Asia for Animals: conservation in Nepal, positive action in the Philippines, and changing behaviour in Indonesia and India


Nepal was the host country for the 10th Asia for Animals (AfA) conference. It’s a nation known for its achievements in nature conservation, but animal welfare activists are facing serious challenges in protecting endangered species and combatting wildlife trafficking.

Twenty-three percent of Nepal’s land mass is given over to national parks or reserves. Tiger and rhino populations have rebounded in the country, and Nepal is a refuge for other endangered species, including the Ganges river dolphin and the red panda.

Nepal’s human population has tripled over the past fifty years, however, and this has placed a considerable strain on natural resources and brought humans and wildlife into conflict. The Nepali capital Kathmandu, meanwhile, continues to be a transit point for the illegal wildlife trade.

Delegates to the AfA conference heard inspiring stories about such successes as the Manumitra dog management programme in Kathmandu, whose aim is to ensure “healthy people, healthy animals, and a healthy environment”. The programme is changing people’s perceptions about stray dogs and building community concern for the animals.

Conference participants were, however, also urged to sign a petition against an amendment of Nepal’s 1973 Wildlife Protection Act, which conservationist say is “playing directly into the hands of the poachers and traffickers”.

The Nepali parliament passed wildlife farming legislation on January 30 last year in which there is a clause that specifically allows people to breed and use wild animals, export and sell them, and keep them for entertainment and in zoos.

The clause opens the way to the harvesting of animals organs and body parts.

Animal welfare activists in Nepal have been campaigning relentlessly for the past year to get the amendment repealed.

The amendment states that any individual, business, or group of people can obtain licences to use wild animals for profit, activist for animal protection Shristi Singh Shrestha told AfA delegates.


“This opens up the possibilities of fur farms, bile farms, circuses, mini zoos, meat farms, slaughterhouses, and experiments on animals.”

Shrestha said that Nepal continued to be a major international transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade and this was possibly the greatest challenge in conserving wildlife in the country.

By reforming the Wildlife Protection Act, parliamentarians were playing directly into the hands of poachers and traffickers, “inviting them to exploit the blurred line between ‘wild’ and ‘farmed’ animals”, Shrestha said.

There was no mechanism, she said, for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or the government of Nepal to distinguish between captive-bred and wild-caught animals.

“If exporters can produce documents claiming the source to be captive bred, there is no way to stop them.”

Nepal has a poor track record in implementing effective regulatory mechanisms, and a history of weakening conservation regulations, the petition states.

The 2003 Wildlife Farming, Breeding, and Research Policy, eventually deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court, facilitated the captive breeding of protected species, such as Rhesus macaques, to supply the National Primate Research Centers in the United States.

The importation of exotic species persists through Kathmandu’s international airport, “demonstrating the continued failure of CITES implementation in Nepal”, the petition states.

It says that, by encouraging the privatization and commercial production of wild animals, the wildlife department is “perpetuating the notion that wild animals, their parts, and derivatives are commodities for human consumption”, and is hence encouraging the wildlife trade.

“Surely, this is not commensurate with the department’s role to protect and conserve wildlife in its natural habitat.”

A rhinoceros in the Chitwan National Park.

The petition states that any attempt to confine wild animals in a farm will inevitably cause immense suffering, disease, and death, and a high number will be deemed surplus or unviable.

The amendment is promoting private national and international business activity that would benefit from the wildlife industry and the trade in exotic animals, it adds.

“It strongly brings into question the government’s attitude to wildlife conservation and the communities that are dependent upon Nepal’s biodiversity.”

People, parks, and wildlife preservation

Hemanta Raj Mishra (pictured left) was a member of the pioneering team that created the Chitwan National Park and other protected areas in Nepal. He is an international advisor for the Humane Society International and author of the books The Soul of the Rhino and Bones of the Tiger. He was awarded the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize for his work and is credited with preventing the extinction of Nepal’s rhinos and tigers.

