On Friday, a huge billboard went up in Guwahati’s busy Paltan Bazar junction. The sign that proclaimed “If You Wouldn’t Eat a Dog, Why Eat a Chicken?” was made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, and comes as a response to the the recent incident where more than 60 dogs were being smuggled for consumption on a Nagaland-bound truck.
On May 3, the canines were rescued by the local police when the truck carrying them met with an accident in Nagaon’s Samuguri area in Assam. Four people were arrested on the same day. This is just one of the many incidents where dogs are abducted from Assam and passed over to Nagaland. “Sadly it is our Assamese youth who sells these dogs,” says Sangeeta Goswami, chairperson of People for Animals (PFA). She has been rescuing dogs since the mid-nineties and says that a healthy dog is sold for about Rs 100 to Rs 200 in Assam, while dog meat is priced at Rs 400 per kilo in Nagaland.
Earlier in Sonapur, the PFA rescued 38 dogs which were being reared in a closed compound “like they were vegetables,” according to Goswami. PETA India has also rescued a number of dogs from various slaughterhouses in the Northeast, where dog meat is believed to be a delicacy. “After a local reported that dogs were being killed for meat by a man in Meghalaya, we worked with the whistleblower, Meghalaya police and the Stray Animal Rescue Society (SARS) to stop the dog killer. The action led to the arrest of a man and the rescue of two dogs,” says a PETA spokesperson, over email.
Under Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 11 of the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,’ and the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) Rules, it is a criminal offence to kill or maim a dog for meat. “Yet the cruelty does not stop,” says Goswami, “Even the conditions these dogs are kept in are deplorable — they are tied up in gunny bags and the new norm is to gag their mouths by stitching it up with a cloth.”
Consumption of dog meat is common in some parts of the Northeast — mostly Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. “We have tried to talk to many communities. Sometimes we succeed, many times we do not. In Assam, one group in Karbi Anglong still eats dog meat,” says Goswami adding that many communities believe that pregnant women who consume dog meat give birth to babies who are “as strong as dogs.”
Meanwhile, PETA India is appealing to the public in Guwahati — the gateway to the Northeast — to adopt a vegan diet. “Dogs don’t deserve to be rounded up and trucked to their deaths so that humans can eat them – but neither do chickens, cows, pigs, or any other animals,” says Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA India CEO. “PETA India’s billboard makes the simple point that people who are disgusted by eating dog should question why they consider it acceptable to consume one animal’s flesh but not another’s and go vegan.”
A day after the board has gone up in Guwahati, the animal rights organisation claims to have received requests for their free “Vegan Starter Kit” from several people. “Considering chickens’ emotional and intellectual capabilities, it makes no sense to call dogs friend and chickens dinner,” says a PETA spokesperson.