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Despicable way of impregnating cows

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Artificial insemination (AI) of cattle is widely practiced in countries with intensive cattle production. In 2017, the National Dairy Plan of this government aimed at artificial insemination for 35% of all fertile animals. The number of inseminations is up from 20 million to 69.29 million.

There are two reasons for the government to adopt this distasteful practice: to get more female cattle pregnant from the small amount of sperm that a single cow would take in if mated naturally with a bull, and to maintain control over the sanitary and health conditions.

While the first object has partially succeeded (in quantity, not in quality: the inseminated cows are weaker and sicker in every generation), the second objective has been a health disaster.

For two reasons:

The semen is not checked thoroughly for genetic or communicable diseases. In fact, I am told that none of the centres even have the necessary scientific equipment to check the semen and, since there is constant pressure to increase the semen output, all the international norms are taken very casually. Bulls that are kept in AI centres should be checked for diseases before being taken, and then regularly. They should be kept in low stress, pleasant and healthy conditions. The truth is that the bulls are sick, underfed, never exercised and very rarely checked for disease. One infected bull can spread disease to thousands of cows via his artificially ejaculated semen. This diseased semen can either cause an abortion in the inseminated cow, or it can result in the foetus being infected.

Certain diseases have become endemic in the cattle population in India: for instance, the spread of tuberculosis has been linked to brucellosis in milk cattle which comes through the semen. Studies done all over the world – even in countries where cleanliness is adhered to – have shown the spread of diseases through AI. In 2020 the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New Scientist  (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/deadly-livestock-disease-may-have-spread-through-infected-bull-semen) reported that Blue Tongue disease, in which cattle get fever, swelling of the lips and gums, difficulty in swallowing and a swollen purple coloured tongue and which has a mortality that can go up to 90%, may have been caused by infected cattle semen. In 2006, an outbreak of Bluetongue diseases began in the Netherlands. It spread to 16 countries and cost billions of euros before a vaccination effort brought it to an end in 2010. In 2015, the disease re-emerged in France and this outbreak is still ongoing. To work out the source of the infection, scientists at the University of Glasgow analysed the genetic sequences of 150 samples of the virus from both outbreaks. Researchers wrote in PLOS Biology that the genome of the virus is remarkably similar to samples from the previous epidemic, and would have come through using infected cattle semen, kept in a freezer for years.

The World Animal Health Organization has listed several diseases as having proven importance in transmission through semen. 1. Foot and mouth disease. 2. Vesicular Stomatitis. 3. Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR). 4. Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD). 5. Papillomatosis. 6. Leptospirosis. 7. Tuberculosis. 8. Paratuberculosis. 9. Mycoplasma. 10. Anaplasmosis. 11. Brucellosis. 12. Campylobacteriosis. 13. Trichomoniasis.

One hundred and thirty-eight bulls, of the Central AI Laboratory, Savar, Dhaka, were screened for the presence of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis in 2004. Thirty eight of 138 bulls (27.5%) were positive reactors to the tuberculin test and 1 (0.7%) bull was positive for brucellosis. The scientists said that the prevalence of tuberculosis was four times higher in bulls that were used to extract semen than normal bulls. Tuberculosis and brucellosis are not only detrimental to dairy production, but also a threat to human health. Tuberculosis is endemic in most livestock farms in South Asian countries.

 Scientists say bovine brucellosis, spread by the bacterium Brucella abortus, is the best known and most controversial infection of the AI bovine reproductive system. The bacterium has an affinity for the uterus and abortion is the usual sign of the disease. However, other symptoms, like reduced milk production and reduced weight, are often seen. Infected cows seldom abort more than once, but calves born from later pregnancies will be weak and unhealthy. Such cows will probably continue to harbour and discharge infectious organisms, and have reduced conception rates.