In a presentation entitled “People, Parks, and Wildlife Preservation in the 21st Century – a Nepal Case Study”, Mishra told delegates at the AfA conference that the genesis of modern wildlife conservation in Nepal was in 1972 when the country introduced its first National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Nepal ratified the Act in 1973 and, in the same year, the first national park in Nepal, Chitwan, was gazetted.

In 1986, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) was launched. It was recognised that there needed to be benefit sharing. If the conservationists wanted local people to participate fully in protecting Nepal’s biodiversity, their basic needs had to be met.

The “Put People First” initiative was an important step in this process. “The mantra was to integrate ecology with economics,” Mishra told delegates. The initiative sought to balance human needs for food, fodder, and livelihood with the need to save flora and fauna.

“Sadly, the so-called golden years didn’t last long,” Mishra explained. “Nepal got involved in a very brutal civil war, which many called a decade of destruction.

“Park premises were bombed, parks were looted, and some of our park staff were even killed. Wildlife poaching and habitat destruction became pandemic.”

Nepal’s monarchy was abolished and the country was declared a democratic republic.

Some parklands were used for apartment developments, Mishra said, and it was argued that human life, not wildlife, should be saved.

“Many critics said that national parks were a Western elitist concept, ill-suited for a poor country like Nepal.”

By 2015, however, wildlife habitat rejuvenated dramatically, and the number of rhinos and tigers increased.

The NGO and government staff working in the field showed unprecedented courage and competency, Mishra told AfA delegates.

How to deal, though, with continued human-wildlife conflict? “I don’t have all the answers,” Mishra said, “and I don’t know if one size fits all.

“The problems are very complex and solutions are seldom obvious or sustainable.”

The relationship between humans and wildlife has to be symbiotic and not antagonistic, Mishra says, and it needs to be remembered that endangered species such as the rhino and tiger are worth more alive than dead.

“Saving wildlife and valuing protected areas must not be a barrier for social and economic development.”

People need to be brought out of the poverty trap, Mishra says, and conservation has to be a bridge, enabling wildlife and local populations to coexist.

Changing behaviour in the Philippines


The executive director of The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Anna Cabrera, gave a presentation at the AfA conference entitled “Animal Welfare Campaign Strategies on a Shoestring Budget”.

Cabrera believes that a main focus of animal welfare work needs to be changing the attitude and behaviour of people towards animals.

The essence of animal welfare campaigning, she says, is changing hearts and minds.

Cabrera says that animal welfare groups sometimes make the mistake of thinking that, because they stand for lofty ideals, they are different from for-profit companies, who budget for marketing.

“I firmly believe that animal welfare is all about marketing. We are a business. The sooner we come to accept that, the sooner we will make progress in behaviour change.”

Animal welfare groups are in the business of saving lives, Cabrera says, and have a mission to persuade people to treat animals better.

Cabrera points to the importance of telling animals’ stories on social media. Via the Internet, animal welfare organisations have a massive reach, she says, and close to zero advertising costs.

She cites the case of the movie Oro, which was entered into the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. A dog was killed and disembowelled during filming.

People flocked to social media to express their fury. PAWS filed a criminal lawsuit against the film director and the production company for violating the Animal Welfare Act of the Philippines, but the charges were dismissed in court.

“Social media makes it easier to shine the spotlight on animal cruelty,” Cabrera said.

She told delegates about the fear in the dog’s eyes before it was killed. “It was imprinted on the mind of Filipinos.”

People’s anger can be used to create temporary behaviour change, Cabrera says. “Sometimes it works, but we at PAWS believe that it always pays to make a campaign positive.”

To combat animal cruelty, PAWS got an award-winning director, Jose Javier Reyes, to rebut what was said by the director of Oro (that killing the dog was necessary for the sake of art).

An Artists Against Animal Cruelty campaign was launched and Reyes shot a commercial for PAWS with the message “I would never hurt my actors”.

