Animal Equality in India Succeeds in Protecting Animals

A meeting between the founders of Animal Equality–Sharon Núñez, Jose Valle, and Javier Moreno–and a very determined activist, Amruta Ubale, resulted in the founding of Animal Equality in India in 2011.

With an already important role in the animal protection movement, the new team of Animal Equality didn’t wait to launch its first campaign to ban cruel bull performances –including events like bullock cart races–.

Given the obvious violations of national animal welfare laws, the Supreme Court banned these cruel events, thanks in part to the pressure exerted by our organization alongside other organizations.

Shortly after, Animal Equality in India persuaded the government to ban the importation of foie gras and investigated the massive killing of hundreds of thousands of animals during the Gadhimai festival, one of the largest animal sacrifices in the world.

THE RESULTS OF OUR CAMPAIGNS

From its earliest days on Indian soil, Animal Equality has been calling for more and more respect and protection for animals.

We have brought the cruel conditions of factory farms and slaughterhouses into the public spotlight. All that we’ve achieved has been made possible thanks to the reputation that Animal Equality has earned all over the world and to a very determined team.

Over the years we’ve not only gotten our hands dirty by entering farms, but we’ve also established solid relationships with politicians and government representatives to collaborate in increasing the protection of animals.

The meeting which secured the ban on the transport of animals across the Indo-Nepal border for the Gadhimai animal sacrifice in 2014

BANNING BULL RACES

In 2014 the Indian Supreme Court outlawed bullock cart races. This included the national Jallikattu festival, during which very young bulls were terrorized and chased by crowds, and all entertainment events in the country involving these animals. Unfortunately, the ban on Jallikattu was lifted in 2017, but the ban on other bull performances like bullock cart races remains.

Our investigators witnessed bulls being beaten, whipped, electrocuted, force-fed alcohol, and prodded with nails and sharp instruments.

This historic decision is a direct result of our investigations. We’ve filed four complaints of violence on oxen used in racing. It took great teamwork with associations and very competent lawyers to put an end to these competitions.

“This ban is a milestone for animal rights in India. It indicates that we are making significant strides in our society, and that some traditions cannot be considered more important than the suffering inflicted on animals.”

Amruta Ubale, Director of Institutional Relations for Animal Equality in India

HOW INDIA BANNED THE IMPORTATION OF FOIE GRAS

Animal Equality’s investigations in France and Spain revealed that one of the most well-known foie gras distributors was also importing this cruel product into India.

Our representatives in India brought the issue to the Indian authorities, providing in-depth data, photos, videos, and other evidence demonstrating how the production of foie gras is considered cruel by the scientific community and institutions including the United Nations and the International Scientific Committees for Animal Health and Welfare.

Animal Equality formally requested the Minister of Commerce and Foreign Minister to ban the importation of foie gras. As a result, in 2014 India became the first country in the world to ban the import of foie gras.

OVER 200,000 ANIMALS KILLED DURING THE GADHIMAI FESTIVAL

What happens during the Gadhimai Festival in Nepal is difficult to visualize. The festival takes place every five years and is infamously known as the world’s largest animal sacrifice. That is why in November 2014 Animal Equality´s investigators infiltrated the slaughterers and religious devotees to film this massive massacre. There are so many animals killed simultaneously –beheaded without any form of prior stunning– that our team had to fly a drone over the area to capture the magnitude of the event.

The images Animal Equality filmed were seen worldwide, bringing much necessary attention to this ritual and causing indignation for such senseless killings. It was the beginning of Animal Equality’s global campaign to end the killing of animals during the Gadhimai Festival.

Animal Equality India team members not only witnessed scenes of unimaginable brutality (thousands of animals slaughtered with knives, axes, and any object available) but also put their own lives in danger to document what happens during this slaughter.

After extensive discussions with the Indian government, it was finally decided to adopt a new directive to ban the transport of animals to Nepal during the festival.

Thanks to our campaign and the collaborative effort put together with local activists, there was a 70% reduction in the number of large animals killed in 2014 compared to 2009 when about 200,000 animals were killed.

Our campaign continued, and in 2019, Animal Equality called on the Nepalese government to ban all animal sacrifices once and for all.

Animal Equality proposed a non-violent alternative to the killing of animals: In collaboration with the Nepalese Red Cross, we organized a blood donation campaign. Worshippers were invited to donate their own blood to pay homage to the goddess of Gadhimai and help others in need at the same time.

Although the number of animals killed in this festival is still dramatic, we are heartened to know that our efforts have made a difference for so many animals and will continue to do so.

“This form of sacrifice will take away the cruel and negative image of the Gadhimai sacrificial festival. We urge the Nepalese government and the temple committee to support our action and encourage worshippers to donate blood instead of shedding the blood of innocent sentient beings like those animals who are forced into such terrible suffering every five years.”

Amruta Ubale, Director of Institutional Relations for Animal Equality in India

ENDING THE CONFINEMENT OF HENS IN CASE

Following Animal Equality’s request, several companies from the hospitality and supermarket sectors have reduced their purchase of eggs from factory farms where hens are kept in battery cages. Metro Cash and Carry, Aditya Birla Group’s – More, BigBasket, ITC Ltd., SPAR hypermarket, and The Leela – Mumbai, are few of the many companies that have started to reduce and phase out the confinement of hens in cages, further propelling the global trend to end this cruelty.

Factory farms like this one are starting to eliminate their cages

Egg producers are also beginning to support this change, with MPM farms of Tamil Nadu announcing that all of its 25,000 hens will be moved to systems without cages.

