Home Leaders Speak CSR Leaders: Priya Agarwal Hebbar from Vedanta Ltd. talks about ‘The Animal...

CSR Leaders: Priya Agarwal Hebbar from Vedanta Ltd. talks about ‘The Animal Care Organization’ launched by Anil Agarwal Foundation

The plight of stray animals on our streets and instances of human cruelty towards them is known to all. But just like cruel people, kind humans also exist, who make the world a better place to live for our four legged friends.
Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF) is the umbrella entity of Vedanta Limited’s initiatives to give back to the community. With the aim of “a compassionate India where every animal lives with dignity and respect”, the Foundation launched, ‘The Animal Care Organization’ (TACO), in April, 2022. The project offers top-notch infrastructure, veterinary care, training centres, and animal shelters to help heal and safeguard animals.
Founded by Priya Agarwal Hebbar, TACO aims to set up a sustainable and scalable ecosystem for the well-being of animals, in collaboration with global and national academic institutions and knowledge partners. The project delivers best-in-class facilities for animals in need of care, support, and shelter.
In an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal, Priya Agarwal Hebbar, Non- Executive Director, Vedanta Limited and Anchor, The Animal Care Organization talks about their services for animals and how a change in people’s mindset can stop cruelty towards strays. Following are excerpts from the conversation.

1. What does The Animal Care Organization (TACO) do?

The Animal Care Organization (TACO) caters to the needs of stray and domesticated animals with its six pillars, namely, Shelter (to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome sick or injured animals), Hospital (to create state-of-the-art hospitals for animals in need of care), Academy (to educate and train the veterinarians, paraprofessionals, community and animal welfare NGOs), Wildlife (to focus on conservation & welfare), Disaster Relief (rescuing animals in disaster hit areas) and Sectoral Engagement (supporting local NGOs, animal welfare champions).
To transform the ecosystem of animal welfare through a cooperative and multidisciplinary approach, TACO partnered with YODA (Youth Organization in Defence of Animals) as its implementing agency to build a sustainable and scalable animal welfare ecosystem by developing a holistic welfare programme to address the ever-growing animal health and well-being challenges.
TACO is also involved with community awareness & community sensitization on animal rights and cruelty against animals with school children and community. Apart from that, TACO, under sectoral engagement, on International Dog Day felicitated animal welfare champions who feed almost 400-500 stray dogs daily.
TACO also aims to take in the employees from different business location units to contribute to animal welfare in the smallest of ways possible. To support this, TACO conducted Anti-Rabies Vaccination Drive for stray dogs on World Rabies Day.

2. Where does TACO operate?

In accordance with the vision of the project, the Anil Agarwal Foundation signed an MoU with the Government of Haryana and adopted Tapobhoomi Gaushala, located in Faizupur Khadar, Faridabad, with the aim to develop it as a model animal shelter. The project was rolled out in the NCR with an initial corpus of Rs. 100 crore and an aim to foray into other states in India.
Aligning with its goal to include care for all species and class, TACO also shook hands with the Forest Department, Government of Rajasthan, on International Tiger Day to raise awareness about the conservation of wild cats, as AAF extended a grant of Rs. 1 crore. The grant is being utilized by the government to procure six patrolling vehicles to enhance the wildlife conservation activities while strengthening the surveillance and infrastructure at Ranthambore National Park.
Cattle at the TACO Shelter

3. How many animals are currently residing in TACO’s shelter or undergoing treatment at your veterinary services?

Currently the TACO shelter in Faridabad has 119 cattle and six dogs. TACO has a dedicated team of veterinarians, vet assistants and animal handlers who work round the clock to provide a conducive environment for animals to live a healthy life. Apart from this, the shelter also runs an OPD service for all the animals between 10 am to 02 pm. The OPD service is available for both large and small animals including stray, pet and owned animals.

4. Stray and abandoned animals are often sick and malnourished in every corner of India – what can be done to give them a better life?

Lack of proper infrastructure and a steady increase in the number of stray animals are leading to increased pain and suffering for these animals. As the stray population increases, the number of accidents is also increasing – wherein in most cases the animal is left to die. Even strays that fall sick are often just left to deteriorate on the streets.
Most states, districts and localities do not have clearly defined policies for managing the stray population. This is a major gap. Vaccination and sterilisation are the most effective and humane ways to reduce the population. State authorities should have clearly defined goals to vaccinate & sterilise the stray population. We need to work on developing robust state-wide programmes with the aim of undertaking these tasks to achieve 100% saturation.
Furthermore, to lower the burden on municipalities, training programmes can be devised for the community to train people in basic first aid for animals. There should also be helpline numbers that a person can call in case they see a sick or injured animal.
As a society, we need to collectively shift our mindset on how we view and treat animals, especially strays. This is key to bringing a change and giving them a better life.
An injured stray dog undergoing treatment at the TACO shelter

5. Almost regularly we read media reports on cruelty towards stray animals in different parts of India like beating puppies and killing them, tying fire crackers to their tails, poisoning their food, pouring water over them, drowning them or spraying them with colours.  How do you think such ghastly practices can be curbed and this mindset can be changed?

Education and awareness is the key. Sensitisation from a young age is vital, and care for animals should be part of the school syllabi. Additionally, community awareness programmes across districts, focused on a holistic approach to care for the environment and animals should also be devised and implemented. Role models, influencers, and other public figures should all speak for the cause, as their voice and message can create a powerful ripple effect, to bring about a change in mindsets. Furthermore, laws against animal cruelty should be stricter and implemented correctly.

6. Do you think there should be more Corporate Social Responsibility support towards animal welfare and veterinary infrastructure?

Animal welfare is not given as much importance as it should via CSR programmes. We need to understand the importance of the ‘One Health’ approach – achieving optimal health outcomes recognising the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. This is also key to reducing transmission of infections and diseases.
We, at Vedanta, are committed to this. Through TACO we aim to transform the landscape of animal welfare in the country. We are working towards setting up world class facilities for vet education, shelter, and a veterinary hospital. We would like to develop a TACO model for animal care that can be replicated across the country.
Developing infrastructure such as veterinary hospitals and well-functioning sustainable shelters will even help in animal husbandry – an occupation a large percentage of our farmers are engaged in.


Ahana Bhattacharya can be reached at ahana@thecsrjournal.in