Indian Newspaper Claims Drug Research Is At a Standstill There Due to Animal Rights

The Times of India published a story in September claiming that biomedical research in that country has come to a near standstill due to a committee run by animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi which is blocking almost all research involving animals.

Gandhi is a former government minister and animal rights activist who heads the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals. According to The Times of India, Gandhi and her committee are “making it virtually impossible for medical scientist to use large animals for experiments” in India.

According to the Times, for example, an Indian company was recently prevented from using 15 rabbits for safety testing of a new drug. It did the logical thing and outsourced the testing to a nearby country, the result being that the test was still done but at a higher expense and requiring more time to complete.

The Times also claims that the Committee has prevented tests designed to quickly diagnose virus outbreaks. According to the Times,

At the National Institute of Virology, Pune, scientist could not conduct any tests on monkeys to get quick results as they struggled to contain a mysterious outbreak in Andhra Pradesh which went on to claim the lives of some 200 children. “The scientists did whatever they could in the laboratory. But tests on monkeys would have given some immediate results,” says a senior Indian Council of Medical Research (ICRM official). The same story was repeated during another epidemic of brain fever in Assam.


Production of new drugs getting delayed. Times of India, September 24, 2004.

Indian Researchers Working on Egg-Derived Snake Antivenin

National Geographic News reported in February that Indian scientists have found a method to use poultry eggs to produce an inexpensive snake bite antidote that could potentially save thousands of lives each year.

Snake bites are a serious problem in India, with National Geographic reporting that there are 300,000 such cases each year with as many as ten percent of victims dying because they do not receive anti-venom in time.

The current method of producing the treatment is to immunize horses against the venom of the cobra, common krait, saw-scaled viper and Russell’s viper. The horse antibodies are then used as an antidote in humans (of course, PETA will likely soon have a “Snake Antivenin is Horse’s Blood” campaign any day now). This is a very slow process.

National Geographic describes the new process that Indian researchers are attempting to perfect,

Very young chickens are immunized with small doses of the target-snake venom and as these animals grow older they develop in their blood special proteins which act as antidotes against the toxin, according to the researchers.

As the chickens become hens and start egg production, it has been found that the antivenin proteins are passed on, accumulating in the yolk. The eggs are then harvested for extraction of the proteins used to make the antidote.

The research has even garnered the endorsement of India’s most prominent animal rights activist, Maneka Gandhi,

Production of diagnostic and therapeutic products in chicken represent a refinement and reduction in animal use, and the collection of blood is replaced by extraction of antibody from egg yolk. As chickens produce larger amounts of antibodies, there is a reduction in the number of animals we need to use.


Poultry eggs may yield snake antivenin, experts say. Pallava Bagla, National Geographic News, February 11, 2003.

M V Ramana on Maneka Gandhi and Hindu Extremism

As I wrote about earlier, animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi was removed this month from her position chairing India’s highest authority regulating animal experimentation. Princeton University physicist M V Ramana wrote an interesting op-ed in Pakistani newspaper Daily Times earlier in December highlighting the sort of nonsense that went on under Gandhi’s watch.

Ramana writes about the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals inspection and recommendations of primate research at India’s National Institute of Immunology. After that inspection, the CPCSEA claimed that most of the primates at the NII were undernourished and suffering from tuberculosis. The CPCSEA then suspended the NII’s authority to conduct primate research, although that decision was stayed by an Indian court.

According to Ramana, although the CPCSEA made its charges public and used its inspection to justify suspending the NII’s primate research program, it still has not made its inspection report public nor supplied a copy to the NII or anyone else.

The report probably hasn’t been made public because it is likely full of errors. The claim that most of the primates at the NII facility suffered from tuberculosis turned out to be false — only two of the 207 monkeys suffered from TB. Ramana writes,

It turned out that the CPCSEA team, not being well-versed with the procedures followed at the NII animal facility, had assumed that animals with crosses in their records — indicating that they had not been tested for tuberculosis, which is common for infant monkeys — were suffering from TB (which were denoted by plus signs). This could be laughed off as an error but for the “wastage for public funds and credibility of both NII and CPCSEA.”

