Animal Rahat Provides "Relief" for Animals in India
Throughout India, thousands of bullocks, ponies, horses, and donkeys are treated as forced to cart passengers around and pull overloaded, poorly balanced carts for miles in the sweltering heat.
Many suffer from muscle strain and painful sores. The ill-fitting yokes they are forced to wear leave wounds that can lead to cancer and infection. The animals are disturbingly thin and dehydrated because they are not given enough food or water. They become lethargic and depressed; their eyes are sad and hopeless.
But there is hope for these animals. In 2003, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) established the Animal Rahat (“rahat” is the Hindi word for “relief”) program to alleviate the suffering of working animals in India.
The eight-person Animal Rahat staff educates the locals about basic animal welfare measures; they teach them the importance of providing animals with a nutritious diet and reducing and balancing the animals’ loads. Because of Animal Rahat, a growing number of people are moving away from practices that hurt animals. Fewer people now leave bullocks out in extreme heat or unprotected through the wet, rainy seasons, and, as a result, fewer animals are suffering from heat stress, cough, and pneumonia.
Animal Rahat employees have also installed concrete water tanks in and around the main town of Sangli and the nearby town of Miraj to provide water to thirsty, overheated animals. They’ve designed simple, portable shade screens that can be attached to individual carts and used as a shelter against the sun. The screens can also be used as blankets for the bullocks in the cold winter months. In addition, Animal Rahat has developed a “stress kit” containing supplements and multivitamins to help the animals handle exhausting journeys. To date, Animal Rahat veterinarians have inoculated more than 800 bullocks against foot-and-mouth disease and vaccinated more than 300 horses and 800 donkeys against tetanus. The Animal Rahat program pays the animals’ impoverished “owners” to rest the animals while still being able to feed their families. Owners receive a small subsidy for allowing animals who are too sick, injured, or old to work to retire and live out their lives in peace. If they are unable to care for their animals at home, the animals may live at the Animal Rahat retirement center, a shady, rented patch of land that is currently home to two retired bullocks, Lakshya and Raja 2; four retired horses named Raja, Sultan, Prince, and Boiler; and four rescued donkeys, Paro, Chhunilal, Munni and Chandramukhi. Lakshya is 23, and he was being treated for a fractured shoulder when his owner agreed to retire him. Lakshya’s shoulder has healed nicely, and he will never again be treated as a “beast of burden.” Raja, also 23, was used as a school bus to carry students from their homes to school for the last 20 years. Raja’s owner knew that the horse was too old to keep transporting students and planned to give him to a relative, but when the Animal Rahat veterinarians told the man about the retirement program, he agreed that Raja would be best cared for at the retirement home. Raja is still in good health, and he has been able to enjoy his retirement.
Paro was found lying in the road, injured and barely moving. Her nostrils had been slit with a knife because villagers believe that this makes animals able to endure more weight as their lungs take in more air. This “procedure” is groundless and extremely painful. Because of her injury, Paro was having trouble finding and eating food. She was very weak when Animal Rahat veterinarians took her in and helped nurse her wounds. Now her caregivers report that she is very naughty and that they have to keep a close eye on her so that she doesn’t get into trouble!
People from around the world can help working animals by sponsoring Animal Rahat. Donations to Animal Rahat directly benefit needy donkeys, buffaloes, bullocks, and ponies, and enable PETA to sustain and expand its Animal Rahat efforts, offering relief to more and more animals. Animal Rahat benefactors’ names are posted on the Animal Rahat Web site, and they receive a sponsorship certificate as well as updated news reports on Animal Rahat’s efforts. To become an Animal Rahat sponsor, visit www.PETACatalog.com or www.AnimalRahat.com. For more information about Animal Rahat, e-mail Info@animalrahat.com.