Animal Matters. No 25: 1st March, 2013

Dear Members and Friends,

I took a train to Chennai last week. Sitting for 40 hours gave me an alarming chance to review more or less the whole of my life. A sage once said "shame is the emotion that stays with us the longest." True, shame never loses its lustre.

When I was in pre-school, four years old, we learned the "square dance" -an American folk dance in which you change your steps when instructed by the "caller," – in this case our minder, Miss Beckwith, a terrifying old gal who lived with her old sister. We stood in a circle and everyone was commanded to "BE STILL" and "PAY ATTENTION" to Miss Beckwith's cheerless commands: one step right! Two steps left! Boys! Bow! Girls! Curtsy! I raised my hand, the single index finger earnestly extended (the pinky finger extension to mean you-know-what.) "Be still!" My partner was Charlie and already I knew I "liked" Charlie. Perhaps it was the additional mayhem of liking Charlie that overwhelmed my ability to not pee right there in front of all 15 of my colleagues.

On my death bed I am certain that as my life "passes before my eyes," Life Passing will not have the courtesy to skip over that day, that moment when I understood for the first time what it means to lose one's dignity. Over the years I have lost my dignity out of anger, vanity, frustration, and fear, and the emotion feels much the same as it did that spring day in 1960. I cannot think of pre-school–which surely must have been ringing with laughter and song each and every day–without a certain horror.

The moral being: when you're trying to persuade others to protect animals, do it kindly and protect their dignity. If you embarrass them their ears will plug up and they won't like anything you said, and they'll feel a chill whenever they remember the encounter at all.

And if you speak to them sweetly, and both take extra care not to pee in your pants, you might both leave the exchange the happier. May you be lucky.

We are looking for campaign coordinators for animal protection in India, for campaigns of farm animals, veg outreach and a communications coordinator for farm animal issues (3 different posts). Apply today

Fruits of Collaboration: Last week, the Jaipur Federation (JFAPO) was presented with an emergency – reportedly, camels being sent off to Bihar for slaughter. We secured routes, looked up laws, spoke to everyone who would listen and help – we worked together and worked hard – but we made mistakes, and the camels couldn't be saved. At a meeting after, nothing was said, but the disappointment was obvious – irrespective of what organisation we were from, everyone had come together for the only thing that mattered – the camels. And in our disappointment, we were glad to have a fraternity to share mistakes openly, and strengthen our resolve.
On a positive note, our coordinator of the Elephant Working Group from Kerala recently visited the Jaipur federation – and it was great to share experiences, challenges and even some solutions. Everyone left feeling stronger, and connected for animals. See photos here

Excellent news from Pune – the city's activists have taken on an organised attempt to put up posters on ABC and emergency numbers all over Pune. With no single organisation heading this effort, nearly 500 posters have been put up and all of this is being coordinated on the city's animal lovers network.

Be Cruelty-Free week is getting closer, and we are getting ready for action in various cities across India. Get active for animals suffering for vanity, and sign up for an event in your city today. Email

Outreach doesnt have to just be leafletting. Ranchi Bus Stand is now sporting a billboard on dog-bite prevention.

The Dogs Trust conference in Chennai, brought together around 100 national and international animal activists. ABC and Rabies dominated most of the first day with speakers like Dr Abdul Rehman, Dr Chinny Krishna, Dr Gyanendra Gongal from WHO. Some new light was thrown by Andrew Yoak, a wildlife researcher about his comparative three city study on the secondary benefits of ABC and how the overall health of the dog population benefits due to ABC. Tom Thomas from Praxis – Institute for Participatory Practices made an enthused presentation on how animal welfare people can involve the community. A half day brainstorming on building a unified approach to dog welfare in India was facilitated by FIAPO. So all in all, a good informative, interactive conference with lots of learnings and some delicious South Indian food thrown in.

Puja writes:  Last week I was interviewed by a local paper ‘The Goan'. It was a wonderful opportunity to sensitize local people to the issues addressed in our campaign to save dolphins from captivity in India and ensure that Goa takes the right stand against dolphinariums. See The ensuing positive response was encouraging and many who contacted me post the interview, are now attending our outreach event in Goa on the 8th  – 9th of March. If you are in Goa, details on signing up to the event are here

Recent media reports alerted FIAPO to the plight of 6 abandoned circus elephants kept in poor welfare conditions for over two months in Kerala (Alappuzha). Left behind by the circus management when they were denied an NOC to transport them to Chennai; the elephants suffer needlessly while the government authorities debate their responsibility towards their welfare. We are in touch with the authorities to rescue and rehabilitate the elephants immediately.

In focus: Aashray
This week, we profile a young organisation from Jaipur. Young, it may be, but one of the active JFAPO members, Aashray has now opened Jaipur's second shelter for animals, with a fully fledged operation theater. Run entirely by volunteers, they have lead initiatives like the water bowl project in Jaipur, and also worked for animals as far out as Jaisalmer. They have already helped nearly 500 individual animals and birds, and the future of Jaipur's animals looks bright. More here

Two weeks ago, the FIAPO trustees became a "100% Giving Board." That means each trustee made a donation to FIAPO. It's the first year in which this has happened, and I am sure this will result in each of the trustees becoming a stronger representative of FIAPO. Making a financial investment in an organisation seems to me to have a different effect from giving directly to, for example, the animals you care for, whether two or 200. Donating to an organisation raises your own stakes in ensuring it organisationally stewards your own money well. It implies interaction with others. It will mean enhanced negotiating. Strengthened consideration of your own viewpoints and determination to persuade others to their merits.

If you are not now giving money to an animal organisation, do it! You'll automatically be more likely to scrutinize the decisions of the organisation, supporting the directions you like and struggling against those you don't like. And that's what makes organisations healthier, and gives each of the people involved in it a chance to get better at doing what we each passionately want to do.
"We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth."- George Bernard Shaw

Help animals in your own way; remember – no action is too small.

Best wishes,

Erika Abrams

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