Jan Salter, a legend in Himalayan humane work, offers a second perspective and further detail about the Nepal earthquake relief effort at “Nepal earthquake update from Jan Salter, founder, KAT Centre,” and Animal Nepal’s post-earthquake report.
KATHMANDU––“The Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center now is critically suffering from the [post-earthquake] financial crisis and can’t operate its activities for this monsoon,” e-mailed NAWRC founder and executive director G.P “Uttam” Dahal to ANIMALS 24-7 on July 5, 2015.
“In Nepal, monsoon [rainy season] started since last week and we are stopped to do any programs at this moments because of weather,” Dahal explained. “The monsoon will continue for a month and we have plans to act afterward. This whole month, we will spend to raise funds.”
The back story
Dahal wrote seeking a publicity boost for the newly launched GoFundMe web site for Disaster Relief for Animal in Nepal (http://t.co/NpLxalFsd6).
The launch of yet another of thousands of GoFundMe web sites raising funds for hundreds of animal causes and organizations worldwide would normally not be news. ANIMALS 24-7 receives many similar appeals each and every day.
But the back story to the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center appeal is news, not least because thousands of ANIMALS 24-7 readers may imagine they have already donated in support of the work that the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center is doing, without much of the money actually getting to Nepal to accomplish much of anything.
Year of furor
As of July 2015, Nepal had been prominent for more than a year in the campaigns and fundraising appeals of many of the world’s largest and most influential animal charities.
First came months of appeals anticipating the once-every-five-years mass sacrifice of buffalo and other species in honor of the local goddess Gadhi Mai at Bariyarpur, in southern Nepal near the Indian border.
Held despite international furor on November 27, 2014, the Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival was revealed by aerial photography to be magnitudes of order smaller than activists and animal charity donors had been led to believe.
Investigative work by Beauty Without Cruelty-India subsequently suggested that hugely exaggerated claims about the numbers of animals sacrificed had probably begun with priests selling each animal multiple times to absentee sponsors. Activists had then swallowed the inflated claims whole, and added a further exaggeration factor to try to drum up global support for protest.
As the Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival gained international prominence through social media, major animal charities jumped on the bandwagon, but sent only a handful of observers to Nepal, and––unlike several much smaller U.S. and European animal charities––did not provide substantial material support for activities within Nepal.
Won restraining order
While all that was going on, Dahal realized that many aspects of the sacrificial slaughter would be in violation of the Nepal Animal Health & Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act, and the Nepal Environment Protection Act.
Quickly but quietly taking his case to the Supreme Court of Nepal, Dahal on November 24, 2014 won an order from Justice Govinda Kumar Upadhayay which, if strictly enforced, might have stopped the Gadhi Mai mass sacrifice entirely.
The official English translation of the order, while not nearly as strongly worded as it could have been, called upon “the local bodies, organizations and associations, people, health administration, and police” to manage the Gadhi Mai festival “keeping these laws in mind.”
In other words, the responsible persons were asked to enforce the Nepal Animal Health & Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act, and the Nepal Environment Protection Act.
They did not. After witnessing and videographically documenting many violations, Dahal began the slow process of seeking further court orders to enforce the November 24, 2014 order.
If upheld as a precedent, the November 24, 2014 order might not only stop future mass sacrifices at Gadhi Mai festivals, but might also impose a variety of restraints on other sacrificial events, especially those occurring outside of established temples and involving sale or other distribution of meat from sacrificed animals.
But on April 25, 2015 an earthquake measuring up to 8.1 on the Richter scale hit central Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people, chiefly in suburbs of Kathmandu, the capital city, along with about 300,000 farmed animals, mostly chickens.
Again major international animal charities electronically blitzed donors with appeals, this time for disaster relief in Nepal, though none of them actually had work underway on the ground there until six days later.
“The earthquake shifted the hearings many times,” Dahal reported, “as the Supreme Court’s building is broken and the court is holding judicial proceedings through camps. But I am ready to enforce the interim order at any cost at the next Gadhi Mai festival,” Dahal avowed.
Local groups respond
Meanwhile, the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center, Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust, Animal Nepal, and other Nepal-based animal charities were digging out from under the rubble in their own neighborhoods and mobilizing as best they could to help stricken animals––mostly working animals such as donkeys, mules, and bullocks, and cattle and poultry who had been indoors when sheds and barns collapsed.
When delegations did arrive from the international animal charities, ANIMALS 24-7 was told by a senior nonprofit executive well known to us, who declined to be identified, the first problem they encountered was that “No investment had been made in disaster preparedness. Local activists have been trying to find funds to create an earthquake plan for Nepal for years. No luck. When the earthquake struck, the international agencies,” including the animal charities, “had no clue how to go about things––so much time was wasted on surveys and assessments.”
The second problem, resulting from the first, was that because almost no one with the major international animal charities had prior experience in Nepal, “They sent the wrong vets.”
