Animal rights activist is removed from government committeeBMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7380.68/a (Published 11 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:68
India's high profile animal rights activist and former minister for welfare Ms Maneka Gandhi has been removed from her position as chairwoman of the government's Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals.
The committee had earned the wrath of Indian scientific researchers over recent years for its approach to animals in scientific research and for its “raids” on both government and private laboratories (BMJ 2002;325:1192).
The committee—which gives permission to registered institutions to carry out animal experimentation—has inspected 467 laboratories nationwide since December 1998. It has found that 400 did not have basic facilities for housing and care of laboratory animals, according to the latest committee report published in the women's journal Manushi, which has devoted an entire issue to the subject of animal welfare.
Ms Gandhi says that the conditions in Indian laboratory animal houses and the practices used in experiments with these animals are among the worst in the world.
“While millions of animals have been killed in the name of research in India, almost 90% of this research has been useless and has been unnecessary duplication of research already done abroad,” she told the BMJ.
Sandip Basu, the director of the National Institute of Immunology in New Delhi, calls the raids “non-governmental organisation-type actions of the Maneka brigade.”
His institute was inspected by the committee twice, but no report has been provided to them, despite his demands, said Dr Basu.
He vehemently contradicts the committee's assertions publicised in its newsletter under the title “Primates pickled in cages for 18 years” (http://www.cpcsea.com/).
“I can vouch only for my own institute and say that the animals have been kept in conditions that are not only internationally acceptable but have been recorded by collaborative institutions like the US National Institutes of Health,” he said.
“This is an anti-science mindset that we are up against, and Maneka Gandhi is just a symbol of that,” said Dr Basu.
Scientists have demanded a thorough restructuring of the committee to include “technically knowledgeable experts rather than the emotional ones.”
As for Ms Gandhi, she remains unfazed and unapologetic: “It is quite obviously a conspiracy of the scientific establishment to get me removed,” she told the BMJ. “The scientific establishment would like to turn the committee into a toothless body, but I don't think they will succeed now.”