When the Government made Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandatory, I was thrilled. Perhaps now some money would come to the animal welfare and wildlife agencies. We struggle for money every day – last week we bought a mattress for large animals that are accident cases, just covering one third of the room cost Rs. 2.5 lakh. Ambulances break down, food runs out, every doctor constantly threatens to leave if his pay is not raised – and he wants a pay hike every three months, immunoglobulin injections for distemper cases cost Rs.5000 each. Coats, bandages, blankets, coolers, heaters, paint, tiles… the list is endless.
With the electricity rate hike, our bill comes to Rs. 2 lakh a month. And this is just one shelter I am talking about. We have 35 and no source of funding except donations. But alas, no company has put animal management into their CSR. Aircel ran a campaign asking people to send them SMSs to save the tiger. Everyone got a cheap plastic band in return – and the tiger population continues to spiral downwards. Swarovski also does “wildlife’ which means it puts up senseless boards asking tourists to be quiet or not smoke in Bharatpur sanctuary. One large milk related company, Balaji, does its CSR by sending people to dairies and asking the owners to let the calf have the first milk from the cow as it will strengthen the immunity system. You can’t get more superficial than that. We sent them a proposal that they should put their money into redesigning carts which would not give cattle neck cancer as they pulled these heavy carts. We gave them the design free and all the logistics that would be required. No deal.
If you talk to the corporates, they confess that they put their money into fashionable / popular causes that will bring them publicity indirectly and attach a feel-good factor to what they produce. They will not do charity for its own sake – no matter how urgent the issue. So, most of them do “girl child” and “education”. What that is, God knows. One very large bank in Karnataka spent its CSR on providing THREE wheelchairs for the disabled on train platforms and spent more money on bringing VIPS, to inaugurate those chairs, than on the chairs themselves. Most companies simply do “awareness camps.”
If you talk to the corporates, they confess that they put their money into fashionable / popular causes that will bring them publicity indirectly and attach a feel-good factor to what they produce. They will not do charity for its own sake – no matter how urgent the issue. So, most of them do “girl child” and “education”.
This article is meant for these companies. CSR is meant to be the bridge between companies and the community. It is impossible for the Government to bring about change as the needs are so many (specially the needs of politicians and bureaucrats). NGOs have the focus, know-how, strategic thinking, and commitment but they need the financial strength to enable widespread social transformation. Partnerships between corporations, NGOs and the Government will speed everything up. Appeals to companies to be included in the CSRs are always turned away with the stock response that humans need it more.
But animal welfare is geared only towards human welfare. An animal friendly CSR could include:
- Planting fruit trees in and near jungles: this will help humans by keeping the monkeys away from the cities.
- Building or running small rural hospitals for farmer’s animals. Government has no infrastructure at all. The cost of a cow is now Rs. 50,000. If it dies the farmer is bankrupt. Most of UP‘s villagers still travel in ox or horse drawn carts. Horses that go lame are thrown into ditches to die.
- Holding workshops to teach farmers organic farming.
- Supporting the dog sterilisation programme in smaller towns. This will end rabies once and for all and lessen the population dramatically, and reduce bites.
- Redesigning carts to make them puller friendly. At the moment 33 per cent of oxen die in 3 years of neck cancer, placing a huge financial burden on the farmer/villager
- Building veterinary colleges. At the moment 2,600 vets are produced every year in the worst colleges in the world. No wildlife vets, no zoo vets, no bird vets, very few small animal vets. The emphasis is only on producing animals for meat and milk. But veterinary colleges could teach actual medicine.
- Teaching veterinary compounders who will then get jobs in their own village.
- Giving money to make bureaus to catch wildlife poachers / traders who are denuding the forests.
- Making rescue centres for elephants / injured birds like peacocks / leopards, and running them. Run campaigns for bringing back endangered species like sparrows.
- Pay for turtle nesting sites: this will keep the rivers and oceans clean.
- Pay for animal rescue during floods and cyclones. The man who has lost his house AND animal will never stand on his feet again.
- Making one shelter / hospital in each city to manage the animals there.
Each one of these will have a profound effect on the economy. For those companies that are hesitant because they feel they will not get enough goodwill mileage out of their CSR, here is a survey:
A comprehensive survey was done by the Humane Research Council (HRC) in 2012, on which social cause is viewed most favourably in America. Animal protection came out on top, along with workers rights. Six other causes came far below in public opinion.
This shows that the animal welfare movement is having an impact on the way that society thinks about animals. Despite current economic and political concerns, the animal protection cause is retaining support, though support for all other social justice causes have decreased significantly since 2008. Not only is the movement viewed favourably, but the protection of animals is considered important by a majority of US adults and this includes animals used for profit, such as animals used for food and animals used for research and testing.
HRC conducted a representative survey of thousands of US adults over 2 months regarding attitudes toward various social justice causes. More respondents rated their opinion of animal welfare movements as “more favourable” than any other social movement listed on the survey, including tax reform, homeless advocacy, immigration reform, gay / lesbian rights, environmentalism, and the pro-life (anti-abortion) cause. Further, the animal protection movement is the only cause for which support has not decreased since 2008 when the first survey was done.
After decades of struggling for recognition, the animal protection cause is now considered one of the paramount social justice issues of modern times. Any company that takes the step towards supporting this movement is sure to increase its goodwill. Animal NGOs are very vociferous inIndia. Why not get them on your side?