Most of the veterinarians flown to Nepal in the first weeks after the earthquake were dog-and-cat vets, including spay/neuter specialists. But most of Nepal has relatively few dogs and cats compared to the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Most of those are street dogs and feral cats, living outdoors, not pets who were trapped in the collapsing brick houses and shops where most of the human victims died.
WVS was the exception
“Very few dogs and cats were injured,” the nonprofit executive confirmed from the scene. “There was, however, massive damage to livestock––Nepal is a nation of farmers. Yet no agency apart from Worldwide Veterinary Services [based in Britain] sent vets with livestock experience. While farm animals were dying out there, the companion animal vets had no clue what to do.”
By mid-May 2015 most of the international animal charities that sent teams to Nepal had already withdrawn. The Humane Society International delegation, for example, left on May 11.
Dahal joined HART team
“I have been engaged in research and programs for needy animals in Nepal since many years,” Dahal told ANIMALS 24-7. “I used to work for dog population management by animal birth control, and have two years of experience in it. I have involved myself in anti-rabies vaccination, rescue and treatment campaigns, public awareness, and other animal welfare related activities.”
But, Dahal continued, “I have no vehicle and doing program work in remote areas needs a vehicle and other support.”
To help with earthquake relief, Dahal said, “I joined the HART team. We have been to the remote areas of Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha and Lamjung districts,” four of the 31 Nepalese districts that were hardest hit by the quake, “to do rescue, relief treatment, and rehabilitation for more than 500 animals [during the first three weeks after the earthquake], planning to help more.
“There are no statistical estimates on losses of livestock,” Dahal continued, “but almost all of the fallen houses [in rural districts] had cattle inside with the people.”
Injured cattle typically suffered broken bones from falling debris.
“Eighty percent of our cases,” Dahal estimated, “were fractures and broken legs or backbones. We applied bandages and plasters, but this would be useless if they could not be well-managed well and kept dry,” a difficult matter in places where “Even people still don’t have tarps for making temporary camps. How will they be able to keep their animals in shelter?” Dahal asked rhetorically, issuing his first post-earthquake appeal via Facebook and Twitter to try to raise funds to buy 1,000 plastic tarps for HART to distribute.
By the standards of more affluent parts of the world, and even neighboring India and China, the number of cattle in need of help were few. Individual barns in much of the world often hold more cattle than either the sum of cattle known to have been injured by the Nepal earthquake or the numbers killed during the Gadhi Mai sacrifices.
But the rescuers doing post-earthquake relief encountered some relatively unique difficulties. Paradoxically to outsiders unfamiliar with the religious diversity of Nepal, while one village may practice animal sacrifice, another just a few miles away may reject killing animals for any reason, including to perform humane euthanasia.
Even more problematic, desperately poor people with few other sources of food and income tended to resist having their one cow euthanized, despite the severity of her injuries, if she was pregnant or still able to give milk.
“With the losses of homes and relatives, the human victims are suffering from big grief,” Dahal said, “and the situation is such a scrape that words are not enough to describe the situation.”
For Dahal himself, a particular source of grief and frustration were responses to his appeals saying things such as that “The Nepal quake is the revenge from God for the Gadhi Mai massacre.”
ANIMALS 24-7 also received several such messages.
Just a quick glance at a map should have showed the people making such statements that they were nonsense, even for the most fervent believers in divine retribution. Most of the districts of Nepal that were hardest hit by the earthquake were far from Bariyarpur, the scene of the Gadhi Mai sacrifices. Compared to the Kathmandu valley, the Bariyarpur area suffered light damage, and then prospered, temporarily, as local businesses served relief convoys driving through on their way from India to Kathmandu.
“Do not give this disaster the name of karma!”
Beyond that, though, the earthquake caused many times more animal suffering than the Gadhi Mai festival had.
Mused Dahal, “I don’t know how the earthquake could be considered karma for the animals who lost their lives, or are suffering with broken legs, broken backs, and other injuries. I am more than happy to take the suffering of all animals and peoples who are having hard lives after this quake as my karma,” Dahal declared, “but please for God’s sake do not give this disaster the name of karma any more!”
(See also “Beauty Without Cruelty-India exposes Gadhi Mai scam,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/02/03/beauty-without-cruelty-india-exposes-gadhi-mai-scam/; The toll from Gadhi Mai 2014: 750 buffalo sacrificed, 1,000 devotees in attendance, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-WW; Ignoring Thanksgiving massacre, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle denounces animal sacrifice in Nepal,http://wp.me/p4pKmM-WF; Supreme Court of India ruling covers tracks on Gadhi Mai sacrifice, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-R2; Exposing the truth of the Gadhi Mai sacrificial slaughter, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-6J; Books shed light on sacrifice in Nepal, http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/03/12/books-shed-light-on-sacrifice-in-nepal/ and The origin of the Gadhi Mai sacrifice,http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/03/12/427/.)