Australia, India unite for animal rights

India’s largest movement against animal abuse on 18 September

Sunday, 18 September saw the launch of the biggest worldwide movement ever against animal abuse, India Unites for Animals (IUFA), with about 58 cities in India and 21 cities worldwide participating simultaneously. People gathered in cities across USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Nepal, Sweden and Czech Republic to show their support to the movement, and demand that lawmakers in India bring in a new law for animal welfare in the country.

In Australia, events in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne started the launch, followed by India and international cities like Manchester, Leeds, San Francisco, Durban, London, Kathmandu, Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago and Prague.

The key demands of the IUFA movement are that a new Animal Welfare Bill be passed in the Indian Parliament, that lawmakers include policies for the benefit of animals in their party manifestos, and that every political contestant declare their stand relating to animal rights. The movement received overwhelming support from eminent personalities in politics, media and celebrities, and the public, both in India and internationally.

What makes IUFA unique is that it is a citizen’s movement, not headed by any individual or organisation, but supported by people from across the world who were mobilised through social media and word of mouth advocacy. IUFA is also running petitions online and through toll free calls; the petitions have received close to 150,000 signatures from people across the world. The signatures will subsequently be delivered to lawmakers across India.

The Sydney launch of IUFA was held at the Pitt Street Mall on 18 September and saw participants both from the Australian and Indian community coming together in support of a proposed Animal Welfare Bill in India. Participants engaged members of the public to inform them of the archaic provisions in the current Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act in India, which has not been updated since it was enacted in 1960. Under the PCA Act, a first instance of animal abuse, no matter how gruesome, has a fine of less than AUD 2, with no jail time. Further, there is no deterrence that ensures that animal abusers do not get to own animals again in the future.

Weak provisions as these have seen convicted animal-cruelty perpetrators in India getting off easily just by paying a fine of AUD 1 to 2 (INR 50-100). The Sydney event managed to raise awareness on these critical issues, and in just two hours got more than 100 people to pledge their support to a demand for a new animal welfare law in India.

The movement in India received the endorsement of renowned social activist Anna Hazare, who in 2011 had led a massive citizens’ movement, which led to enactment of an anti-corruption law in India. Prominent animal welfare organisations like Humane Society International, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, and PETA also supported the movement in India and USA.

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