My first encounter with a government vet was when long ago I rushed an injured street dog to the Municipal Veterinary Centre. The vet interrupted an operation to greet me. He wore no gloves and was actually smoking during surgery. Behind the office was a dog destruction room (India was still killing dogs then). It was partitioned into narrow enclosures each stuffed with 10 or more howling dogs, many of whom had been severely injured during catching. The vet 'put them to sleep' by having sweepers douse them with water after which he’d touch them with a live electric wire again and again. Those that still didn’t die were bashed on the head and thrown into the garbage.
This vet is the reason I built my first animal shelter and went so passionately into defending innocents at the mercy of people like him.
God's chosen ones, vets are doctors whose voiceless patients depend entirely on them. Gentleness, compassion and the wisdom of that third eye which earns Shiva the most exalted of all his names, Pashupati, lord of the animals -- are the virtues a vet must exemplify.
Instead I regularly witness the immorality and cruelty of government vets. It is a government vet in Haryana who falsely certifies that animals going for slaughter to West Bengal are being transported for agricultural use. I made a rule disallowing more than 35 pigs in one rail bogey. A government vet in Guwahati has certified that 100 pigs are “equally comfortable” in that space. So contravening existing law, the Railway Board allows these intelligent animals to be squashed like tomatoes for days so that pig traders may cut costs. In Kasauli, the government vet drills holes in sheep heads, inserts rabies viruses into them and seals them with boiling tar all without anaesthesia. Another government vet saves on anaesthesia by refrigerating live rabbits before experimentation. Yet another punctures horses with rusted needles and injects a miscalculated dose of snake venom leaving them to die in agony after two weeks.
The list is endless. What's frightening is that the rules allow these 'doctors' to do anything even if they achieve nothing and are guilty of the worst viciousness. After designing the Government Committee for the Supervision of Experiments on Animals, armed with tight protocols, we chased such vets and scientists for five years. Unfortunately many still survive.
One of the nastiest cases took place in Sri Lanka last year.
KACPAW (Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare) is an organization that has since 1998 been rescuing and re-homing dogs as well as conducting a sterilization programme strongly supported by the Provincial Governor and Health Ministry.
Professor Jayanthe Rajapakse is a veterinary professor in the Parasitology Department of the University of Peradeniya. In May 2007, he requested the KACPAW shelter for three dogs as pets and adopted three of its healthiest inmates: Polly, Wussie and Perry. Each had been spayed and vaccinated against rabies, parvovirus and distemper.
Five days later KACPAW discovered that the professor had taken the dogs to Getambe where extensive invasive surgery had been performed on them by Dr Wasantha Kumara, head of Getambe’s government veterinary hospital. One dog died after her adrenal glands and kidneys were removed. Another had her pancreas removed and bile duct damaged, and died six months later.
There was immediate condemnation of this barbarity including from the organisers of an international conference that Prof. Rajapakse was to attend whom I informed. Subsequently I received a letter from Rajapakse in which he admitted to paying Dr Kumara to do the surgery. Here is what the man had to say: “In the first dog the adrenal gland was removed. In the second dog the pancreas was removed. Nothing was removed from the third dog who was subjected to exploratory surgery as a control.”
Bad as that is, it is still lies! The first dog, Polly had both kidneys removed and not surprisingly, died dreadfully. The second dog, Wussie’s bile duct was damaged and pancreas removed because of which she contracted jaundice and diabetes and died within six months. Perry did not lose any organs and still survives.
What was the purpose of cutting up three healthy dogs? Professor Rajapakse claims and I quote “ I was doing a trial on Therapy for Diabetes Mellitus with medicines of plant origin and Gene Therapy. Invention of therapies from medicines of plant origin is my preferred area and I have published several research papers on such experiments.”
So what does the removal of dog parts have to do with a herbal remedy for diabetes? How does cutting up three non-diabetic dogs establish the healing properties of whichever plant Rajapakse had in mind for his Nobel Prize? The case was discussed at several scientific conferences. Experts believe that the surgeon botched the job because he had no clarity of thought or purpose. None has been able to fathom an explanation for such a surgery. It has no valid veterinary or research basis. Rajapakse's CV and list of publications reveal him to be a parasitologist with no prior interest or background in diabetes research. Clearly there is something more sinister.
After receiving complaints from around the world, the Sri Lanka Veterinary Council has instituted an inquiry. In India, far from being a conscience keeper of the profession, the Veterinary Council is just a bunch of old men who've pulled strings to be on some government body. I sincerely hope Sri Lanka is different.
The University of Peradeniya is also conducting an inquiry into Professor Rajapakse’s misconduct. Plus It has stated that " pending the outcome of the inquiry, the University has taken steps to issue guidelines specifying the procedure to be adopted in using animals for experiments with a view to avoiding the occurrence of such incidents in future.” So perhaps Polly and Wussie have not died in vain.
If he understood the moral implications of his cruelty or expressed remorse for betraying basic veterinary ethics, there might still be hope for Prof Rajapakse. Instead the good doctor remains brazen and bellicose. In fact he and his partner in crime, Dr Wasantha Kumara have just opened a private clinic in Kandy called Vet Scam… sorry, Vet Scan. Dr Wasantha Kumara is already partner in a Colombo clinic which stands accused in two cases where street animals taken for treatment were burnt to death or simply disappeared.
Would you want your pets treated by these two ghouls who have admitted to carving up healthy dogs? Society must ensure that they are suitably punished and their new clinic fails. There are many vets like that in India and they only prosper because you let them.
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