up rabbit meat industries and pretending they were tribals to collect the subsidies. Unfortunately for them, the market for rabbit meat has not developed. So the rabbit slaughterers sell the meat as chicken.

But why should you care what “chicken” it is? A survey done by the SPCA Delhi about 10 years ago, showed that 78% of all chickens sold for their meat spent at least 4 days with broken wings and legs, limbs that were fractured while they were being loaded onto the trucks from Haryana. The law says that only one chicken can be in one cage. Nowhere in India do the poultries put less than 20 in a tempo cage. To have an untreated broken part of your body means gangrene sets in, along with acidity, bacteria and disease. By the time it reaches you, the chicken has been transported to the mandi, then its legs have been tied and it is taken upside down with all its brethren on a motorcycle/ bicycle to a local shop. Then it is fed its own feces while it waits on a roadside cage to be chopped. It inhales all the toxic car fumes that stay in its kidneys. So essentially you get a poisoned, diseased, gangrenous dead body to eat – and no amount of spices will remove the toxicity from its body. Most chicken are covered with feces and studies have repeatedly shown that this does not go even after 40 rinses. In fact washing merely removes the visible fecal matter while forcing harmful bacteria into the chicken’s skin. This is whether you eat chicken at home or in a five star hotel or a posh club. That is why crows, squirrels, rats, dogs, cats, mongooses and any other meat tastes exactly the same.

In fact an uncooked chicken is considered one of the most dangerous items in the kitchen. More than 60% of poultry is contaminated with salmonella, camphylobacter or other micro-organisms that spread through the birds from slaughter to packaging. Each year over 20 million Indians get sick from chicken; the precise figure is unknown since most cases are never reported. 

According to the Daily Mail in England, chicken is only 51% of the chicken meat. The rest is chemicals, water and pig skin and entrails. That is why chicken meat is so rubbery and tasteless.

Same problem in each country.

Companies in Holland / Belgium import about 60,000 tons a year of “chicken” that comes from Asia (us and Thailand). This meat is pumped with a chemical mix and sold to the rest of Europe. This “plastic” chicken goes to Indian curry houses, Chinese restaurants and takeaways which disguise it with highly- spiced sauces and colourings. Some is sold to small butchers and cheap supermarket foods. This was first revealed by Panorama, a watchdog programme of BBC TV. Panorama found traces of pig in cheap chicken nuggets sold by Sainsbury's. The rest of the meat was salt, stabilisers, milk protein lactose, dried glucose syrup and dextrose to counteract the salt. The pig was described as hydrolised protein. The Food Standards Agency is concerned that Moslems might be consuming chicken that contains pork.

If this is what they eat when they have watchdogs and standards in those countries, can you imagine what you are eating within India where there are no standards at all. 

Maneka Gandhi

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