In bulls the most obvious clinical sign of this disease is epididymitis or infections of the scrotum. According to the premier veterinary MSD Manual, bulls in breeding centres have a persistent inflammation of their vesicular glands, which are duct glands that add nutrients and fluid to the seminal fluid as it passes from the body. The fluid becomes putrid and contaminates the semen at AI centres. The reported incidence of vesiculitis, in the general population of bulls, is 1%–10% but can go upto 49% in bulls housed in groups. The inseminated cow will receive the most dangerous bacteria in her uterus : Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp. ,Proteus spp., Escherichia coli, Mycoplasma bovis, M. bovigenitalium. The AI centres rarely check for this, as there are no external clinical signs. The bull may stand with his back arched and have pain on defecation, or rectal examination, and show a great deal of hesitation when made to mount. But these are not signs that the doctors pay attention to.

Another dangerous disease, that can be spread by AI, is Leptospirosis, which is a contagious, bacterial disease of animals and humans. Its signs in cattle range from mild, unapparent infections to ones that end in death. High abortion rates have been observed, bloody urine in bulls and blood-tinged milk in lactating cows. Leptospirosis is an important zoonotic disease and can lead to septicaemia, hepatitis, nephritis, abortion, stillbirth, infertility. The germs survive in the semen at freezing and cryoconservation temperatures (Eaglesome and GarcÌa, 1997).

Bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1) is usually undetected in most clinical tests. BHV-1 causes genital, respiratory and neurological diseases in cattle populations world-wide. Infected animals lose their immunity and are more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. BHV-1 may also cause conjunctivitis, reproductive disorders and neonatal mortality (Straub; 1990, Takiuchi et al., 2005). Vaccination has little effect. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can identify BHV-1 contaminated semen within one day, but it is not done in India. Even vaccinations are rare.

Bovine diarrhoea virus in the semen may infect the foetus and establish a persistent infection causing enteric diseases, and making the cow vulnerable to other pathogens (e.g. BHV-1, Pasteurella or Salmonella spp.) as she loses her immunity.

BVDV has caused haemorrhagic disease in cattle with a high mortality rate. The virus is transmitted in the semen of bulls during artificial breeding and causes reproductive losses in females.

Bovine genital campylobacteriosis is a widespread bacterial disease associated with both bovine infertility and abortion. It causes vaginitis, cervicitis, endometritis. Bulls should be tested before they enter AI centres, and then every few months. This disease, together with trichomoniasis, has the greatest importance in the transmission of disease through semen (Rovay et al., 2008).

Trichomonosis is a venereal disease of cattle caused by the parasite Tritrichomonas foetus. In the female, it is characterised by infertility, early abortion and pyometra. The bull ,who is symptomless, carries it on the penis. The testing of bulls entering AI should be mandatory.

Paratuberculosis, which is caused by the Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP), may cause Crohn’s disease in humans (Sanderson et al.; 1992; Reddacliff et al., 2010). MAP has been isolated from bull semen and reproductive organs (Tunkl and Aleraj, 1965; Larsen and Kopecky, 1970; Larsen et al., 1981). This bacillus is unaffected by the antibiotics most used in semen (gentamycine, tylosin, lincomycine and spectinomycine) (Visser et al., 1999).

Histophilus somnus bacterium causes the disease known as thromboembolic meningoencephalitis. It has been isolated from semen from apparently normal bulls (Humphrey et al., 1982).

Ureaplasma diversum is the microorganism implicated in causing abortion and infertility in cows. Antibiotics used in semen have not been effective, and it is a pathogen which is frequently found in the semen of bulls used for AI. It has been found in more than 50% of the samples obtained from 35 bulls at a collection centre, in a study carried out in Brazil.

Clamidia was found in 9.2% of semen samples, 10.7% of preputial washes and 18% of faecal samples in an investigation carried out on 120 bulls in Germany (Kauffold et al., 2007).

Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) is a respiratory disease produced by bovine herpesvirus, type 1 (BHV-1). Infected animals become carriers for life (Van Oirschot, 1995.) A new type of virus, bovine herpes virus type 5 isolated from semen (BHV-5), is responsible for neurological problems in calves, and is lethal (Chowdhury, 1995.)