Jose Javier Reyes at a fund-raising luncheon and featured on a poster for PAWS’ Artists Against Animal Cruelty campaign. (Photos courtesy of PAWS.)

Cabrera urges animal welfare activists not to fall into the trap of negativity. “At one time or another we have been guilty of this,” she said, “to love animals and to hate human beings.”

She is the coordinator in the Philippines for the Animal Asia Foundation’s Dr Dog animal-assisted therapy programme. Dr Dog was started by Jill Robinson, who founded Animals Asia.

Robinson chose to promote animal welfare through people welfare by showing people that dogs can be their friends and their healers, Cabrera says.

“It’s important to condemn and fight cruelty … but the second prong, which we often forget, is to celebrate kindness.

“It’s a missed opportunity if you don’t show how happy the animals can make us.”

PAWS has been working to change people’s attitudes to native dogs, who are known as askals (from the expression asong kalye, which mean street dog), even if they live with a family and are never allowed to stray outside.

Pure-bred dogs are treated differently to native dogs even if they both live in the same house. The native dogs stay outside and are tied up or caged.

The semi-strays who are put outside get rounded up by people who eat dog meat.

Jokes about native dogs abound. One refers to native dogs as the rice dogs because they eat only rice and other leftovers. Pure-bred dogs eat expensive wet food or kibble.

There is a deep-rooted bias against native dogs, Cabrera says. “The public perceive native dogs as low-class dogs, or mutts, not just because of their monetary value, but because of an idea of what is beautiful and what is not.

“Ninety-five percent of the cruelty cases we would get involve native dogs.”

The dogs in the meat trade in the Philippines are “truckloads and truckloads of all native dogs”, Cabrera says. “There wouldn’t be a pure-breed dog among them.”

PAWS encourages people to bring native dogs to their various fundraising events and enter them into contests. In 2006, PAWS even ran a native dog beauty pageant.

PAWS ran a “See Beauty Beyond Breed” campaign featuring two popular local celebrities posing with native dogs from the PAWS shelter.

The ads encouraged the use of the term aspin (asong Pinoy, or “dog of the Philippines”) instead of askal and showed that native dogs were just as cute, intelligent, and loyal as their purebred counterparts.

Not only did all the animals with whom the two personalities posed get adopted, the campaign also boosted general adoption rates and inquiries. PAWS shelter staff also noticed an increase in the use of the term aspin.

There are now even native “teacher dogs” helping children with their reading.

The horrors of dogfighting

Dogfighting and horsefighting are illegal under the Philippines Animal Welfare Act, but cockfighting remains legal.

PAWS actively campaigns against all forms of animal fighting, and succeeded in preventing the entry of bullfighting into the country in 2002.

The organisation says it opposes “any acts whereby humans incite, allow, or cause animals to fight”.

Dogfighting, cockfighting, and bullfighting are “blood-sports,” which glorify violence for the sake of monetary gain, entertainment, or other purposes, PAWS says.

“These activities cause suffering, maiming, and death to the animals forced to participate, and they have negative social consequences.”

The horrors of dogfighting are well documented on the PAWS website, not least in the story of a raid in Indang in the province of Cavite on December 2, 2011.

The raid exposed a full-scale pit bull fighting ring run by locals and Korean nationals.

Police said that, in the fight club, pit bulls were pitted against each other in fights lasting for three to five minutes.  The fights were being streamed live on the Internet.

Sixty-nine dogs were taken to the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Centre. “Aside from the health assessment of the dogs, part of the back-breaking task was to clean the cages thoroughly and to place plastic matting inside the cages to relieve the paws of the pit bulls from chaffing from rubbing against the rusty welded wires that served as flooring,” PAWS said.

“For the first week, it was by the sheer power of volunteers that we kept the area clean, and the pit bulls fed and watered. The same bowls had to be used for food and then be cleaned to serve as water bowls because the cages were too small to fit in an extra bowl.”

