Varda Mehrotra
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) is an animal rights agency which is constantly working for the betterment of animals at local and national levels. It is a collective voice of the animal rights movement in India. Here’s FIAPO’s story. –by Varda Mehrotra
FIAPO focuses on bringing together the people who want to help animals. So, everything that we do, we do it with people, whether it is treating an injured dog on the street or changing policies for animal protection. Founded in 2007 with a host of animal welfare NGOs joined hands and came together for the ‘Asia for Animals’ Conference in Chennai. At that time we felt there is need for an organisation which can reach to audience at pan India level. Then, FIAPO as an organisation was registered in 2010 and we’ve been going strong over the past nine years.
Making lives better
FIAPO’s work is spanned across four main areas—farmed animals, companion animals, wild animals, and movement building. In order to make their present lives better, we advocate for animals so that we stand up for those (animals) who are in farming and other exploitative systems. We also work for the future of animals. The future is where we actively work towards building a movement, so that there are trained advocates for the animal protection movement in the coming years. FIAPO doesn’t run a shelter directly, but we support many organisations that run shelters, not just for dogs and cats but also many other animals.
My journey with FIAPO
I’ve been a part of FIAPO since late 2011. My passion of movement building and bringing people together for animal rights and their welfare is the driving factor. This is the kind of work I was doing in Scotland as well. And when I returned to India, I knew this is what I should be doing. I looked around to see the kind of work is being done by various organisations and I aligned FIAPO’s vision to what I want the future to look like.
Campaign to end exploitations
Most of our work is for farmed animals, and most of our effort goes towards this because they are the largest group of animals exploited by humans. In the farmed animals programme, we’re now running a campaign to end confinement and factory farming of dairy animals in India. We’re working on behalf of all the chicks and hens in the meat industry in India to improve their lives and provide them better access to food, water, and shelter while they are in the farming system. We also do a lot of behavioural change and advocacy work in reaching out to people. We have India’s largest vegan advocacy network with 1,000 activists reaching out to half a million individuals every year.
Fight for rights of companion animals
Another important area we work on is for companion animals, specifically dogs. We work to prevent the killing of dogs in different parts of the country. We have seen increase in human-dog conflict, especially in places like Kerala, UP and Punjab. For this, we run a holistic model so that the killing of dogs in such areas, mostly semi-rural or rural, is controlled not just through animal-birth-control programmes and vaccinations, but also by interventions like community engagement and counseling of dog-bit victims in hospitals. This holistic model that we are running, which is based on WHO’s one-health approach, has a primary objective of preventing the culling of dogs in different parts of the country and fostering a positive human-dog relationship.
Stand up and talk about exploitations
For everyone who is part of this movement, the driving force is really the internal belief that animal lives matter, and that we have to stand up and talk about the exploitative state of the animal-human relationship right now. Among all social justice movements, be it for the environment, women empowerment, civil liberty or racial equality movement, we can’t dispute the fact that animals are the largest group of individuals who have been (and are still being) exploited and overlooked. This, in itself, is a hugely significant cause to take a stand for.
Our cities are not just ‘human cities’
Animals in shelters keep increasing because there has been massive decrease in tolerance towards animals on streets and in homes as well. Many people feel that dogs have no right to be on the street. This is completely incorrect. The ABC rules recognise that a street dog can live on the street where he was born, and there is no need for the dog to be taken anywhere else. The important thing here is for the community to accept the dog. Instead of picking up the dog and taking him to a shelter where he lives an unhappy life, we should invest in making sure that communities understand the importance of these animals. Our cities are not just ‘human cities’, there are several non-human species who reside in our cities. This kind of community engagement is what we really need to be doing to ensure negligible number of animals end up in shelters. And of course, there is increasing rate of abandonment of pet dogs. So many people bought or adopted dogs and abandoned them after a while as they felt keeping the pets expensive. Responsible pet parenting and regulation, policy change and educating people on what responsible pet parenting really means are critical steps that need to be taken to prevent animals from being abandoned and ending up in shelters.
A promising future
The message I would want to give is that, when we look at our relationship with animals the whole premise should be that animal interests matter. As pet parents of dogs or cats it’s important for us to look at things from the point of view of that animal—of that dog or cat. Sometimes, even out of love, we end up doing certain things which are detrimental to animals, so it’s really important to start looking at things from the lens of how animal lives matter; and understanding that their interest might not be the same as ours and we need to consider both while making decisions.
(Varda Mehrotra is Executive Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), New Delhi)