In an investigation done on 103 farms in Columbia, Griffiths et al. (1984) isolated Trichomona foetus and Campylobacter foetus in 13.7% and 15% of bulls. Another study found 23.9% positivity for Tritrichomona, 17.3% for Campylobacter, 43.4% for Salmonella, 28.2% for Brucella and 52.17% for Leptospira (Villalobos et al., 1986). A 67.6% IBR prevalence has been reported in breeding bulls (ZuÒiga et al., 1978) Another study revealed the presence of IBR/BVD (17%), BVD/ Leptospira spp (83%), BVD/BLV (42%), BLV/ Leptospira spp (31%) and BVD/BLV/Leptospira spp coinfection (33%) (GÛngora et al., 1995). IBR, BVD and Leptospirosis prevalence was 90%, 33% and 5% in 60 bulls (Sanabria and Trujillo, 2002). The following questions arose internationally: Does the semen produced and sold in Colombia comply with the existing standards ? We could ask the same question of India.

I would like to know whether our vets have any knowledge of these diseases, standards of health certification for AI bulls and the integrity and technical competence with which certification is performed. What are the standards of hygiene applied to collecting, processing and storing semen. 

Don’t drink milk.

(join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)



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Sat Mag

When a wonderful human being crosses the great divide

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Sarasaviya took this picture of Punya and Milroy at their home after the “Abhimani” Legendary Award was conferred on Punya, during their last visit to Sri Lanka to attend the Sarasaviya Festival in 2016.

“There are friends,
There is family,
And then there are friends
That become family”

Such a friend was Milroy, whose passing away a few days ago, we learnt with heavy hearts and deep sorrow.

To those who didn’t know him, he was the husband of Punya Heendeniya, the actress who captivated the hearts and minds of a nation by her portrayal of Nanda in the film classic “Gamperaliya”; Nanda was the quintessential Sinhala upper class village maiden who valued tradition over love.

To MBS (Siri) he was a lifelong friend “who stayed forever, beyond word, beyond distance, beyond time”.

To me (Kumar Gunawardane) who came to know him through Siri and also through his brothers, he was a pleasant companion, and good friend.

PUNYA:

“He loved music, sing songs and kalawaa (art) in all its forms. That is why he married me. He went out of his way to help the needy in whatever way he could. He did everything for me and the children.

“In the last year or two he took to understanding what real Buddha Dharma was.

“May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!”

SIRI:

“We met on the very first day in the “Block”; alphabetically we were next to each other, Milroy de Silva and MBS de Silva. That day, wearing our white jackets and ties back to front, we had to march to the Anatomy laboratory, jeered by serried ranks of haughty seniors. The naked bodies lying on marble slabs was nauseating. I was directed to the appropriate cadaver by a tutor and paired with a brilliant student JBC De Silva, to dissect the upper limb. Confused and bewildered I could only gaze at the colleague carving the other arm. He looked equally nonplussed wielding a scalpel nonchalantly, while another student recited the instructions from Cunningham’s manual of Anatomy. Our eyes met and that was the start of a beautiful friendship; a coming together of the high-spirited and full of joie de vivre. We immediately downed tools and scampered to the canteen to revive ourselves with a cup of tea, laced with condensed milk, and the cheapest available cigarette ‘Peacock’. Our interests were similar; studies took a back seat, larking around taking precedence. The friendship was sealed further when we joined Bloemfontein the formidable male medical student hostel alternatively feared and lauded.

“I remember our first Block dance at the King George’s hall. He was smartly dressed in black tuxedo pants and a cream jacket; only missing element was a lady companion. I, who wore a black shirt and a white tie, had a beautiful girl on my arm. I asked Milroy where he came by his tuxedo and he disdainfully replied I have two brothers who are doctors and one tuxedo for the whole family and now it is my turn to have it!!

