VARDA MEHROTRA on THE END OF DOLPHINARIUMS IN INDIA
The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) was established in 2007 to unite and recruit animal activists in a country with tremendously diverse issues, cultures, species and challenges.
It is the only national animal organization which serves as a rallying point for many organisations, valuing coalition, collaboration and joint work, sharing the load of challenges and encouraging the strengths of many organizations working together as FIAPO’s guiding principle. We work with over 2500 activists across India, are composed of more than 70 member societies, and are actively engaged with another 70 organisations through our local federations.
At the start of 2012, FIAPO witnessed a changing trend in the coastline states of Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andamans and Goa. Proposals to establish captive cetacean facilities for entertainment were on the rise: it was with some urgency that the ‘Ban Captive Dolphins’ plan was launched.
Walking a tightrope of relentless public campaigning along with petitioning the Central Zoo Authority and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in India, by 2013, FIAPO successfully liaised with the government to form a policy that disallowed any Dolphinariums to be set up in India! With this, FIAPO joined the select band of countries that actively practiced Ahimsa.
To pull off such high octane work in a limited time required the strength and support of our allies, and the success of the ‘Ban Captive Dolphins’ is purely the fruit of multiple collaborations. Inherent in this is the founding principle of FIAPO.
We are also fortunate that India has a clause in the Constitution (Clause 51 (g) which states under FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES that it shall be the duty of every Indian citizen ‘to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.’ I believe this Clause has provided an almost unconscious reminder that humans are not the only creatures on earth who need protection.
FIAPO leads popular campaigns on specific animal issues such as animal abuse in circuses and entertainment (rescuing 200 animals from 17 circuses); it participates in legal battles which are served by having a representative national body as petitioner such as in the efforts to reduce cruelty in the poultry industry or ending bullock cart races; it campaigns to protect wildlife such as elephants and marine mammals; FIAPO also builds skills among member organisations through conferences and workshops including India’s only national conference for animal activists, the India for Animals Conference series.FIAPO is well positioned to respond to both on-going and spontaneous animal crises such as a move to declare monkeys and antelope as “vermin,” dog killing and other outrages.
FIAPO is also a national leader in farm animal protection through vegan outreach. Its multi-city Living Free programme regularly hits the streets in 30 cities direct-contact style events, including leafleting, vegan fests, educational stalls, mass video exposures and public showings of abuses in the farmed animal realm. FIAPO has also led local campaigns such as Jaipur’s united multi-organisational campaign to end illegal animal slaughter with specific focus on chicken shops by using the clout of the Municipal Corporation, Food Safety Authority, and Pollution Control board to nail down change in rogue shops. This achievement is a national model of collaborative and focused effort bringing tangible benefits to animals.
As a networking organization, FIAPO creates communication and joint work structures to make coalitions easy. In Varanasi, for example, FIAPO established a forum for activists to meet by using as a rallying point first aid street treatment trainings for people wishing to help dogs. Over 20 regular activists now comprise a compassionate community, and in addition to helping dogs we’re making plans to broaden to other species.
Combining forces among different and various animal protectors is FIAPO’s strategy to win battles for animals. FIAPO was established to end suffering of all animals in India and to play a leading role in the movement to achieve legally binding rights for animals so that cruelty ends and ahimsa and compassion thrive through both law and love.
Varda Mehrotra is the director of FIAPO (Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations). Passionate about empowering grassroots animal protection and encouraging collectives and collaboration, Varda has extensive experience of working with activists and organisations in both India and Scotland. She worked for animal rights in Scotland, setting up the largest collective for grassroots activism and helping others kick-start movements in their own local communities. Varda also has wide experience in outreach and she has used that extensively to engage with communities and organise public campaigns. As a communicator, for several years she worked on digital media for both national and local charities in Scotland. Varda has also worked in areas of social enterprises and international development and has been trained in cognitive science, philosophy, computer science and bioinformatics.