When the Prime Minister of India addressed the nation and announced a lockdown he made a special appeal that CoronaVirus shouldn be fought with compassion. Animals should also be cared for. Birds, cats and dogs should not go hungry he urged. For a prime minister of a country to say that is tremendous but we should expect nothing less from the land of Ahimsa. India’s foremost animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi followed this up with her own plea. She said, ‘Please feed the pigeons and dogs. They cannot give you the virus but they will die if they are not fed. Do as much good as you can. It all adds up to a new world of compassion’.

She also wrote to the local authorities and asked them to allow people to feed the stray animals. “Street dogs, cows, and birds can neither get nor give CoronaVirus to humans. However in the event of a lockdown if they are not fed many will die creating another kind of a problem,” she said. Following this the Delhi administration agreed to issue ‘feeder passes’  to those who feed stray dogs but have been unable to do so after the lockdown orders were issued in the light of the CoronaVirus. The Animal Welfare Board of India has also issued an advisory to all chief secretaries of States and Union Territories in India regarding caring for animals in the case of a lockdown.  “Feed and fodder of large animals and food for companion animals and strays is an essential service and may be kept operational during lockdown,” Chairman of the Board OP Chaudhary said. Many State Governments have made huge monetary donations to animal sanctuaries and animal welfare groups. Hundreds of individuals prepare chapatis to feed stray dogs and monkeys everyday. Delhi-based animal activist Ankita Mahajan said that hundreds of citizens in at least 30 Delhi-NCR WhatsApp groups are coordinating to feed stray animals in their localities amidst lockdown. Activist Sunish Subramanian of Plant and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS-Mumbai) said that their volunteers have also been going about with the service of feeding the local community animals. They have the active cooperation of the police who by now have acknowledged that this work is also important. Some amazing scenes of policemen and women feeding stray animals have gone viral. India has upto 35 million stray dogs who survive on food from eateries and other food outlets. With the lockdown they have no means of surviving hence the call of action by animal rights activists. Tens of thousands of animals are also cared for in animal sanctuaries run by Hindu and Jain groups. Many Jain monks led by Namra Muni who have a huge following have pleaded that special care should be taken of domesticated animals. Hindu religious leaders have made similar pleas. I would like to mention the names of a few people and organisations who have won my heart for their compassion.

Ravi Dubey President of People for Animals, Faridabad, Haryana.

Shri Aadi Jin Charitable Trust Mumbai, Maharashtra. My nephew Bharat Mehta is an active member of the organisation.

Meenaben Founder Pashu Seva Kendra, Vadodra, Gujarat

Kishorebhai Shah (Jivdaya), Chairman Shantinath Charitable Trust, Surat and Antwerp.

Mittal Khetani, Animal HelpLine, Rajkot.

Diana Ratnagar, Beauty Without Cruelty, Pune.

There are hundreds of other exceptional individuals and organisations who keep the flame of Ahimsa burning in India. Ahimsa is the secret of the survival of this most ancient of civilisations. Long may it live. A plant based diet revolution is taking place in many parts of the world. Indian’s who abandoned a plant based diet for a carnivorous diet have to come back to their Ahimsa heritage.

Nitin Mehta

13 April 2020

Surat, India

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