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The Hindu (New Delhi edition) / March 1, 2001

By Lakshmi Balakrishnan

NEW DELHI, FEB 28. When one of the world's most celebrated female rock stars arrives in the city to "perform", you probably expect loud music and flashy clothes. But all one heard at India Gate here today was the moo of a cow that was not a quiet one. And "cattle rock" is what they call it.

Walking around India Gate lawns this afternoon, collecting signatures for a cause was American rock star Chrissie Hynde of "The Pretenders" fame. The Ohio-born singer is here to launch a campaign for better implementation of cattle transport laws. Over the next two weeks, Hynde will travel across the country as part of an awareness campaign launched by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on the plight of cows in India.

The organisation will petition the Government to make amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, update it and ensure better implementation. "According to the present Act, anyone who harms an animal is entitled to pay a fine of just Rs. 50 or a dollar. Is that the value of a life," questions the rock legend.

But unlike any of her stage entries, the one at India Gate today was a low-key affair. Preferring to arrive in an autorickshaw, with a "cow" for company, Hynde came sporting a colourful Ganesha inscribed T-shirt.

Explaining the reason for bringing in Hynde, Jason Baker of PETA said having made repeated written and oral appeals to the Government without effect, the agency was hoping it will possibly succeed by "embarrassing the government into taking some steps through the campaign". A number of international artists, including Paul McCartney and Jackie Chan, are reported to have written to the Prime Minister.

The issue in focus will be transport of cows across the country. "As per law, not more than six heads of cattle should be transported in a lorry. But this is hardly followed in India. Sometimes cows are forced to walk miles without food or water," reveals Baker. Criticising the Indian government for not making enough efforts, Hynde says: "The Government is turning a blind eye to the matter, with money being more important than the animals. The worst part is most Indians are ignorant of what is going on," she rues. For someone who was brought up on a meat diet and later turned vegetarian during the hippie era, Hynde believes that non-vegetarianism stems from ignorance.

"India has been a major inspiration for the West. So when we hear of things like this happening here, it is disappointing."

Explaining the reason for her affinity towards India, the star said: "India is special because it was from here that I got the inspiration to go the vegetarian way." And no, the star does not find the "holy cow" syndrome strange. In fact Hynde believes all animals should be considered sacred. Just back from a visit to Vrindavan, Hynde describes her trip as one that started with praying and will end with a protest.

As for advice to her fans in this part of the world, she says, "Don't ape the West. It has nothing worth copying."

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