By Atrei Chatterjee:
In 2009, the Supreme Court of India ordered an immediate stop on the killings of stray dogs on the grounds of nuisance. They said nuisance can’t be defined, and the root causes of dog aggression should be addressed instead of snuffing out an innocent life. On the 13th of July 2015 the government of Kerala decided in an all-party meet to go against the ruling of the Supreme Court and selectively kill rabid and nuisance dogs. Animal welfare workers and activists from all over the country took a strong stand against this decision. We networked online, got together and started planning pressure campaigns against this decision. It was from here that the Boycott Kerala Tourism movement was born.
Personally, it was unfathomable that a government could take such a decision. I’ve grown up with stray dogs around all my life, and I couldn’t imagine them not being there. Dogs are simple creatures. Their behaviour is entirely based on cause and effect. So I joined the movement, because no innocent creature deserves to die because humans don’t know how to behave. Too long we’ve behaved like self-entitled pricks about the environment. It’s time we all took a stand. The online campaign started almost immediately after the decision was taken, and the spammers attacked us just around the same time.
I hadn’t been inundated with so much spam in my life. We were bombarded by fake profiles copy-pasting the same comment hundreds of times. There were pictures of cancer patients posted saying they were dog bites. The front man for the mass hysteria in Kerala, started a massive anti-campaign against us. I guess he got uncomfortable that we started asking questions about the legality of the movement and where the funds meant for ABC (Animal Birth Control) programs went. I would like to point out that when I say hysteria, I meant unjustified hysteria. The statistics used by the Kerala Government misrepresented all animal bites as dog bites. The meeting where they announced the reasons for this was also rigged. People were paid to come and share their stories of dog bites, conveniently leaving out that the bites they received were from pet dogs. Their own corporation veterinarians came out saying that the ABC programs were never implemented properly, that they had neither manpower nor resources to implement them. Ernakulum General Hospital gave out statistics to TOI that stated that over 75% of dog bites were from pet dogs. Their hospitals ran out of rabies vaccines – so kill all strays because the government can’t do more frequent inventory checks? Reality was against them, but pure economic power was against us. And that is what we set out to dismantle.
I’ve had arguments thrown at me as “logical” “proof” of our insincerity. The most stupid question I’ve come across about why we aren’t protesting against other atrocities in other places. Why don’t we protest rape in Delhi? Why don’t we protest against Sonagachi in Bengal? Why don’t we protest against Yulin? Why don’t we do this or that or the other? It seems ridiculous to me that this issue would even be brought up! No one asks the Red Cross why they aren’t protesting against high taxation rates. No one asks WHO why they haven’t raised their voice against a certain political agenda. No one questions why the liver doesn’t do the work of the kidney. It’s ridiculous! The most recent claim has been that the rabies vaccine companies are paying us to protest. If they are, I’d like to see some of that cash because I’ve been broke for a long time. This movement has been called fake because I asked people to leash and keep their pets under control during the Kolkata march. If anyone is listening, it was because large crowds would scare dogs that are not used to it. The dog is then likely to run away, not bite. Home dogs are used to a quiet, non-crowded environment, while strays are used to the hustle and bustle of the road. Spammers posted misinformation saying our protests were called off, posed as pro-movement activists and said the protests didn’t happen, trying to break our momentum. We must have got them scared.
People have been appealing to our love for fellow humans and have been threatening to revenge kill dogs and torture people from Bengal because we raised our voice against the dog cullings. Seems a little ironic that those two points are said in the same sentence. This movement was against a governmental decision, and not against the people of a state. Tempers get out of hand online, and both sides have made unfortunate statements. Go ahead and visit any of the protest pages, you’ll see over 300 comments on each post, mostly by spammers. They started a copycat campaign called Boycott North India, and two mock campaigns called Adopt A Rabid Dog From Kerala and Boycott Kerala for killing mosquitoes. Activists from Kerala reported revenge killings and the most barbaric mass murder of dogs on the streets. Recently, their local news channels started reporting these incidents with video coverage. But again, we only have reality and humanity on our side. They have mass hysteria and money.
The demands of the movement are simple. We will refuse to interact or communicate with the governance of Kerala in all realms of interaction, be it social, cultural, economic, spatial or any other till all unconstitutional activities with regard to animal welfare in the state stop. It is an extremely peaceful form of protest. Contrary to the beliefs of certain “logical” Indians, this is not a hate campaign. We love Kerala. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people. We simply don’t want that beauty to be marred by canine genocide. We want such inhumane activities to stop, and we want everyone involved in inciting the people to such hateful activities dealt with in the strictest ways possible, as provided in the constitution.
Currently, the mass hysteria whipped up by this person has wreaked untold damage. Organizations backed by him like Stray Dog Free Kerala have started offering monetary rewards for anyone who manages to capture a stray. This is the same man who offered to pay for cold storage units to export dog meat to dog meat eating countries. This is the same man who proposed to put all strays into dog pounds, locked away for their entire lives for the crime of being born. If you want proof, there are enough videos online that show canines being captured, persecuted, tortured and killed in the most brutal way possible. Thankfully, the protests and online campaigns have made a big impact. We’ve had reports from travel agents and people in the hotel management industry in Kerala say that bookings are being cancelled. If we want the government to listen, the only way to their ears seems to be the economy. We hit the Kerala beef market pretty hard, and managed to convince some local bodies to follow Supreme Court and AWBI guidelines. Dog cullings in Thrissur are also being probed into because of our agitation. So we’re gaining parts, but the curve is upwards and it feels good.
What the government of Kerala does not understand is that mass cullings will get them nowhere. Indian pariah dogs are extremely intelligent and adaptable. They will learn to avoid catchers and be mistrustful of humans. Territory fights will break out when dogs of one area are taken. This will lead to an increase in aggressive dogs who cannot be caught, because that is how evolution works. Subsequent attempts at ABC and vaccination programs will fail. The urban ecology will be kicked where it hurts, and feral animals will move in. By this decision, they are actively putting their citizens and their beautiful environment in grave danger. Planned Animal Birth Control programs are the only way the population of strays can be controlled in the long term. Root causes of aggression, like resource hoarding, must be eradicated. The citizens of India must learn to live in peace with their environment. Because if they don’t, Nature will bite back. And that is something you cannot vaccinate against.
About the author: Freelancer and animal welfare worker. She dedicates most of her time towards helping those who can’t help themselves.