The grounds of the PAWS shelter were turned into a virtual tent city to protect the dogs from the extreme heat of the sun and from being drenched when it rained.

The first raid on an international dogfight in the Philippines was in 2007. A case was filed against those involved, who included three Thai nationals, but it took ten years to reach its conclusion, and there were only two convictions.

Buddy and Midnight, who were horrifically wounded in the dogfight that was raided in 2007, pictured after their rescue by PAWS. (Photo courtesy of PAWS.)

It was only in April 2017 that Danny Sy-Tan and Allan Lim-it were found guilty of violating the 1998 Animal Welfare Act.

The two men were sentenced to pay only P5,000 Philippine Peso (about US$98) each.

When the law was amended in 2013, the penalty was raised to between P30,000 and P100,000, with imprisonment of up to one year, but the amended law could not be retroactively imposed on a crime committed in 2007.

An alias warrant of arrest was issued for four other men accused in the case, but they remained in hiding.


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Successes in Indonesia

Conference delegates heard about changing human behaviour towards wild animals in Indonesia from the programme director of the Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, Gunung Gea.

Scorpion, which was set up in 2015, won the AfA conference award for an outstanding performance by an emerging organisation.

Gunung Gea is pictured accepting the AfA award for an outstanding performance by an emerging organisation from Animals Asia’s animal welfare director Dave Neale.

Gea told delegates about Scorpion’s successes in getting several zoos in Indonesia closed down, and improving conditions in others.

He talked about Bengkulu Zoo, which has been closed down. The zoo was dirty and inadequately equipped for the animals, Gea said. Insufficient drinking water was provided.

In a report about the zoo in July 2015, Scorpion said there was a large amount of garbage in the animal enclosures. A bird was injured, but apparently did not receive treatment. Two of the many problems reported by Scorpion were the insufficient water in the crocodile enclosure and a gibbon cage that was far too small for the animal.

Gea said there used to be photo sessions with orangutans every weekend at Kandi Zoo in Sumatra, but, after a Scorpion campaign against it, the practice was stopped.

In May 2016, a Scorpion investigator found visitors giving food to orangutans at the zoo and elephants were attached with short chains, which prevented them moving freely.

Scorpion now provides training for the zoo keepers.

The NGO also campaigned against the practice of allowing humans to be in direct contact with big cats at Taman Safari, and it was stopped. Scorpion is still battling to stop wildlife being used in photo sessions, however.

Scorpion has also succeeded in stopped the circuses involving sun bears and orangutans that were taking place at Lembah Hijau Zoo in Sumatra.

Gea told delegates about the condition of sun bears in Bandung Zoo. A Scorpion investigator found that a sun bear there was eating its own dung. Sun bears will only do this when they are very, very hungry, Gea says.

Videos taken by Scorpion show the sun bears looking skeletal and begging for food.

Scorpion campaigned, the government intervened, and the bears in the zoo are now well fed.

The NGO also campaigned against the horrific fights to the death between dogs and wild boars that were taking place in the city of Bandung.

In November last year, the governor of West Java, Ahmad Heryawan, wrote to all the province’s regency heads and mayors asking them to issue directives banning the barbaric dugong fights.

Scorpion confirms that the fights have stopped in one location, but is still investigating the situation in other places.

Saving Frogs

In one of the conference sessions about conservation, the award-winning batrachologist¹ Biraj Shrestha talked about saving mountain frogs in the Manaslu Conservation Area.

There are 7,529 known amphibian species across the world and more than 2,000 of them are listed as endangered.

Eleven frog species are endemic to Nepal.

Shrestha works for the non-profit Resources Himalaya Foundation and is a volunteer with the California-based organisation Save the Frogs, which has outreach projects in more than sixty countries.

He says that, over the past forty years, more than 250 frog species have gone extinct in the wild, and nearly one-third of all the remaining species are in danger of extinction.

Shrestha showed delegates a film that highlights the causes of the rapid worldwide decrease in amphibian populations.