…BUT THERE IS STILL MUCH MORE TO BE DONE

Even though India has made important steps forward for animals–in just a few years and compared to many other countries–the road to a more respectful world is still long.

The Indian Constitution declares that it is a citizen’s duty to protect the environment and be compassionate towards all living beings.

Not only that, the fundamental right to life is a right that also applies to animals.

Yet something is changing: India is culturally a vegetarian country, but the eating habits of its inhabitants are becoming more and more similar to those of Western countries.

What does this mean? That much more meat is eaten, and therefore more animals are killed, suffering enormously. And above all that even more chicken meat is being eaten.

And our investigations carried out in recent years leave no room for doubt.

ANIMAL CRUELTY INVESTIGATIONS
IN INDIA

WET MARKETS, A CRUEL REALITY

In wet markets around the world, still-living animals are sold and brutally slaughtered on the spot for customers who want “fresh” meat.

These markets, known as wet markets, are also found in India.

Between July 2020 and July 2021, we inspected several wet markets in Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata, and Delhi confirming that these wet markets are still in operation.

Animals are confined and transported in dangerous conditions and killed while fully conscious. The sanitation situation in which they live and die is abysmal, and health safety controls are non-existent.

Because of all these factors, the animals reach such high levels of stress that their immune systems weaken, creating the perfect combination for a catastrophe like the current pandemic.

In fact, in our investigation, we also drew attention to the fact that bringing wild and farmed animals together in cramped, unsanitary cages creates the perfect breeding ground for the spread of zoonotic diseases between humans and animals.

Despite the fact that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) prohibits meat vendors from slaughtering live animals on-site, this practice is rampant across the country. In fact, wet markets are still open to the public and frequented by crowds of people every day.

INTENSIVE FISH FARMS

The demand for fish is growing disproportionately around the world, drastically increasing the number of fish who suffer and die.

India contributes six percent of global fish production and is the second largest producer in the world after China.

Animal Equality investigated several fish farms documenting fish living in dirty water, given antibiotics, and killed by suffocation in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, areas famous for their fish farms.

Fish in an intensive farm taken out of the water and left to suffocate

Child workers cruelly hit and remove the scales of conscious fish

THE COST OF CHICKEN MEAT

Animal Equality investigated several chicken farms and meat markets between February 2019 and October 2020 in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, areas known for their chicken production.

Chickens are fed food laced with antibiotics so that their bodies grow even faster. This causes serious health problems, with the birds suffering chronic pain and finding difficulties walking or standing to reach food and water. Many become sick and die of starvation, dehydration, heart attacks or respiratory infections.

Animal Equality presented this evidence to the Indian government, along with a list of recommendations asking the institutions to implement rules preventing the unnecessary suffering of these animals.

Our veterinarian experts concluded that mandating the stunning of the animals prior to slaughter would significantly reduce the acute and intense pain, using technology to identify the sex of fertilized eggs would spare more than 180 million male chicks who are killed each year because they don’t lay eggs, and last but not least, forming a committee to monitor the situation of animals for every district in the country and oversee the implementation and compliance with these and other measures.

CAGES: THE LIVES OF HENS

Animal Equality in India presented an investigation into egg farms across India to document the living conditions these animals are forced to endure every day.

The investigation covers the entire life cycle, from the day they are born until they end up on consumers’ plates.

These overcrowded cages are usually stacked on top of each other, causing urine and feces to fall on the birds in the lower cages.

Up to eight hens are crammed into a cage no larger than two letter-sized sheets of paper, so the hens end up stepping on each other in an attempt to find room to move.

These battery cages are in common use despite the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 prohibiting confining birds in these conditions. The Animal Welfare Board of India has directed that battery cages be phased out by 2017 in all Indian states.

As a result of our investigation and others, India’s legislative committee proposed new laws to protect these defenseless animals. Some of the measures include the prohibition on setting up of new battery cage farms and making veterinary care mandatory among others.

BUFFALO MARKETS

Animal Equality visited animal markets in seven different states in India, and in all of these, we documented brutal animal cruelty.

At markets, buffalos raised for their milk are sold for slaughter when they become unproductive, and newborn male calves are sold for slaughter. While they await their death, they are not given food, water, or shelter. Not only that but they are constantly abused and kept tied up without the ability to move.

The operators of these markets abuse the animals in every way: They prod them with sticks, twist and break their tails, and drag them by the nose with ropes. And all of this happens even before they reach the slaughterhouse.

Animal Equality submitted a detailed report, including a list of recommendations, to the Indian government, which has now become part of the official regulations for animal markets.

CALVES KILLED FOR THE PRODUCTION OF MILK

Animal Equality inspected dairy farms in several states across the country. The practices we documented are unfortunately common across the country.

In 2017, Animal Equality India investigated 107 dairy farms, finding severe mistreatment, lack of medical care, the use of harmful drugs, and the killing of animals while they are conscious in flagrant violation of animal protection laws.

Buffaloes are artificially inseminated to force their pregnancy and the production of milk. The procedure is repeated year after year until they are exhausted.

Thanks to this investigation, the Indian government issued several mandates to end the worst forms of abuse in this industry, including the introduction of sexed semen technology to prevent the birth of male calves and their slaughter, provisions to improve the health of these animals including the regulating the use of oxytocin.

HOW CAN YOU HELP

Our work is possible thanks to the generosity and altruism of our donors. Protect these animals from suffering and abuse by supporting our team of investigators and campaigners who are fighting for them. Thank you for your compassion toward animals.