Last September I was very fortunate to be in India to launch Farmageddon at a conference Compassion helped to sponsor organised by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations. FIAPO is at the forefront of the Indian animal protection movement. Its members are movement leaders: visionary activists and organisations whose strength is multiplied by working together for animals. Compassion is proud to be a sponsor of their vitally important work in halting industrial agriculture in India. I’m pleased to be sharing with you my interview with FIAPO’s Director of External Relations, Arpan Sharma.
Philip: When and why did FIAPO form?
Arpan: The initial idea about an Indian federation was discussed after the Asia for Animals conference in Chennai in 2007. Indian animal groups and activists met and agreed to unify our dreams to make India a better place for animals. FIAPO was formally launched in 2010. We speak in a stronger voice for animals but not as an alternative to existing organisations. On the contrary, we’re an expression of their strength and an amalgam of their collective expertise and passion.
Philip: How does FIAPO work to foster collaboration among India’s animal protection organisations?
Arpan: FIAPO enables the work of smaller, local federations of animal protection groups with a fixed geographic or thematic focus. For example, we research and contact all existing animal protection groups in a target city and bring them together as a united voice for animals. We emphasise the importance to network, build capacity and take local, targeted action for animals. We conduct training workshops to help fill knowledge gaps within organisations.
Philip: What are the most pressing animal protection issues in India? How is FIAPO and its member organisations addressing them?
Arpan: India needs specific attention to curb ongoing cruelty to animals. For this reason, FIAPO launched two campaigns to create awareness and encourage people to treat animals with respect. First, the Living Free campaign reaches out and educates urban populations. The focus is to reduce the consumption of animal products by mobilising a grassroots movement to spread awareness. We focus on conducting outreach to consumers to make behavioural change happen.
Second, our Farm to Freedom campaign prevents — and whenever possible — removes animals from the most appalling conditions. We’re a collective voice against the rise of factory farms. Our focus is to improve the life of farmed animals by regulation, education and intervention.
Philip: Which victories for India’s animals would not have been possible without FIAPO?
Arpan: We’re determined to improve the lives of animals across India by collaborating with organisations, activists and other stakeholders. We strive to run every campaign and project collaboratively. For example, we filed a legal challenge to the chicken battery cage in India as public interest litigation. The court recognised the illegality and cruelty involved with the widespread practice of raising chickens in battery cages for producing eggs. This collaborative effort involved a number of experts and colleagues from across the country.
We also lobbied and successfully prevented the establishment of a mega-dairy by IFFCO-Fonterra in Andhra Pradesh. It was to house 40,000 cows at a single location. As a result of rigorous advocacy and public engagement, FIAPO achieved victory when the Ministry of Environment and Forests prohibited the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. We’re also creating a national platform (‘India for Animals’) for the Indian animal community to work behind.
Philip: Why are farm animals a priority for India and FIAPO ?
Arpan: India is the world’s second most populous country and we have the world’s largest dairy herd. We’re also after Brazil the world’s largest exporter of beef and the world’s second largest producer of eggs. The combination of these massive populations of humans and animals makes for a perfect storm for widespread animal cruelty and exploitation in farming. As incomes rise, India’s vast middle class increasingly consumes animal foods produced from farmed animals who suffer under poor governance mechanisms, including lack of regulations and effective law enforcement. For these reasons, farm animals are a key priority in India.
We’re very fortunate to partner and collaborate with Compassion, the only organisation with an exclusive focus on farm animals, to develop long term protective regulations and build capacity in the Indian animal protection community to work on these issues. Up to now, the focus of most Indian animal protection groups has been on direct companion animal care and spay/neuter, which is necessary work and must continue.
But we need to enhance consumer awareness in farmed animals, which is within the overall framework of your excellent book, Farmageddon. Our commitment is to develop a critical approach to farm animal exploitation and implement a strategy based on evidence and the specific conditions prevalent in India.