The Nanorana liebigii. Photo by Biraj Shrestha.

The Ombrana sikimensis. Photo by Biraj Shrestha.

The Amolops formosus or “Beautiful stream frog”. Photo courtesy of Save the Frogs.

Habitat destruction is the main cause of the disappearance of frogs, and climate change is altering precipitation levels, drying up ponds, streams, and cloud forests.

Humans are facilitating the spread of infectious diseases by shipping more than a hundred million amphibians around the world each year, for use as food, pets, bait, and in laboratories and zoos, with few regulations and little quarantining.

One of these diseases, chytridiomycosis, has driven stream-dwelling amphibian populations to extinction in Africa, Australia, Europe and North, Central, and South America.

Hundreds of millions of kilograms of pesticides go into ecosystems each year and are easily absorbed through amphibians’ permeable skin, weakening their immune systems and causing developmental deformities.

Shrestha says that one of the most pressing problems for frogs in Nepal is communal hunting. People skin the amphibians alive and leave them to dry in the sun.

People not only consider frog meat as a delicacy, he says, but they can obtain it for free. They also consume frogs for medicinal purposes. “People often consume the dried eggs in the belief that it helps them regain their sexual power.”

Shrestha emphasises the importance of educating local people about ways to protect the local amphibians. He has held numerous community workshops in Manaslu, and gives talks to schoolchildren and teachers.

The survival of the Earth, Shrestha says, depends on frogs. Healthy frogs, he says, equals healthy people and a healthy planet.

Caring for working equines

Faizan Jaleel talked to AfA delegates about the vision of the organisation Brooke India, which is of a world in which working horses, donkeys, and mules are free from suffering.

Jaleel is the regional head for the Brooke² programmes in India, which is home to 1.2 million equines, of which about 98 percent are working.

Most of the working equines are kept by resource-poor people who use the equines to draw buggies (carts) or in brick kilns, or on building sites, or to transport agricultural produce or sand from rivers.

“Eighty percent of husbandry management is taken care of by women when the equines are at home,” Jaleel points out.

Jaleel told delegates about the abuse suffered by working equines in India. He says malpractice is usually the result of misinformation.

The equine owners have cruel methods of handling and restraining that have been passed down from their forefathers, Jaleel says. They operate on the basis of all kinds of myths and anecdotal hearsay, practising firing (branding the animal with a red-hot iron), slitting the nostrils of donkeys in a bid to make them more hardy, and cutting their ears to treat colic and tetanus.

The equine owners have low self-esteem, Jalil says, and are abused and exploited themselves. They are at the bottom of the social hierarchy and don’t have other resources. They live on the fringes.

Service providers such as government veterinary officers abuse medicines, especially antibiotics, settling for “one treatment for all”, Jaleel told delegates. Cattle, buffaloes, and equines all get the same medicines.

In Maharashtra, Jaleel says, people generally work their donkeys then leave them to loiter around on the roads. The animals feed on garbage, which leads to gastrointestinal issues like colic, and there is a high rate of mortality.

“We have firing as a treatment for everything possible from lameness to colic to tetanus.”

Brooke works with 275,000 working equines and 165,000 equine owners across India. There are 50,000 brick kilns in India in which equines work and Brooke is active in 6,400 of them.

“Overloading is a big problem there and also the very harsh working conditions. The temperature in a brick kiln may go up to 55 degrees centigrade on a normal day of working,” Jaleel said.


Jaleel says that the process of behaviour change needs to involve building bridges with local communities, and listening to the day-to-day problems of equine owners.

“When they open up they have so much to tell. Nobody has heard them before. They have so much pain, anguish, and stress that they want to share with you.”

There are now equine welfare groups at village level, villagers have first-aid kits and are educated in wound management, and service providers are being trained. There are resource centres for such equipment as harnesses, along with community-driven health checks on equines and an equine insurance scheme.

“We have been able to mobilise in the last seven months US$1.65 million worth of benefits to the equine owners from the government,” Jaleel said.

