IALA: Sirjana, could you please tell us about your organization?
Sirjana: Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) is India’s only Indian federation of NGOs that works with its member organisations to build a narrative on animal rights and creates a positive impact on the lives of animals in India. We believe that animals have an inherent right to exist without any form of human interference. We are committed to ending animal exploitation and the use of animals to create a society where the rights of animals are respected through the multipronged approach of public awareness, advocacy, and promotion of plant-based living.
We work by networking, partnering, and engaging with organisations, businesses, government authorities, animal activists, and influencers to highlight animal welfare issues and pushing for welfare reforms that drastically improve the lives of companion and farmed animals. FIAPO has been working for the past 10 years in India and over these years has many achievements to its credit.
IALA: What animal law issues does your organization address in India and in general? Have you faced any difficulties and how did you get over them? What are the most challenging difficulties you have ever faced during your animal protection work?
Sirjana: FIAPO has forayed into diverse areas of animal welfare in India and worked on issues of companion animals, farmed animals, animals used for entertainment, animals in captivity, and street dogs. We highlight the gaps in existing animal laws/policies and pitch solutions based on our experience on the ground. A common problem, that almost all animal NGOs face, of working in the field of animal law is the lack of government support and engagement on the issue. Animal welfare is not a priority and receives little to no focus from bureaucracy.
As an organisation, we come face to face with many forms of cruelty on a daily basis ranging from cruelty to street animals (cows and dogs), mistreatment of animals in the dairy industry, animals tortured in circuses for entertainment, animals killed for meat in illegal setting, and so many more. Bringing the attention of government and bureaucracy to the abuse, mistreatment, and torture of animals is a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. The enforcement agencies like the police department are often not well versed with animal laws which makes it difficult to register animal cruelty cases. The laws governing farmed animals are loosely framed making them difficult to implement.
We use and welcome all approaches and tactics to address animal cruelty – we engage with print media to build pressure on government authorities, we gather data, write reports, and submit it to different departments that deal with animal laws. If nothing works, we file litigation in courts to bring justice to the cause of animals.
IALA: Since the hit of the pandemic in December 2019, everybody has had to shift to a “new normal” life, remote work, and online education. What challenges has your organization faced since then?
Sirjana: COVID pandemic changed the meaning of the word “normal” for the world. Working remotely has had its own pros and cons for the employees and animals. Our work spans across different States and geographical areas in India, the pandemic and consequent lockdown made it difficult to travel, which did impact our groundwork to quite an extent. However, we utilised this time for reflection, desk work, research, and secondary data collection to strengthen our future strategies. Initial months were difficult for employees too who were slowly getting used to working alone in their homes instead of an office setting. Lack of interaction between colleagues and increased screen time affect some more than others. But on the flip side, it also gave employees an opportunity to spend quality time with their family.
Fortunately, we did not face any challenge with the donors and we were able to deliver results by working in partnership with our member organisations and activists. FIAPO’s team began working on the ground immediately after the opening of lockdown in the last few months of 2020 and we were able to formulate and submit reports to the government.
IALA: You successfully hosted the virtual conference 2021 with Asia for Animals Coalition and Blue Cross in India in 2021. Can you share a bit about the virtual conference this year?
Sirjana: Asia for Animals successfully organised a virtual conference with over 500 participants and in collaboration with Blue Cross India. The conference covered themes on animal welfare, movement building and alliance, animal rights, animals, politics and policies, wildlife issues, the role of plant-based movement, etc. Eminent speakers from across the globe addressed the participants and shared their knowledge and the direction of international animal welfare movements. It was indeed a challenge to organise such a huge conference virtually, but the changing times require an innovative approach and that’s what we did successfully!
IALA: You work with multiple organizations in India. Have you faced any difficulties while working with them? Can you share with us your experience in working with organizations of different sizes, visions, and missions?
Sirjana: Working as a federation with multiple organisations comes with its unique set of intricacies, but I will say it has more positives than negatives. As a federation, we have more clout and standing than an organisation that works alone.
Our member organisations vary in size, vision, and resources they have for animals. They also have different areas of work and most often they deal with localised issues and problems. Whereas we, as a federation, work on a broad range of animal issues, which will in the future impact the lives of all animals. There are times when member NGOs feel a sense of misalignment and often question our work. In such situations, it is important to come together and address their concerns and show the vision of the future and the significance of our work. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is progress, Working together is a success.”