Activist tells of legal woes at Thinking About Animals

Lisa Warden speaks at Pond Inlet.

Lisa Warden speaks at Pond Inlet.

Lisa Warden has turned into a problem that won’t go away for municipal officials in the Indian city of Ahmedabad.

Warden, a Canadian animal activist, was horrified when she saw street dogs there being caught with metal tongs and dumped at a landfill on the outskirts of the city. It led her on a charge that has gained her media attention, award nominations and a $2-million defamation suit slapped on her by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

Warden discussed her experiences at Thinking About Animals, a conference held at Pond Inlet on March 31 and April 1. About 300 academics and activists have gathered to discuss subjects such as veganism, factory farming and animals in literature.

John Sorenson

John Sorenson

Warden moved to Ahmedabad in 2009 and discovered the city is home to about 230,000 street dogs. Street dogs are often vaccinated and neutered, but are also routinely rounded up with tongs so brutal about 20 per cent of dogs subjected to them have to be euthanized, she told the audience Thursday.

Warden met with municipal officials and proposed a five-year population control plan, which seemed like it would move forward, she said. Then she heard that tongs were still being used. Ahmedabad is bidding for a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation. Warden said she threatened to go to UNESCO with news about the treatment of street dogs, and in a media event, the municipality agreed not to use tongs anymore and voluntarily handed them over.

The result has been a wave of legal action against Warden. The city says she stole the tongs and misled the public, leading to charges that include theft and extortion. It has even blamed her for dog bites.

Warden was just one of dozens of presenters at the conference. Today’s presentations include Animal Celebrity and Animal Life: Lessons from the Circus Elephant in History, Canadian Food Policies and Pet Food. (full schedule of events)

John Sorenson, Brock professor of Sociology and critical animal studies expert, is pleased with the conference so far.

“The mood is upbeat,” he said. “Everyone is encouraged by the sense of community and the growing interest in critical animal studies.”

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