Dr Catherine Schuetze’s Speech at the Inauguration
January 24, 2014
Thank you. It is an honour to be here and to be involved in the Kagyu Monlam animal health program. On behalf of the veterinary team I would like to thank His Holiness for the opportunity he has given us to carry out this animal health program.
There are strong connections between Buddhism and veterinary public health. The first is the Buddhist principle of interdependence. Amongst health care professionals, there is a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of animal and human health. 75% of global emerging diseases of concern are zoonotic, that is, they are spread between animals and humans. TB and rabies are good examples of this. The World Health Organisation promotes a “One Health” approach to its own programs- improving human and animal health are equally necessary to tackle community health problems. Without providing adequate health care and vaccination to the animal populations, you cannot control the disease in the human populations. Therefore the program we are inaugurating today is equally for the benefit of the people in this community as it is for the animals.
The second connection between Buddhism and programs like this is compassion for all sentient beings. May they all equally be free from suffering. His Holiness has spoken on this many times and is a strong advocate of a vegetarian lifestyle, free from violence towards those sentient beings. Mahatma Gandhi also said A nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals. There are a vast number of Indian animal welfare organisations and work being done throughout India. This is due to Indians great compassion for animals as evidenced by the vast numbers of vegetarians. India is therefore a great nation. Mrs Gandhi has been championing that cause for such a long time and has made the most significant impact on animal welfare and rights of anyone, anywhere. She is always there to help anybody who is working for animals, big or small, rich or poor, despite their religion, caste or socio-economic status. We applaud her for that and thank her heartily for gracing us with her presence today.
His Holiness is also a strong advocate for animals and the environment. It is therefore very fitting that the Kagyu Monlam’s social work program be extended to include Animal Health Camps. We recognise that while a single two-week camp will help many individual animals, it will not improve the overall health and welfare situation for animals of Bodhgaya in the long term. Therefore today is the inauguration of a long-term project where the veterinary team will return each Kagyu Monlam for several years and continue the work started this week.
The program has several arms. The first and most technical is the surgical desexing and anti-rabies vaccination program. This is the only humane way to control the roaming dog population and rabies deaths in animal and humans. Health benefits for the whole community come through reducing dog numbers and the incidence of dog bites and rabies infections. It also allows the veterinarians to treat other health problems like skin disease, cancers, wounds and fractures. Research studies have shown that in areas where these programs are carried out, there are significant improvements to the animal health and also a reduction in the numbers of dog bites and rabies deaths in humans. It is therefore a very important part of this initiative and will build onto the significant achievements already made by the local NGO MAITRI who have been carrying on this work for many years now.
The second wing of the Kagyu Monlam program is the out patients clinic where every animal, large or small, is treated and given free medicine. So far we have seen many buffalo, cows, goats, dogs and other animals brought in for urgent treatment. This will soon extend to an outreach program and the vets will travel from panchayat to panchayat dispensing medicines and advice in equal measure.
The third wing is community education about animal diseases, welfare and the compassionate and responsible care of animals under their care. For example, we will be teaching children how to avoid being bitten by dogs, and what steps to take to prevent rabies in the case of a dog bite injury. Children are the ones most at risk from rabies through dog bites and so this is lifesaving training.
This is a brief overview of the programs aims and objectives. The team of dedicated volunteer animal health care professionals from Sikkim and Dharamsala include vets, vet-aides cum dog-catchers and kennel hands. Many monks are also chipping in to lend a hand and have proven to be quite good at catching dogs and also are very kind with them. The team will be returning each Kagyu Monlam for the next few years and we hope you will come and visit again. Thank you.