ANIMAL RIGHTS AND LAWS IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION

India is a diverse nation with different cultures where animals have always been considered an integral part. Animals domesticated or wild are considered part of nature. Religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism mostly teach non-violence towards all living beings. Jainism and Buddhism promote vegetarianism for preventing the killing of animals. In India, animals are worshipped as they are considered holy beings or the creation of the Almighty. In India, there exists a peaceful and friendly relationship between animals and humans. Almost every household in India today has animals as pets and is considered part of the family. But, in the present day, there also exists a horror in which almost every animal suffers for human comfort. Where every being on earth is provided with resources for surviving, humans have always dominated the mother earth and exploited its resources and other non-human beings. Human control over non-human sentient beings has led to pain, fear, and suffering among the animals. Human exploitation of other earthly beings or animals is associated with food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation followed by an intention to show dominance and feel the power. “Humans are extremely efficient in exploiting natural resources. Humans have culled, and in some cases eradicated, wild mammals for food and pleasure on virtually all continents. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet, since the dawn of civilization, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants, while livestock kept by humans abound”[1]. Humankind could therefore be considered as one of the most dominant beings on earth which though is lesser in number in comparison to animals, were, however, very much efficient in exploiting and killing animals for their selfish gains. “India being a seventh-largest bio-diverse country, has been reported by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS) that around 4,93,910 animals became victims of crimes between 2010 and 2020. Out of this 2,300 are the case of gruesome and intentional acts of violence which led to the animal death or irreparable harm”[2]. Due to such reasons, several animal rights activists and organizations like People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Humane Society International (HSI) have been campaigning for spreading awareness regarding animal rights and the laws related all over the world. Human use of animals in the modern world is mostly for purposes that would provide comfort in ways of food (milk and meat), fashion (clothes, bags, footwear), experimentation (medicines, beauty products), and also for entertainment (television shows, circus, zoo, sports). “According to the global assessment, an average of around 25% of animals and plants are now threatened. All this suggests around a million species now face extinction within decades, a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years”[3]. To prevent animal crimes and their suffering the laws need to be stricter with penalties equal to that of penalties for crimes related to humans.

WHAT ARE RIGHTS?                                                                                           

A right is something that cannot be taken away and describes what a person can do or what a person is allowed to have. A right provides freedom to a person to do certain things which they like to do provided such things are not contrary to the law or against the public policy.

WHAT ARE ANIMAL RIGHTS?                                                                    

Animal Rights involve moral principles. Animal Rights refers to a belief that animals too should be treated with dignity as humans. It means that animals have the right to life, food and to be free from torture. It means that all animals have a worth that is independent of their use for humans and that causing an animal to suffer should be penalized.

LAWS FOR ANIMAL PROTECTION IN INDIA

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 – This is one such statute which is enacted by the Parliament to prevent animals from any suffering or pain. This act provides for the establishment of the Animals Welfare Board under section 4 of the Act for promoting animal welfare and for the protection of animals from any pain or suffering. This Act provides a penalty for subjecting animals to cruelty under section 11 of the Act.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – This statute was enacted by the Parliament for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants and for protecting the ecological and environmental security of the country. This Act also provides for the establishment of a National Board for Wild Life to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests. This Act prohibits the hunting of animals under section 9.
  • The Indian Penal Code – The IPC penalizes cruelty to animals under Sections 428 and 429[4].
  • The Constitution of India – The Constitution of India under Article 48 of ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ directs the State to take steps to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. In particular, it should take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. Under Article 48-A it directs the State to take steps to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. The Constitution of India under Article 51-A(g) of ‘Fundamental Duties’ says that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures[5].

Case Studies

The Judiciary has played a major role relating to the enforcement and applicability of laws that protect animal rights. One such case where animal rights were recognized and therefore were protected is –

Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors.[6] – In this case, the judgment of the Division Bench of the Madras High Court which overturned its single bench judgment of banning Jallikattu and granted permission to conduct Jallikattu was challenged by the Animal Welfare Board before the Supreme Court of India. To this, the respondents claimed that Jallikattu is a traditional sport of Tamil Nadu and the same shouldn’t be banned. The Supreme Court held that as the traditional sport of Tamil Nadu ‘Jallikattu’ involves bulls performing and therefore, the sport violates Section 3, 11(1) (a) (m) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act. It was further held that bulls cannot be used as performing animals either for Jallikattu or Bullock cart races anywhere in the country. Rights conferred by Section 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act cannot be taken away or curtailed and the same should be safeguarded by the States, Central Government, and Union Territories. The Supreme Court also directed the Animal Welfare Board of India to take necessary steps to prevent the animals from any harm inflicted upon them or from any suffering.

CONCLUSION

Like humans, animals are also an important part of the ecology. Treating animals with dignity is the greatest duty of humans. The rights provided to animals are moral rights that shouldn’t be violated. Animals are sentient beings who also like humans can feel. They too should be protected and respected in every way possible. The human-animal relationship has always been filled with peace, joy, and harmony. It is the present-day world that has violated all such moral rights due to which animals are not secured. Like humans animals also deserves to be respected. In India, animals are exploited and abused in various ways. One such gruesome way is the process of artificial insemination which is mostly done in the case of cows and bulls for the production of milk and once the cow/bull is no more able to give birth, they are sent to the slaughterhouse for meat. The entire process of artificial insemination is very painful to cows and bulls. Moreover, the fear that these animals experience while in the slaughterhouse is unexplainable. It is to prevent the happening of such conditions animal laws need to be much stricter. The pain, the fear, and the torture an animal suffer in the human-dominated land are unimaginable. It is high time that some changes be brought in the attitudes of humans which could only be done by stricter laws and animal rights education.

Author(s) Name: Rituparna Kataki (Jnanadabhiram Barooah Law
College (JBLC))

References:      

[1] Damian Carrington, ‘Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83%  of wild mammals – study’ The Guardian (United States, 21 May 2018)

[2] Ashish Pandey, ‘Almost 5 lakh animals became victims of crimes in last 10 years in India : Report’ India Today (Hyderabad, 17 February 2021)

[3] Matt McGrath, ‘Nature crisis: Humans threaten 1m species with extinction’ BBC NEWS (Paris, 6 May 2019)

[4] Prof. S.N. Mishra, Indian Penal Code (21st edn, Central Law Publications 2018)

[5] DR. J.N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India (55th edn, Central Law Agency 2018)

[6] (2014) 7 SCC 547

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