“Our bonds strengthened during our intern year. Milroy returned to his roots in Galle and I joined him a few months later at Mahamodara, the hospital by the sea. It was a year of back breaking work, but also a year of fun and frolic.

“Milroy was then posted as chief (District Medical Officer) of the Moneragala hospital. But “I was left high and dry, Milroy, thoughtful as ever arranged for me to work with his brother Dr A.S.H De Silva, who had a thriving general practice just down the road from the hospital. Three months later, I got a posting to Buttala, which was then a mostly elephant and serpent infested jungle. It was classed as a ‘punishment’ station by the Health Department. The attractions however were the proximity to Milroy, and also the predecessors who included medical giants such as Professor Rajasooriya and the distinguished surgeons Dr Bartholomeuz, and R. L. Spittel the Surgeon of the Wilderness. In this pastoral outpost Milroy was bowled over by the image of Punya. He was at a loss to reach her. I advised him to write and he did so with panache. She invited him to visit them at Mirigama, her hometown to meet her folk. They teamed up in Punya’s own words for 52 years seven months and 22 days; a match made in heaven.

“As a dutiful father, he wanted to give his son and daughter the best education available and so it was that he and Punya migrated to Zambia. It was here that they demonstrated hidden strengths of character which helped them overcome adversities and even threats to their lives and move over to England. Milroy re-invented himself and rose to top of the ladder to become a consultant psychiatrist. His two children also became consultants in the NHS, the son a gastroenterologist and daughter an endocrinologist. He acknowledged freely Punya’s role not only in all his triumphs, but also in the hazards and misfortunes in their paths.

“Yet, more than all this was his humanity and humility, generosity to those less well endowed especially relatives and also to those medical graduates at the threshold of their careers. They were gracious hosts; Punya was an accomplished cook and less well known, a euphonious singer. I and my good friend Karu had the good fortune to enjoy their hospitality on many occasions in London.

“Milroy my friend, “To live in the hearts of those we love is never to die”

“May your journey in Samsara be short and my you attain the Supreme bliss of Nibbana!”

 

KUMAR:

I first got to know Milroy at Bloemfontein, the medical student’s hostel adjoining Carey College. He was a dapper figure, stylishly dressed with an unceasing gentle smile on his face. His chums, Siri, Gerry, Wicky and others were always friendly with us juniors and never intimidating. Their banter and capers in the dining room and the spacious portico were invariably hilarious.

My friendship with Siri was cemented in the hurly-burly of the Galle hospital, where I too did my internship. When I was unemployed after its completion it was Siri who arranged for me to work with Dr ASH, Milroy’s brother. ASH and Kingsley, another brother became my friends and mentors.

“Punya was a heartthrob of many young bucks of our era. But only one, Milroy, could win her hand and her heart. What a splendid partnership it was.

The Buddha Dhamma teaches that death is natural and inevitable. Yet it is sorrowful and we pray for you and your family’s peace and comfort. Their sadness is soothed by the beauty of your life, a life well lived. As the Buddha said death has no fear to those who fashioned life as a garland of beautiful deeds.

May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

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Sat Mag

A New Arrival at the Pathfinder Wildlife Preservation Centre

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A newly hatched blue and gold macaw bred at the Pathfinder Wildlife Preservation Centre being attended to by a staff member Sisira Kumara.

The Pathfinder Wildlife Preservation Centre has a comprehensive collection of rare macaws, cockatoos, lorikeets, and parrots from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The collection also includes a range of Arowana fish. This unique collection was originally presented to the Centre by Nimal Jayawardena, a leading business person, lawyer, and wildlife expert.

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Sat Mag

Imagining Malinda Seneviratne

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By Uditha Devapriya

I’d like to begin this tribute with a memory. I wasn’t always an avid reader of newspapers. My father, on the other hand, was. Somewhere in middle school, in Grade Eight I believe, I began picking them up once he had done with them, poring over the columns.

