India’s cows are full of plastic bags. They eat bags that are littered on the street, which causes them to die. Removing the bags is a very easy operation, all they need to do is open it up and pull out up to 150 lbs worth of plastic from the cows. Help Animals India, a Seattle non-profit, sponsors this removal.
The nonprofit hosted the inaugural Hope for the Animals event at Culture Shakti Dance in Beacon Hill on Saturday, October 17. The event featured a live DJ, dance performances, food, and a silent auction. Proceeds from the event went to support animals in India, from animal birth control and training of works at local shelters to animal surgery procedures.
Help Animals India works to improve animals’ lives by not only raising money for animal protection groups in India but also advising animal shelters on how to better help the animals. With a population of about 1.2 billion people and over 300 million living in extreme poverty, animal welfare is not high on the list of priorities.
“India has a ‘live and let live’ policy,” said Help Animals India’s founder, Aileen Weintraub. “That’s the whole concept of ‘ahimsa’, which means non-harming. You don’t kill anything, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to go in and help … that’s why there’s animals all over the street.”
That is why, according to Weintraub, India’s streets are crowded with unwanted cows who are chased away from shop doors from the shop owners. Since India doesn’t have a garbage pickup system, the garbage is left on the streets for the animals to eat.
Hope for the Animals was held in an intimate dance studio, where guests mingled while sampling kombucha and various vegan snacks. Silent auction items ranged from artwork to animal-themed jewelry to pet gift baskets, but the highlight of the night was a set of dance performances by both professional and novice dancers. Two different groups of dancers performed an American tribal style belly dancing (which was completely improvised) and Bollywood dancing.
“It’s pretty amazing how someone so far away from India can organize for so many people to come together for such a great cause. It’s very encouraging,” said event attendee Prakash Ladia.
Ladia said he knew firsthand how much animals really need help in India, as he used to live there.
“In India, animals are not as cared for as they are here in the States,” Ladia said. “There are stray dogs and cats everywhere. Their owners don’t care, they only want to use the animals for milk or eggs but don’t care for them.”
One of Help Animal India’s main projects is animal birth control. Even though many cities promote street dog sterilization, community dogs are still being poisoning due to fear of rabies. India has the highest percentage of human deaths due to rabies each year with many coming from dogs, so Help Animals India is working to lower the number of deaths by supporting animal birth control. The dogs are humanely caught and sterilized and vaccinated for rabies and then let back out onto the streets, where they can live their lives with their friends.
In addition to helping local animals, Help Animals India also helps the local people by providing jobs at the shelters. Weintraub says that she chose to help out animals in India because a U.S. dollar can go very far in India, with workers being paid $1-2 a day to help with the shelters.
“These people wouldn’t have work otherwise, so these people are really working in an environment that they might enjoy. We’ve also given women employment for the first time,” says Weintraub.