There has, over the past three to four years, been an eighty percent improvement in husbandry practices like feeding, watering, and grooming.

One stand-out achievement is donkeys being fed green fodder in a drought-prone area of Maharashtra. Brooke India introduced the concept of hydroponics to cultivate the fodder using maize seeds. The scheme was piloted with two hundred families, and another thousand families have now shown interest.

Innovating away from factory farming

There were several sessions at the AfA conference about promoting vegetarianism and veganism.

Emma Slawinski from Compassion in World Farming talked to delegates about the myths of factory farming, such as the idea that it saves space and the argument that it is needed in order to feed the world.

“Factory farming is a really inefficient way of producing feed. If you take a hundred calories worth of crop and you feed that to an animal and you turn that animal into meat, you will get between 17 and thirty calories back, so you have wasted a huge proportion of those calories by putting them through an animal.

“So, if we are worried about feeding the world we should not be doing factory farming, we should be eating the crops ourselves instead.”

The argument that we should be producing increasing amounts of food because populations are going to increase is also a myth, Slawinski says. “We waste so much food, not only by letting it go off, or not eating it all, but also in the way it’s processed, and also through this method of farming.

“If we took those calories and used them properly then we would have more than enough food already to feed not only everybody in the world, but everybody that’s going to come along.”

There have been positive advances, Slawinski says. “Our work has improved the lives of more than a billion farm animals and we have seen new laws to get rid of some of the worst forms of farming in more than 28 countries, but overall we are failing miserably.

“There are more animals in factory farms now than there were when we started fifty years ago.”

Asia, Slawinski says, is a part of the world where industrial livestock farming is really starting to grow. “It’s a new market that’s really starting to rise,” she told delegates.

“Factory farming is a complete disaster. It is a threat to human life on Earth.”

Slawinski lists just some of the negative impacts of factory farming: it contributes to antimicrobial resistance, it takes resources, such as huge amounts of water, away from people, and it damages food security, reducing the amount of food that we have available.

“It’s catastrophic for wildlife because you need such large amounts of land to be able to grow the crops to feed to the factory-farmed animals that we’re seeing habitats being destroyed very quickly. And it’s terrible for human health.”

Slawinski told delegates about the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, made from plants, but seeming like meat, and available in the meat aisle of supermarkets.

“Tyson Foods are investing in this. One of the biggest meat producers in the world is putting its money into this alternative protein. The world truly is changing.”

Then there is lab-grown meat, produced from a single chicken cell, which, Slawinski says, has none of the health, sustainability, or animal welfare problems that exist with other forms of meat production.

The International Finance Corporation, which is the private lending arm of the World Bank, is now investing in plant-based protein in India, Slawinski told AfA delegates.

Change is gradual

Trent Grassian, who is conducting research at the University of Kent in England as part of his PhD in social policy, talked about motivators for, and barriers to, the promotion of meat reduction, vegetarianism, and veganism.

“People are eating more meat, more animal products, than ever,” Grassian told delegates.

This is especially true in Asia, Grassian says, and there are projected to be dramatic increases in the consumption of animal products throughout Asia and in the rest of the world.

Grassian has been studying the primary factors contributing to a reduction in the consumption of animal food products. He got a record number of respondents to his surveys (nearly 1,600 people) and also conducted focus groups.

Two of the things Grassian wanted to know about campaigns promoting meat reduction, vegetarianism, and veganism were who the audiences were and how campaign participants’ perceptions, and what they eat, change over time.

Grassian worked with six organisations in the UK, which had eight different campaigns. These included online pledges, month-long challenges, and a virtual reality campaign.

Most people taking part in the campaigns were female, but there were participants from every age group.  There is a real lack of ethnic diversity among campaign participants, Grassian says. “Compared to the UK population, 96 percent of participants were white.”

There were also a lot of high-income participants. Few had no formal education.

