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Uday Kagal: on Animal rights and welfare

About the book

This book is my parting gift, so to speak, to “voiceless” animals and future generations. It comprehensively reviews our gross mistreatment of animals across spheres - stray and pet companion animals, animals on factory farms, and wildlife. It is a small book with a short message: prevent animal cruelty.

But it also carries a more ominous lesson for younger and future generations. The immense suffering we inflict on animals results not only in an "incalculably great impoverishment of the human spirit," as Einstein put it but also a more catastrophic loss in the "free" ecosystem services we take for granted. The vision of a more prosperous future is illusory because it will backfire sooner than we think.

It is time to re-evaluate our lives and act – for animals, the planet, and us. I can only hope this book will help in some small measure.

Buy your copy here.

In conversation with the Author

1. What inspired you to be a writer in the first place and what motivated you to write this

particular book?

Over my 35+ year career, I have seen two different worlds. I started out in rural development

and then moved to the corporate world. It created a dissonance in me between the simple,

traditional life of peacefulness and coexistence and the complex, modern one of restlessness

and isolation. I wrote 5 books, all these effectively challenged the “idea of progress” — much like

this book, mostly because we tend to ignore the collateral damage.

This book started with my trying to find a rescued stray puppy a home. It took over a year but

along the way I discovered the suffering of and cruelty to so many animals across spheres. I

turned vegan overnight and started a blog to spread the word. But then I stopped after the

response waned with time.

I then came across the documentary Earthlings - 10-Year Anniversary Edition and the cruelty

towards animals across pets, food, clothes, entertainment, and science was very difficult to

watch. I would say this was the trigger for this book, to spread the word on what really goes on

in these industries and make people more aware and to act to prevent this cruelty.

2. Your book, Homo Destructus is a short concise book focusing on animal welfare and you have

voiced against animal cruelty, how did you manage to write such a short yet gripping book?

What was your writing process like?

Well, I started out with much more, with an 80,000+ word manuscript after a zillion iterations. I

believed all the content was relevant to the interested audience. But then my publisher

suggested that long books are not really read nowadays, and 25-30,000 words is a more ideal

book length. I brought it down to 35,000 in just 4 days and was much happier with the result. I

did not have to cut out any portions – I merely removed extra detail. After all, the book has a

short message: prevent animal cruelty and, in so doing, save the planet for future generations. It

didn't need 500 pages!

3. What are the lessons you have learned during the process of writing and finally publishing this


Like I said, this is my sixth book. Along the way, I have learned to:

  • Be disciplined about writing - I find I am at my creative best early in the morning sometimes starting at 2 am because some thoughts are buzzing in my head and I couldn't sleep anymore, but each writer will have their own rhythm, I guess.

  • Press on when doubt sets in not only in the book but yourself – and it often does - because you believe in the book and the cause.

  • Take a break for as long as it takes when “writer’s block” sets in - sometimes I stayed away for months on end, just switched off and did other things to keep me occupied. The “right time” just popped up on its own.

  • Be more positive than cynical - that’s why I wrote the book in the first place despite my skepticism about audience interest in animals per se, in the hope that it might help in some small way to alleviate animal suffering and environmental impact.

4. These days we see people are adopting pets on one side and animal being abused even by kids

and stringent government policies, what are your take on this matter?

There is bit of hypocrisy in the whole issue surrounding animal welfare. Pets are “animals” to be

treated humanely and people express disdain or horror at mistreatment. Unfortunately, farmed,

and other animals are “property” to be exploited for our convenience!

People in general have little inclination or bandwidth to really incorporate animals into their

worldview. They are mostly caught up with human constructions to keep pace in an increasingly

competitive world with exploding human populations. Animals became subordinate and, as I

state in the book, the major influence was the rise of organized religion and the creation of man-

Gods (until not too long ago, Gods were inspired by nature).