My eyes rested on certain topics more than others. They’d invariably centre on the war. How were we fighting the enemy? How was that enemy fighting back? What new conspiracies had been unearthed? Who had unearthed them? Who was next on the enemy’s kill list? The peace process, dead as a dodo long before it died, had floundered. Officially, we were back at war. As intriguing as that would have been, it was also disconcerting.

Even more disconcerting was the ambivalent stand of the English language press on the war. Not that the editorials called for a cessation of hostilities, much less a return to the peace process. But beneath the fine print, one could discern an almost confused pacifism, an almost abstruse neutralism.

This conformed to the same pattern: an acknowledgement of the heroism of the armed forces followed by a critique of government policy. Ultimately it all boiled down to, not whether the government was conducting the war properly, but whether the war had to be conducted at all. Even there the editors remained indecisive: they concluded that the LTTE had to be defeated, yet refused to endorse the war being waged to achieve that end.

None of that felt frustrating, of course. Cut off from the fears of a war next door, one could only revel in the delicatessen of wartime journalism. Yet it was clear the scales tilted to a side: very few writing in English advocated a military solution to the world’s longest running ongoing ethnic conflict. What explained their hesitation?

I didn’t bother finding out, but given the preponderance of those who wrote against the war, I was transfixed by those who wrote in support of it. Of them, one in particular caught my attention. Seven years later I met him: a coincidence I ponder over even now.

I have known Malinda Seneviratne in his many forms: writer, poet, translator, activist, editor, citizen, father, husband, and teacher. Yet I can’t recall why I wanted to meet him. Was it the eloquent prose, sharp as nails even at its most polemical? The equally eloquent poetry, haiku-like and evocative of both Neruda and Galeano? Or the activism, unabashedly nationalist in a country whose Westernised intelligentsia abhors such “tribalist” sentiments?

Malinda’s political education began with the Left, first with his father Gamini, then with a batch-mate of his father, Nanda Wickramasinghe (attached to the Revolutionary Communist League at the University of Peradeniya), and finally with Vijaya Kumaratunga and Ossie Abeygunasekera (until the latter’s defection to the UNP). The Ratawesi Peramuna, precursor to the Sihala Urumaya, came later.

His activism in (and for) the Ratawesi Peramuna followed his return from Harvard (where he completed his Bachelor’s in Sociology) in 1991. It was while in this group that he deepened his friendship with two of his biggest influences, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Athuraliye Rathana Thera. It was also his activities there that landed him in trouble; the police swooped on a meeting organised in 1992 at Wadduwa, following an exhibition of LTTE, IPKF, and JVP human rights abuses held in Matara, was intercepted by the police, who proceeded to arrest 15 members, including Ranawaka, Rathana Thera, and Malinda.

Held for three weeks, and tortured on the orders of a drunken OIC, they filed a fundamental rights case at the Supreme Court. Upholding their case, the Court, which acknowledged that the RP did not constitute a threat to national security and did not warrant the treatment meted out to its members, ordered the State to pay Rs 5,000 for each applicant. The Human Rights Library of the University of Minnesota later archived the case, “Channa Pieris and Others v. Attorney General and Others.” In the meantime, the Ratawesi Peramuna turned into Janatha Mithuro, a green socialist/nationalist outfit preaching the gospel of alternative development paradigms (what Ranakawa called the “third chapter of development”).

Malinda ended his political associations once he started out on his journalistic (and writing) career in the 2000s. By then he had gone through Janatha Mithuro, Sihala Urumaya, and the National Movement Against Terrorism (2006-7). These are, no doubt, colourful affiliations, befitting a colourful memoir. Yet, despite his activism, it’s hard to put a finger on his convictions: he just can’t be categorised in the same way his opponents, or for that matter his allies, can.

