The experiment that was described in the Indian textbook was apparently supposed to help schoolchildren learn that living, breathing things need air.
“No living thing can live without air for more than a few minutes,” it reads, according to a photo of the page, which was posted to Twitter and published by news outlets in India. “You can do an experiment. Take two wooden boxes. Make holes on the lid of one box. Put a small kitten in each box. Close the boxes. After some time open the boxes. What do you see? The kitten inside the box without the holes has died.”
Distribution of the environmental science book, titled “Our Green World,” has stopped, according to Indian Express.
“A parent had called us a couple of months ago and asked us to remove the text from the book because it was harmful for children,” Parvesh Gupta of PP Publications, the publisher, told the news outlet. “We recalled books from our distribution channel and will come out with a revised book next year.”
Arpan Sharma, director of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, a collective of animal rights groups in India, said in a statement provided to The Washington Post that the group was “shocked” when it learned of the matter and “swiftly” took it up with the publisher.
“We reached out to them and asked them to remove the illegal (and unethical) content advocating the cruel experiment on kittens, along with a few other points,” Sharma said in the statement. “The publisher has responded back, committing to withdrawal of the book from all the distributors and refraining for selling the existing stock.”
The publisher also told the organization that it wouldn’t reprint the content in any of their books and would “be mindful of things being published about animals,” the statement said.
“The issue is not only that the book advocated a cruel act, it is also to underline that animals are not ‘things’ for us to use,” the statement noted. “Instead, they are thinking, feeling individuals just like you and me and the children reading the textbook.”
The text was being used for fourth grade.
In its report on the controversial description of the experiment, the Associated Press provided a little background on how textbooks are approved in India, writing:
Although India’s education ministry has advisory panels and institutes that approve of middle and high school textbooks, elementary schools can choose and prescribe their own textbooks.
FIAPO spokesperson Vidhi Malla told The Post in an email that it is hard to locate the schools that might be using the book, but said the organization did know that about 1,100 copies of it had been sold since April 2016. The issue, Malla noted, isn’t whether the experiment was actually carried out.
“We are concerned that the message this sends out is very negative — that it is okay for animals to be treated as objects, including for them to be killed for testing a theory etc.,” Malla said in an email. “As the voice of the animal rights movement in India, it is our duty to ensure that animals are viewed as sentient individuals and not as things.”
PP Publications did not immediately respond to an email from The Post, but FIAPO did provide a copy of a letter from the company, which laid out some of its assurances in the wake of the experiment.
This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Malla’s name.