“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius
I firmly believe that compassion is a quality inherent in humans. Observe toddlers: they are always attracted to nature–animals, flowers, trees. Societal conditioning causes people to lose this quality. I was fortunate to be raised by a family that nurtured my compassionate side.
As a child, I would rescue puppies and kittens, bring them home and care for them.
But when it came to 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, I soon reached a stagnation point and was yearning for a meaningful life. Around this time, I began exploring spirituality–which got me thinking about the purpose of life. I soon realised that my life’s goal was to help the helpless.
That is when I decided to quit my Human Resources job to pursue the call of Animal Rights. I was nervous at first, but I took the plunge. Initially, people around me asked, “How can you quit a lucrative job and work for an NGO? Your education will go to waste.”
With time, my family came around, and their support for my work increased tenfold.
From persuading the government or courts to introduce or amend laws, to assisting police officials in investigations, I have taken up marketing and communication roles as well. Through all my experiences, I learnt to be a more patient, resilient and strategic person.
After 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.
While all the victories we’ve achieved have been challenging, I vividly recall how one of them helped me develop a tremendous insight.
I first learnt about the Gadhimai animal sacrifice in 2009. This is considered to be the largest instances of animal sacrifice in the world. It takes place in Nepal every five years.
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Most visitors of this ritual are from India, who carry their animals with them across the Indo–Nepal border. We persuaded the government to prohibit the transport of animals across the border.
Having the prohibition on paper was the first step, the next step was to get it implemented. A part of my team headed to the border, and the rest of the group was in Nepal, documenting the festival. We met with the police and border security officials and assisted them to maintain a vigil.
I recall the risk we took during our vigilance work at the border. In one instance, I escaped a lynch mob. We worked in Naxal areas, helping border officials at night in areas known for criminal activities. Thanks to this vigilance, the number of large animals sacrificed reduced by 80%.
As I was travelling through the remote areas of Bihar, I often heard statements like, “Gadhimai, will give us a male child.” The strong superstitions, the overpowering poverty and the deep-rooted preference for a male child shocked me.
We then moved to Nepal, where the festival was in full swing. It was a barbaric sight–buffaloes were rounded up in a large enclosure and devotees, who had no experience in slaughtering animals, volunteered to slay them.
Rarely were the buffaloes hacked in one blow and only a lucky few had a quick, less painful death. Most buffaloes were repeatedly hacked as the untrained executioners swung blows, one after another at the animal with their blunt machetes.
As the carnage was underway inside, goats, rams, pigeons, ducks and roosters were being sacrificed by devotees, outside the grounds of the fair.
Working in this environment was surreal. The blood and gore had a disorienting effect on us. The area was soon infested with rotting carcasses and human excrement. Food and water for sale were contaminated. People were seen eating rotting carcasses.
Over ten years, my team and I have worked in life-threatening situations. We’ve fought tooth and nail against abusers, which in turn has jeopardised our security. We have reasoned with courts and the government to introduce reforms despite the resistance.
Thankfully, the number of animals being sacrificed has drastically reduced now.
People across the world, including India, are horrified by the brutal realities the animals are living in and are pouring in support. More people are pursuing their passion for animal rights and devoting time to fight for the cause of animals.
Ten years ago I was one of the very few to take this kind of decision. But today I see more and more people taking up their passion. Even if it is not full time, they devote some time to it.
This positive change is very inspiring for me. I would request family members to be supportive of these individuals.
(Written by Nayantara Gupta and Edited by Shruti Singhal)
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