doggreenWhen we first arrived in India, Mark and I worked to coordinate a hundred Manav Sadhna kids for Animal Help Foundation’s march for animal rights. We worked with the kids to create lots of animal banners with kid-drawn animals attached to wooden sticks, and with the help of Viral and others, created a Gujarati chant saying that “I love dogs; dogs are my friends… I love cows; cows are my friends, etc.” It was a big hit and kids are still chanting it today. The Manav Sadhna kids were the stars of the march.

Because of this and because we are vegan and love animals, Mark and I have become the go-to guys for all animal rights issues.

Although India has a deep and still living tradition of respecting animals, the mistreatment of animals is something you will see everywhere. All of the street dogs, for instance, are in constant terror as people hit them and throw rocks at them all the time.

We were invited to create an hour-long animal awareness event for the summer camp kids at Manav Sadhna, and so quickly put together a very simple program.

parlegpackI bought 14 packs of biscuits and we showed up. The idea was that we would talk for a bit, then go out and feed whatever animals we encountered, giving kids a hands-on lesson in connecting with animals.

We were introduced by Jayesh-bhai, and have learned that anytime that you are fortunate enough to be introduced by him, the rest is smooth sailing. He has an extraordinary ability to create a captivated audience fully in tune to the heart of what you are about to discuss. We’ve experienced this on many occasions.

Mark spoke first and talked about dogs and how in the US, they are considered part of the family. He spoke of their unconditional love and loyalty. I spoke next and demonstrated how people are all living beings, just like animals, and how we are all worthy of love and respect. Many of the kids just seemed to be glowing after we spoke and we all went off to go find animals.

The first exercise was to take some of the biscuits and crumble them into little pieces for the ants to eat. There were plenty of ants around and the kids loved doing this. It was a safe warmer-upper, and an invaluable exercise in benevolence. The kids were quickly addicted.

animalday01Our group of 35 then went out to find dogs and other animals. The kids were amazing. They found lots of dogs and pet them and fed them and kept coming back for more and more biscuits. I was constantly surrounded by little eager hands, and as fast as I could open the packs and hand them out, I did.

We also were able to feed birds and cows and it was an immensely positive experience for all.

When we got back, we got into a circle and the kids discussed what they had learned. It was so awesome to be part of this circle as the kids just went on and on about how they had previously hit dogs and how they would never do it again, how animals are all worthy of love, and how much they give us back in return. When asked if there are any animals not worthy of love, they thought about it for a second and concluded that every animal is worthy.

animalday02Mark demonstrated the right way to approach a dog for those who weren’t quite attuned. And we even discussed how some people view others as inferior in the caste system and how similar this is to the way many animals are seen as inferior. As this group was all from the harijan community, or ‘lowest caste’, this seemed to resonate pretty strongly.  Gandhi was then brought up and everyone present had a powerful experience about the true meaning of equality.

The exercise was such a simple one, but its effect was profound and transformative.

Thank you unnamed contributor. I spent about $1.40US on biscuits. Not only did it effect a lot of people, but it made some animals’ days as well!

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