India became the latest country exposed to the true cost of cheap meat as we launched the book and campaign, Farmageddon at a Compassion-sponsored conference in Jaipur. Organized by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), delegates from across India heard a star-studded line-up of speakers including government minister, Mrs Maneka Gandhi who spoke passionately about the need for action on farm animal cruelty.
India acts on gestation crates
From the podium, Mrs Gandhi praised Compassion in World Farming for being one of the best lobbying organisations for animal welfare. She went on that the Indian Government had effectively banned gestation crates for pregnant pigs, where sows cannot even turn around for nearly four months at a time. This is a hugely welcome move and echoes bans in the UK and EU which Compassion was instrumental in achieving.
After her speech, Mrs Gandhi welcomed a copy of Farmageddon as a gift and invited my close colleague and Compassion Ambassador, Joyce D’Silva, and myself to tea where we talked further about how to take things forward in India.
Farmageddon launched in Jaipur
The introduction for the launch of Farmageddon was given by Rajasthan state director, Dr Rajesh Maan who is in charge of animal husbandry. He, Joyce and I met before the conference session to discuss how we could improve things on the ground. Together with our affiliate partner in India, FIAPO, we are now looking to work with Dr Maan and his department to improve animal welfare regulation for dairy cattle in Rajasthan.
The need for measures to protect the pasture-based keeping of cows in India was underscored recently by plans for the nation’s first mega-dairy, which were defeated by a campaign to which Compassion gave support.
India has a rich history of enlightenment toward animals. However, the situation today for farm animals is mixed. India’s cattle are still largely revered with slaughtering of cows being banned across much of the country and most allowed to roam or graze pasture. However, in India too, agribusiness interests are pushing their ‘sustainable intensification’ agenda, encouraging yet another country down the factory farming route.
I remember speaking in Delhi twenty years ago warning of the impending influx of factory farming. Sadly, for poultry this has happened, with much of the commercial rearing of chicken and eggs being in factory farms. Working with FIAPO, we will fight this development. But with cattle, we have a chance to stop factory farming here before it starts.
I was struck by the energy and enthusiasm amongst the conference crowd. I was greatly encouraged by the number of young people packed into the conference hall. Although the challenges here as elsewhere are immense, I felt a tide of optimism running through this Jaipur gathering.
Speaking up for animals in Delhi
After the conference, we headed back to Delhi for a round of media interviews before visiting the seat of government. I was delighted to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture’s animal husbandry commissioner, Dr Suresh Honnappagol, who welcomed us and very kindly offered to send a copy of Farmageddon to each of the 36 state ministries across the country.
It is nearly four years now since I started the worldwide journey that would culminate in Farmageddon. It was a book inspired by the successful campaign to oppose Britain’s first US-style mega-dairy proposed for Nocton in Lincolnshire. How fitting therefore to add the land of the sacred cow to the list of countries – USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Brussels and the UK – where the book has been published.
I am really encouraged by the response to the book’s core message internationally; that animals belong on the farm, not in factories. Factory farming is starting to be recognised far and wide as a cruel mistake of the twentieth century; inefficient, unnecessary and outdated. Whilst in India the movement against factory farming is still young and has a big job to do, I sense real hope.
Special thanks to Arpan Sharma and his enthusiastic colleagues at FIAPO for organizing the conference and to the many enthusiastic people I met during this brief stay in India; together we can avert Farmageddon.
Next stop on the Farmageddon tour: Pretoria, South Africa: 14th AMT South African Agricultural Outlook Conference, 30th September, 1.30pm