Ramana, too, sees this as part of a disturbing rise of Hindu extremism in India (with Gandhi’s recent firing, on the other hand, being a welcome sign),

There is a more dangerous underside to these actions, and that is the connection, albeit oblique, to Hindu right wing ideology with its fatalistic notions of Karma theory and its support for a caste hierarchy where upper castes claim superiority partly on account of their vegetarianism and not coming into contact with “dirty animals.” Some go further: activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad justified their lynching of Dalits in Haryana by suggesting that the cow is more precious than a human being. The recent saga of the CPCSEA is thus dangerous at many levels: the distortion of an official institution, obstacles to scientific progress, and ultimately a challenge to rational democracy.

For those not following Indian current events, Ramana is referring to the October 15, 2002 lynching of five men in Haryana. The men — all members of the lowest “untouchable” Dalit caste — were accused of killing cows and taking their skins to make leather. A mob of 4,000 to 5,000 people lynched took the men form police custody and lynched them.

Immediately after the lynching, members of the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad quoted Hindu religious writings to the effect that a cow is more valuable than a human being and that the penalty for killing a cow should be death.


Animal rights and wrongs. M V Ramana, Daily Times (Pakistan), December 19, 2002.

Maneka Gandhi Removed from Indian Animal Testing Panel

Earlier this year I wrote about an upsurge in Hindu nationalism in India that, among other things, was helping drive an animal rights agenda in government. Spearheading that was Maneka Gandhi, who was chairperson of India’s Central Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals and using her position to block scientific research.

This week, however, Gandhi was removed from her position as chair of this committee. The position was temporarily handed over to V.K. Duggal, Special Secretary in the Union Environment and Forests Ministry, until a permanent replacement can be named.

Gandhi had been removed from the Union Cabinet in July 2002 after she came up on the losing end of a debate over animal research with then-Union Health Minister C.P. Thakur.

Thanks to Gandhi’s role in impeding animal research, a number of important initiatives, including production of vaccines, have fallen behind schedule.

The official reason for Gandhi’s removal from the committee was that a Member of Parliament could not hold this sort of committee post, but it was also clear that the government wanted to install someone less extremist in her views. Union Environment Minister T.R. Baalu told The Hindu that the government would be looking for a chairperson who would better balance animal welfare concerns with the need for animal research.


Maneka removed from panel monitoring tests on animals. P. Sunderarajan, The Hindu, December 24, 2002.

Maneka Gandhi divested of post of Chairperson of Committee. OutlookIndia.Com, December 23, 2002.

India: Hindu Nationalism and Animal Rights

Right-wing Hindu nationalism in India is forcing a number of changes in the use of animals in medical research, food and consumer products.

In May, Indian officials announced they were planning on labeling all cosmetics and personal hygiene products as to whether or not they were “vegetarian.” This came after officials had early proposed labeling medicines as to whether or not they were “vegetarian.” That proposal was ultimately rejected on the grounds that almost all medicine would have to be labeled “non-vegetarian” and might discourage strict vegetarians from accepting them.

But medical research in India has nonetheless been hampered by India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which centralized the ability to approve or deny experiments involving animals to a single committee chaired by Indian animal rights activist and welfare minister Maneka Gandhi.

A series of laws passed in the late 1990s further granted this Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals the sole power to import large animals. The result is that conducting medical research in India has to go through a number of time-consuming steps that has resulted in a drastic decline in the amount of research being conducted in the subcontinent.

When Gandhi is not busy blocking medical research, she is campaigning for Indians to abandon milk using the same sort of specious arguments cited by folks like Neal Barnard and Robert Cohen in the United States.

Gandhi and others don’t mince words about the purpose of such policies, which is explicitly to counteract fears of a growing Westernization of India. But India is not simply rejecting overt Westernization but rather it is turning its back on modernity in order to appeal to Hindus.

Nothing illustrates that more than the announcement in May that in a country with food problems and high levels of poverty, the Defense Ministry, which had been hit by bribery scandals a year earlier, would devote significant resources to translating an ancient Hindu military text that included folk recipes to make military assets invisible and invulnerable, and allow soldiers to see in the dark.

India Defense Minister George Fernandes actually claimed in all seriousness that information in the text included a recipe for a food substance that would feed a soldier for an entire month on a single serving!

India’s government appears to have abandoned all sense and reason, preferring instead to cater to right wing Hindu voters. Its increasingly tight regulation of animal industries is simply one symptom of that.


Maneka kills research. The Economic Times of India, May 22, 2002.

India fashion ‘goes vegetarian’. Jill McGivering, The BBC, May 11, 2002.

India defence looks to ancient text. Shaikh Azizur Rahman, The BBC, May 14, 2002.