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How I Shook The System In 10 Years Of My Animal Rights Activism In India

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Amruta Ubale, a human resource personnel, quit her lucrative job to take up social service. She is the chairperson of Animal Equality, an animal protection organisation. She has over 10 years of hands-on experience in investigating, lobbying the government to introduce or amend laws to protect animals, working with food companies to introduce policies for the better treatment of animals, conducting educational programmes in schools, colleges, corporate offices and public places and handling external communication like media and social media outreach. This month marks Amruta’s 10th year of working for animal rights full time. Here she writes about her experiences. 

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”Confucius

I strongly believe that compassion is a quality inherent in humans. But due to a certain conditioning, people lose this quality. I was fortunate to be in a family which nurtured my compassionate side. I remember that as a child, I would rescue puppies and kittens, bring them home and provide food and water to them.

But when it came to the time of taking up a profession, like every other Indian family, everyone expected me to be in management, engineering or medicine. I completed my management course and started working in human resources. However, with time, I reached a stagnation point and yearned to do something more meaningful with my life. It was around this time that I was also exploring spirituality which got me thinking about the purpose of my life. I was fortunate enough to soon discover that my life’s purpose was to help the helpless. That is when I decided to quit my human resource job to take up animal rights full time.

This month, I complete 10 years of working for animal rights full time. I was extremely nervous at first, but when this realisation hit me, I took a plunge and decided to follow the road which my heart and mind were paving for me. During my initial phase, people around me asked, “How can you quit a lucrative job and work for an NGO? Your education will go to waste.”

When I look back at the past 10 years, I can say that not only have I got an opportunity to put my education to practice but I’ve also discovered and developed several other skills which I was unaware of – and probably would not have discovered, if I had continued with my HR job.

Right from persuading the government or courts to introduce or amend laws, assisting lawyers, police officials, security officials and veterinary doctors, investigating, training teachers to giving  presentations and speeches, giving interviews to the media, digital marketing, graphic designing, producing and directing videos, writing scripts for plays and documentaries, event management, interior decoration, etc. – I’ve done it all. I used to be very impatient but thanks to my job, I’ve turned into a very patient, resilient and strategic person.

After completing three years of working with an NGO, in 2012, I was given the opportunity to start Animal Equality, an animal protection organisation. Since then we have achieved remarkable victories for the animals.

1. Prohibition On The Import Of Foie Gras

We successfully persuaded the government to prohibit the import of foie gras, the fattened liver of duck obtained by force-feeding the ducks with high-fat food, so that their livers increase to 10 times their original size.

2. Radar Technology To Mitigate Elephant Deaths

In 2010, it was reported that more than 150 elephants had died since 1987 after being hit by trains. We successfully persuaded the government to develop radar sensors which will detect animal presence (mobile and immobile) on the tracks. This radar sensor device has been developed by IIT, New Delhi, and is now being tested on the field.

3. Prohibition On The Performances Of Bulls

India has various ‘traditional’ events in which bulls are made to perform. The bullock-cart race is one such event which takes place on a large scale almost every day in the state of Maharashtra. Bulls are force-fed alcohol, whipped incessantly, prodded and electrocuted during these events. We successfully persuaded the government to not lift the prohibition on this event through the Supreme Court. But this was overturned recently due to vote-bank politics.

4. Prohibition On The Sale Of Cattle For Slaughter At Markets

Animal markets were traditionally meant for the sale of animals for agricultural purposes – but over time, these have become grounds for slaughterhouse agents. Calves, lactating cows and buffaloes, young bulls are sold for slaughter in these markets. We conducted investigations in cattle markets across India and successfully persuaded the government to stop this practice. But this too has been overturned.

5. Prohibition On The Transport Of Animals Across The Indo-Nepal Border For Sacrifice

The Gadhimai animal sacrifice is termed as the largest animal sacrifice which takes place in Nepal once every five years. Since the majority of the visitors are from India who carry their animals with them across the Indo-Nepal border, we successfully persuaded the government to prohibit the transport of animals across the border. We also assisted the border security officials.  Thanks to this vigilance, the number of large animals sacrificed reduced by 80%.

6. Exposing The Cruel And Illegal Practices In The Egg, Chicken And Dairy Industry

In last two years alone, we’ve conducted a nationwide investigation in egg, chicken and dairy farms across India exposing the cruelties inflicted on farmed animals and the violation of various animal welfare and food safety rules. These investigations have been aired by various media outlets, thereby educating millions of people who are generally unaware of these hidden, cruel and illegal practices. Many decided to replace animal products with plant alternatives. We have also requested the government to introduce reforms to reduce their suffering.

Many people ask me, how do you work year after year – in an environment where all you get to see and hear is violence and killing. Does it numb you after some time? No, it hasn’t numbed me. The violence and the killing is as disturbing as it was 10 years ago, but I channelise that frustration into a determination to arrive at a solution. And even if one has the solution, it is never easy. We are working in an environment where animals are not given the most basic rights. We are working against high odds but we continue fighting, as I believe the more hard you have to work for something, the more closer you will get to success with each step.

In the course of the past 10 years, my team and I have literally put our blood, sweat and tears in our work. We’ve worked in extremely life-threatening situations – mobs trying to lynch us, getting threats, getting stuck in stampedes, working in locations surrounded with people carrying weapons, diseased animals, animal and human excrement, with no proper food or water, etc. We’ve fought tooth and nail with abusers, which in turn has jeopardised our security. We have reasoned with the courts and the government to introduce reforms despite their strong resistance. But we’ve never given up. We owe it to the animals who suffer in millions every day behind closed doors.

I strongly believe that compassion is a quality inherent to humans, but due to the conditioning, we lose this quality with time. Not just in India, people across the world are horrified by the brutal realities animals live in and are pouring in to support the cause, thereby rekindling this inherent quality. In today’s time when the world is falling apart, I feel that compassion is the glue which will keep this world together. I do believe that in the future, humans will not abuse animals at all – and will look back in shock to learn that animals were abused and used in such a horrific manner in the past.

Ten years ago, I was one of the very few people who took this kind of decision. But today, I see that more and more people are taking up their passions. Even if it is not full time, they devote some time for it. And it makes me very happy to see this positive change. I would request family members to be supportive of them. Even though my family did not agree with my decision at first, very soon, they began supporting me to an extent where they actively joined me in my work of helping the helpless.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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