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“It may not be over night, or over a year; it may take a few decades or so, but change is inevitable. It is possible. I hope it is possible.”
Since 2012, Farm Forward has worked to identify and help fund some of the most innovative programs working toward humane and sustainable agriculture in South Asia. Our granting programs especially aim to empower India’s hundreds of millions of farmers to find their own unique path to resist factory farming, preserve rural life, enhance community health, and create animal agriculture systems that are both productive and more humane.1
Our Changing Farming: Transcending Borders to End Factory Farming video introduces veterinarian Dr. Mandhaven Sugumaran (“Dr. S”). Our most influential and empowering work to date includes providing financial support to Dr. S and his allies in The Nilgiris region of India as they resist the encroachment of industrial farming. The knowledge gained from this on the ground work with farmers now informs Farm Forward’s efforts to support research that can change farm policy across India.
Global meat production has increased sevenfold since 1950 and factory farming is the fastest growing method of animal production worldwide. With our globalized economy, factory farming anywhere in the world is a threat to animal welfare and ecological stability everywhere in the world.2
If we’re going to defeat factory farming, we can’t be content with victories only in the US, Canada, and Mexico—we must also turn back the progress of the factory farm in the world’s most populous nations, India and China, before it’s too late.3 India, as a fellow democracy with a developed and free media, is a natural ally. Action in India today can have an outsized impact precisely because India still has comparatively low rates of meat consumption and—while factory farms are beginning to dot the countryside—traditional systems of farming are still widespread.4
In India we simply need to preserve and expand the traditional systems already producing so much of India’s animal products. Unlike in America, where farmers and consumers alike forgot the value of heritage genetics as cheaper hybrid chickens came to comprise 99 percent of the market, people in India still recognize the superior value of slower-growing birds.5 In the areas of South India where we provide grant support, locals typically pay up to more than double the amount for heritage or “country birds,” as they are referred to locally.
Farm Forward began developing partnerships with local animal welfare and pro-traditional farming groups in India when the director of the Eating Animals documentary, Christopher Quinn, asked for our help telling the international side of the factory farming story. In the course of forging relationships with several of India’s citizens, including Dr. S, we saw just how much even modest donations could achieve. After three years of rigorous vetting, we’ve identified partners and projects that we know make an outsized difference, stretching charitable dollars to achieve the most good.
Our most influential and empowering work to date includes providing financial support to Dr. S and his allies in The Nilgiris region of India as they resist the encroachment of industrial farming and support poor rural farmers in more than 36 villages for less than $35,000 annually—less than $1,000 per village. The Nilgiris is a beautiful, mountainous region featuring five national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through our support, our allies in The Nilgiris have provided emergency veterinary relief for small farmers facing pandemics like hoof and mouth disease, launched a campaign to help repopulate local heritage birds, and even started work on an animal shelter on donated land.
The most developed ongoing program is a pilot program distributing India’s native heritage breeds to small farmers who recently transitioned to hybrid birds. In addition to the animal welfare benefits and higher market value, the use of local genetics is crucial to allowing farmers in India to retain their independence from agribusiness. If local poultry genetics are lost in India like they have been in the US, farmers will be forced to buy hybrid strains from industrial hatcheries.
Work to promote humane and sustainable farming in India is work to protect wild animal species. The complex ecosystems of this area mean that our allies must develop farming systems that are not only higher welfare but also compatible with local efforts to protect forest species, including elephants, panthers, and tigers.
We believe our work to internationalize the movement for truly humane, sustainable, and just animal agriculture is key to defeating the factory farm.
Please consider a recurring monthly donation to provide basic free and subsidized veterinary care to an entire village in The Nilgiris. Write “photos please!” in the comment area of the donation form and we’ll have our partners in India send photos of how your dollars are being put to work.
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Prachi Salve, “How Many Farmers Does India Really Have?”, Hindustan Times, August 11, 2014, available here.
WorldWatch Institute, Factory Farming in the Developing World, World Watch Magazine, May/June 2003, Volume 16, No. 3, available here.
Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G.2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.
Worldwatch Institute, Global Meat Production and Consumption Continue to Rise (Washington, DC: 2013), available here.
Worldwatch Institute, New Meat Byproducts: Avian Flu and Global Climate Change, World Watch Magazine, January/February 2007, Volume 20, No. 1, available here.