Even those who adopt pets are not necessarily animal “lovers.” I have seen many cases where

the pet is sort of another “acquisition” to flout or flaunt, a status symbol to show they have

“arrived.” Hence, people often go for breed dogs from Puppy Mills rather than adopting strays.

That is why finding Jadoo – the rescued puppy – a home was so difficult. On the other hand,

finding homes for our boxer Maggie’s 10 puppies earlier had been a cakewalk.

Pet ownership is only about 7% in India, which means the balance doesn't even engage with a pet.

On the other hand, it is a whopping 70% in the U.S., and yet they continue to turn a blind eye to

animal cruelty and enjoy the privileges animals provide. For example, despite the horrific

treatment of animals on Factory Farms, which many organizations continuously make public

(despite laws that don't allow it!), the U.S. consumes as much chicken (by far the most farmed

animals globally) in a single day as it did in a whole year in 1930. A family on average consumes

one chicken every 4 days (and this is apart from beef, pork, lamb, duck, etc.), whereas Indians

consume one every two months.

5. What advice do you want to give fellow animal lovers so that they can leave a positive impact

in society?

There are many spheres in which animals suffer. Here are some simple and doable steps to help:

  • Do watch the documentary Earthlings - 10-Year Anniversary Edition, available on YouTube. If you do, you do not even have to read the book unless you’re interested in learning more.

  • Adopt rescued animals rather than shop. Strays make as adorable pets.

  • Be very considerate about bringing in a pet – remember, they are a commitment not a past time to indulge the kids. They need time and affection, just like your own kids do. If you do not have the bandwidth to provide them with this, it is better not to bring one home.

  • Raise your voice and join active movements to bring in legislation to protect animals on Factory Farms.

  • Stop using animal products, be it meat or milk or eggs or leather or other animal-derived fashion accessories.

  • Avoid circuses and marine parks, where the behind-the-scenes treatment of animals is far different from how it is projected. Besides, tigers are not meant to live out their lives in cages being trained to perform out of fear, just like elephants are not meant to spend their days shackled by a leg, swaying constantly from anxiety.

  • Most scientific experiments or lab work on animals is unnecessary and does not necessarily provide human solutions. Raise your voice to stop it.

  • Preventing deforestation and the resultant impact on wildlife is less under our control but consume less in general, which will automatically reduce our footprint.

  • Do not take in “exotic” pets. A rabbit is meant to be free roaming, just as a parrot is.

6. Tell us about the book that impacted you and helped you in shaping you as a writer?

Like I said, the book started with trying to look for a home for Jadoo. What I came across in the

process was all new to me. It stunned me and horrified me. I had always been an animal lover,

playing with frogs and earthworms as a kid, taking injured puppies and kittens to the SPCA for

treatment. I had very much wanted to be a vet, but that was not to be. I then got sucked into the

world of humans for over 35 years.

But this book brought me back to what I had let fade into the background. It reminded me that

animals are beautiful and need our protection. It gave me a new purpose, which propelled me to

doggedly work on the book despite self-doubt creeping in many times in between. After my fifth

book, I had decided not to write another because they were all unpopular topics and did not

gain much acceptance. But this book gave me a new sense of purpose.

7. What are your future plans? What are your goals and dreams as an author?

Well, my journey is no longer about being an author. Preventing animal cruelty is my mission,

and the book was a means to help spread the word. In future, I would continue to like to be

engaged in being the voice for “voiceless” animals. To help in my own little way to reduce the

gross mistreatment we mete out to billions of animals each year.

8. Advise for budding authors and all the readers.

There is only one reason to write a book: Passion, but if it is combined with a Cause, then it

makes the book that much more worthwhile to do. Your cause could be anything – it could LGBT

rights, persecution of women, minorities, differently abled, at-risk children – but pursuing a

cause keeps you on track and will also produce a better book. Unfortunately, it might not always

get you a wide audience - but stick to the purpose and pursue it despite a weak response – only

because you believe in what you are doing!

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