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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

‘Beauty Without Cruelty - India’, Animal Rights Organization

The office of Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) in Pune is a unique place of sorts. As you enter the four-acre premise, you are greeted by half a dozen friendly cats. Soon, more pour in and settle themselves on the tables, desks, computer keyboards – right under the fans in an effort to beat the summer heat. After a while, Sammy the mother dog enters. She protects these cats, more than 20 in number, from all the other dogs in the area. Most of these animals have been rescued from various life-threatening situations and given a name and home at BWC – these animals bring in positivity and one can feel it.

We soon learn that BWC was founded by Diana Ratnagar in 1974 with the objective of eliminating the commercial exploitation of animals in India in the pretext of religion, entertainment, fashion, sports, research, and food. BWC pledges to exemplify “a way of life which causes no creature of land, sea or, air  terror, torture, or death.” Since its inception, BWC has dedicatedly worked to achieve its motto. 

Essentially, BWC is an organization engaged in vegan education, research, and lobbying. BWC lobbies with agencies in a position to take decisions that can have a bearing over the life, safety, and welfare of animals, birds, and other sentient beings. It is difficult to summarize the achievements of BWC in one post; however, we shall try to capture the essence.

Some landmark lobbying by BWC

You will probably recall the 'green' vegetarian symbol on packaged foods. This symbol is an outcome of the lobbying done by BWC with the Food and Drugs Department of the Government of India. In 1978, BWC appealed that consumers have the right to know whether a particular food product is vegetarian or not. After more than 20 years of advocacy, the appeal was heard. In 2001, the Government made it mandatory for manufacturers to print the indicative 'green' symbol on vegetarian products.

In 1989, BWC won a battle with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) that led to the discontinuation of the ICAR-sponsored Karakul lamb project. Under this project, Karakul lambs were been imported from the former USSR for slaughter in India. After the project got scrapped, BWC purchased the entire flock of sheep meant for slaughter and shifted them to a safe place in Gujarat where they could live out their natural lifespan. In the same year, BWC succeeded in stopping the age-old barbaric custom of teenage boys biting a piglet to death at Terekol, Goa in celebration of St John’s Baptism.

Over the years, BWC has succeeded in putting an end to many similar cruel practices in the country. To learn about the other achievements of BWC, you can visit the BWC-India website by clicking this link.

Vegan education by BWC

“Compassionate Friend” newsletter:The BWC newsletter, "Compassionate Friend" is an effective tool for Vegan education. We recommend subscribing to this quarterly newsletter. Compassionate Friend is available both in hard and soft copy. For the soft copy editions of the Compassionate Friend, you can click this link. The hard copy editions can be collected from the BWC office or requested through post upon payment of a nominal membership fee. The hard copy editions come with a copy of the current communication materials prepared by BWC, their lovely calendar featuring many animal friends, and a remarkable investment guide. The investment guide, an outcome of research, is for use by investors who wish to invest in ethical companies. The guide lists companies in three categories: 1) whose actions do not cause harm to animals, 2) whose actions cause harm to animals, and 3) whose intent is unknown. You can read more about the investment guide by clicking this link.

Besides this, the hard copy editions of the newsletters are printed on paper that is free of substances derived from animals. 

“Life Reverent Programme” for schoolchildren: BWC is actively engaged in imparting value-based education to schoolchildren through its school contact programme called the “Life Reverent Programme”. Amruta who is in charge of this program says: 
“Young minds are more impressionable, empathetic, and compassionate. Unfortunately, children detach from compassion as they grow older because compassionate behavior is not reinforced by most guardians – be it parents, relatives, or teachers.”
The BWC Life Reverent Programme helps children understand that humans share the planet with animals, birds, and other sentient beings. Children also learn that humans do not have the right to exploit other living beings that are less powerful than them or behave cruelly with them. Amruta describes the contact programme to be a very rewarding exercise as children are able to appreciate the ideals of compassion. Some of them take part in the conversations by sharing personal experiences of incidents where they have witnessed cruelty towards animals. These experiences are used to discuss about all that can be done to stop such incidents and prevent them from occurring again.

BWC has a letter of permission from the Pune Municipal Corporation schools to conduct the Life Reverent Programme with the Pune Municipality schools. Private schools are also contacted on a one-to-one basis. What have the reactions of parents and teachers been to the Life Reverent Programme? Explains Amruta:

“Parents and teachers are overwhelmed by all that their children learn through our presentations and usually want to know more... and ask us to come back. They even help us in reaching out to more schools...”

This is just a glimpse of some of the work done by BWC-India. To know more, you can explore the BWC website. Hope you can make use of the BWC education materials and tools to expand the circle of compassion on Earth.

“Animal rights, at its heart, is the most unextreme philosophy I can imagine. It is about nonviolence. It is about compassion. It is about not harming and not causing suffering and not killing when we don't have to. That’s it. It is really, truly that simple.” ~Stephanie Ernst, Independent Animal Rights Advocate~

For more articles in this blog containing references to BWC, you can click this link.

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