“Most people in the vegan campaigns were already vegetarian and those who weren’t were likely either meat reducers or pescatarians, whereas, in reduction campaigns, we’re generally getting meat reducers, but we are also getting almost a quarter who are non-reducers.”

Most people, Grassian says, don’t want to change what they are doing in six months. “Maybe they want to reduce a bit, but they don’t want to cut anything out.”

A lot of vegetarians seem to want to go vegan, Grassian says.

Overall, Grassian says, he is getting extremely positive results. There were, for instance, 2.5 times more vegans overall within nine months.

In the reduction campaigns, there was a big shift in the number of non-reducers wanting to become meat-reducers. There were also increases in vegetarians and pescatarians, and decreases in meat-reducers and non-reducers.

However, one in five people were still saying they were not reducing their meat consumption.

In the vegan campaigns, the big shift is vegetarians to vegans. However, Grassian was surprised to find that only 16.7 percent said they would be vegan in six months’ time. “And 23 percent said they were going to be eating meat in six months.”

This suggests, Grassian says, that there are people in the vegan campaigns who don’t really plan on being vegan long-term. “But it looks like there is a huge increase in vegans over time.”

In the vegan campaigns, there were five percent more vegans after nine months.

“People seem to be recording this change as gradual, something that happens over time.

“Meat reducers may actually be future vegans. This came out in focus groups. And there are also a lot of almost-vegans, who are vegan except for something perhaps social, something about convenience.”

Grassian’s study shows that general health and animal welfare are the main motivators for change.

“Animal protection seems to be a very impactful motivator for people, but we need to recognise the fact that we have to overcome a lifetime of cognitive dissonance where you are taught to dissociate what you are eating from the suffering inherent in it.”

The study showed vegans to be more likely to have multiple motivators, but meat-reducers and non-reducers were more likely to be motivated only by health. “Vegetarians for some reason were not very motivated by health.”

Barriers dropped over the nine months, especially in the vegan campaigns, Grassian says.

“The biggest barrier overall was the sense that a vegan or vegetarian diet is more expensive.”

Building micro-communities

The senior campaign manager for the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), Shweta Sood, talked about building vibrant vegan grassroots communities. She started by giving AfA delegates some statistics. By the most conservative estimate, about one hundred billion animals are killed and consumed every year, she said.

“There seems to be a real dissonance between what we think animals live like and how animals are really treated.”

There needs, Sood says, to be “continuous, consistent, sustained activism”.

FIAPO’s strategy is to build and empower micro-communities across India that are driving and supporting change.

With support from its member organisations and activists, FIAPO has helped to achieve a ban on holding marine mammals in captivity, stopped the establishment of India’s first mega dairy, and rescued animals from more than 16 circuses.

There are now completely vegan restaurants in more than 11 cities in India, large-scale, pre-packed vegetarian “meat” is now available, and there has been an increase in small-scale entrepreneurs producing vegan curd, cheese, milk, and baked goods.

The emotional life of animals

Animals Asia’s animal welfare director Dave Neale talked about the value of positive messaging and listed some interesting facts about the emotional life of farm animals.

  • Pigs build nests for their piglets and “sing” to them, and love to play.
  • Sheep have excellent memories and understand the emotions of other sheep.
  • Goats have regional accents.
  • Cows are excellent problem solvers, develop “nurseries” to look after their calves, and grieve for their family members.
  • Hens form strong bonds and friendships, are excellent teachers, and “talk” to their chicks when they are inside the egg, and chicks communicate among themselves.

Neale says there is an increasing body of scientific evidence from behavioural research to back up what animal welfare activists know from experience about farm animals’ empathy and bonding, their capacity to anticipate future events, and their self-agency and self-recognition.


  1.  A person who studies amphibians.
  2. The Brooke is an international animal welfare organisation dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys, and mules in some of the world’s poorest communities.

(There is an account of the horrors of the donkey skin trade in Part 1 of the Changing Times’ AfA conference round-up.)

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