On the ‘national Question’, on the 13th Amendment, on our relations with India, indeed on global politics, he projects a provocative perspective. Thus, for instance, while he supported the Sihala Urumaya’s and Hela Urumaya’s parliamentary aspirations, he critiqued the latter’s decision to field Buddhist monks at elections. Even so, however, he does not oppose the entry of monks on a matter of unyielding principle: for him, they constitute a group having as much a right to parliamentary representation as any other.

In any case, whatever those convictions, the more I read him in my middle school years, the curiouser I got: then as now, what defines Malinda is the contrast, one could say paradox, between his ideological predilections and his poetic instincts. The two do get together, more often than you’d think, in his anthologies (just sample his poems on Geneva). And yet there’s a disjuncture between them. Perhaps this was what made me want to visit him.

Our first meeting went by innocuously enough. Lasting a little more than an hour, it ended on the promise of a second meeting, which transpired a month later – to be followed by another, and then another. The rapport between us grew quickly; by the time of the third meeting, he was asking me to come in and write to the paper he supervised as editor.

I hesitated at first. With characteristic flippancy, though, he shrugged my concerns aside: “When you work for me,” he promised, “you will write on everything.” I thus gave in: as with all 21-year-olds new to the trade, I wanted to write and be read in print. A few months later, in fulfilment of a promise he made before the January 2015 election, I was in.

Malinda taught several lessons as a writer, journalist, and senior. First and foremost among them was the line between writing news and writing features. For no matter what people may say, a good writer does not necessarily make for a good reporter. Pen and paper in hand, you need to record whatever it is that you’re covering is putting out to the public. Cutting through a morass of irrelevant anecdotes, you need to distil what you heard. And of course, you need to separate facts from comment: you can’t editorialise.

This proved to be a difficult exercise for me, far more difficult than the light pieces I ended up submitting to the features section. Suffice it to say, then, that insofar as Malinda taught me anything about journalism, it was that I could never aspire to be a journalist.

The second lesson was simpler: no matter how good (or bad) you may be as a journalist, if your editor doesn’t encourage you, your ink will dry. This applies to other professions also: where would Thomas Wolfe be, for instance, without Max Perkins?

Malinda, of course, was not my first editor. Yet he and I shared interests which immediately bridged the gap between him and me. In the end, I wound up writing on topics I had always wanted to talk about. That could not have been possible without him.

The third lesson, the most important one, was that writing to newspapers is never going to be a stable profession, especially not here. I learnt this lesson the hard way: five months after I got in, his paper closed down. Petrified for days, wondering whether I would ever be able to write again, I eventually came to realise that, as shocking an experience as it may have been to me, for Malinda it did not mean much: he’d been pole-vaulting from one paper to another from the day he left active politics for journalism.

His experience there became my guide: one evening, after the storm clouds of his termination had died down, he told me bluntly, “In this trade, if you’re good enough, you’ll never be out of tenure.” I disputed him. Six years later, having contributed to every paper he wrote to and is writing to, I realise I was wrong to do so.

Having read him and met him, I thus ended up learning under Malinda: a trajectory I am yet to go through a second time with anyone else in his line of work. I can’t really assess him, or do him justice, except maybe to note that, for the little or the lot he taught, he never demanded a payback.

Perhaps that’s just as well. For without taking away anything from what he did, I was hardly the only person he supported this way. Many others, most of them as young as I, all of them endowed with a superior penmanship, also found their way to the pages of the papers he oversaw. I know for a fact that he always insisted on compensating them – in full.

The West Indian international relations scholar Herb Addo once wrote that Andre Gunder Frank, from whom he learnt about the political economy of underdevelopment, “taught me nothing.” For his contemporaries, Addo argued, Frank “taught from a distance”, yet let his students develop as individual, independent intellectuals, in their own right.

By no means do I suggest that Malinda taught me nothing, or that he did so from a distance. But reflecting on how he taught all that one needed to know, and how he dismisses it today as though was just letting me evolve on my own, I wonder: was he, as Frank had been to Addo, a teacher in the Gibran vein, leading me to the threshold of my mind?

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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