ANIMAL WELFARE: STATUS, ABUSE, RIGHTS AND LAWS IN INDIA

BY RIYA MALHOTRA

LEGAL INTERN, H.K. LAW OFFICES

INTRODUCTION

Since the beginning of civilization, there has been continued exploitation of animals for medical research, human consumption, industrial use, entertainment and trafficking. To satisfy this human lust, and to save and secure our lives, animals are mistreated, prematurely killed, and considered to have no dignified existence. On the other hand, there is a deep rooted tradition of affiliation, respect and concern for animals in India.

In Hindu tradition, animals have been exhibited as companions and defenders of humans, they are associated with gods and also worshiped in many cases. Further, the animals are shown to possess the abilities to guide humans and gods to the right path and reason practically this is so that they can be conserved and protected by mankind. In the religion of Buddhism , Gautam Buddha has conveyed the message of being kind, loving, caring, and maintaining a harmonious relation with all animals whether they are wild or domestic.

Mahatma Gandhi had also taken inspiration from such rich heritage and has shown that animals must be protected from any kind of human harm whether it is intentional or unintentional. Gandhi also propounded the notion of non-violence  towards animals which can actually sustain man. To him, it was a sin to put animals in deprived conditions or to mistreat them and it was a matter of grave injustice and a sign of failure of human obligations if man deprived the animals of their natural habitat. 

In defiance of such a rich ancient culture of having compassion towards animals, they have continued to suffer from cruel and harsh treatment by man in India.

Forms of animal exploitation in India

Cosmetic testing on animals

In an attempt to test the harmful and dangerous effects of consumer products and the ingredients used for the same, millions of animals are killed and poisoned in barbarous ways. Lab animals like guinea pigs, mice, rabbits etc. are forced to inhale  huge amounts of toxic and harmful substances. In spite of it being a well known fact that animal testing is often incapable of predicting the harmful effect of a substance on human skin and body and there are vrious testing methods that do not require the use of animals, there is still a continuence of such brutal practices.

Neglect of stray dogs after the procedure of birth control

According to the animal birth control rules, dogs are released to the same area from where they were first picked up after the procedure of sterilization and vaccination is completed. Once such procedures are performed on dogs, they become vulnerable and are therefore more prone to attacks and ill treatment.

Jallikattu

It is a bullfighting sport in which people also try to control the bulls simultaneously. It is a sport that resembles Spain bullfighting which is dangerous for both animals and humans and has been the cause of various deaths over the years. It is one of the most disputed animal sports.

Wildlife crime

In India, crimes related to wildlife are the major contributors in damaging the ecosystem, the security of food and the livelihood of various communities. Many diseases are spread due to the smuggling of animals and plants across the border as they can act as carriers. Tigers are poached for their skin, claws, bones, etc. their body parts are used for making medicines in asia, and their whiskers are used for making poison in malaysia. The tiger has therefore become an endangered species. 

Back in 2017, the directorate of revenue intelligence conducted a raid at a retired colonel’s house in north India and found a massive amount of animal parts and skin.  The cache included 117kgs meat of nilgai, leopard skin, horns of sambar and swamp deer, antlers, skull of deers, and ivory.

A large consignment of deer heads (43), leopard skins and their heads (2), bones of various wild animals (800 gms), wild goat (1) and skin of otter (4) was seized from the state of Assam in August.

Approximately 200 bird species are traded for various purposes like medicine, food, petting and keeping in zoos. Recently rhinos were added to the list of endangered animals as their population has seen a serious decline in the recent decades owing to trading of their horn.

The diplomat, WWF India reports, india’s union minister of environment, forest and climate change- Dr. Harsh Vardhan, BOOK- State of India’s Environment, Senior manager at the Department of forest and Wildlife in New Delhi- Vivek Johri

Horses being exploited in weddings

Four malnourished, badly injured, and bone thin horses were taken into custody by the Delhi police alongside PETA India which were being used for wedding events in the city of Delhi. One of the horses had big wounds on legs and body, another was unable to take her own weight as it had become lame from an old fracture, the third one had lost her eyesight in one eye and the last one had a serious skin disease. 

Such horses are neglected and are not given proper food, vet care, they collapse due to dehydration, they are kept in unsanitary conditions, they are not allowed to sit when they want to and due to this they often suffer from arthritis, cancer, thrush, laminitis etc.

PETA India Report

Sexual offences against animals in india

On 29th July, 18, a goat was found dead after being reported missing for a couple of days. The goat was pregnant at the time, and it was later found out that it was stolen by the accused and sexually abused by 8 persons. (Indian express/ Nagina Police station report, Haryana).

On 17th Jan, 18, A cow shed labourer in Vadodara had unnatural sex with 3 cows. The cows were found by the owner with their legs tied up and one was dead. (The tribune India)

Animals being used as things:

Many animals are slaughtered to be used as food. Chickens, fishes, pigs, etc are specially bred to be slaughtered. In transportation also animals are used for carrying heavy loads of stuff and for pulling carts. Such heavy loads are often the cause of their injuries and pain. Each year numerous animals are killed for their skin, wool, fur, etc. baby goats are boiled while they are still alive for making gloves, taking the skin of such animals leaves them helpless in harsh weather conditions.

Law & Legal Developments: Hope for these animals

Jallikattu judgment (landmark case)

Animal Welfare Board V. A. Nagaraja & Ors is a landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court. The court in this case prohibited the sport of jallikattu i.e. bullfighting and bull cart racing. This judgment exhibited the view of the Indian legal system and the judiciary in matters of animal wellness and was highly appreciated by organizations concerned with animals across the world. 

The court in this case, points out certain vital points important for the welfare of animals. The benefits that a legislation aims to confer, should not at the same time be taken away by any subtle device. The provisions of such legislations should be sought after providing welfare to the weak and the infirm. The Supreme Court should also inspect if any provision is defeating the aim of any welfare legislation and should remove such provisions. The courts have a duty to look after the wellness of those who are less capable of taking care of their own self. 

Justice Radhakrishnan emphasized that it is due time that animal rights are given the status of Fundamental Rights. The court mentioned 5 freedoms that should be fundamental to all animals-

1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition,  

2. Freedom from fear,

3. Freedom from physical discomfort,

4. Freedom from injury and pain, and

5. Freedom to show normal behavioural patterns.

Dog breeding

New regulations for the process of dog breeding has to be complied with by every dog breeder in India. These regulations state that dog breeders should have complete information about their reproduction process, well-being and nutrition. 

The dogs, both male and female, for such a process should be 18 months or older and healthy. 10 days prior to the breeding, a licenced vet must certify the dog for the same. A female dog during her lifetime, cannot be coerced to give birth more than 5 times. And can only give birth once in a year and not more than that.

For breeding dogs, one must obtain a licence for the same. The licence is only issued if the requirements given by the ministry of environment and forest are fulfilled by the breeder.

Exploitation of Cows for beef

India is a country where cows have been worshiped since time immemorial but has also become a source of meat and has been consumed widely by the people across the country.

Cows that are able to survive the feedlots and dairy farms are sent to slaughterhouses. In their trip to the slaughterhouse, which are typically really long, they are stuffed in trucks wherein they go without any food or water or any chance to rest owing to which they at times collapse due to excessive heat and exhaustion. On reaching the slaughterhouse, many are injured or too sick to walk and frightened. “Uncooperative animals are beaten, they have prods poked in their faces and up their rectums,” says Former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary inspector Dr. Lester Friedlander. Many of them are still conscious for several minutes when their throats are cut, “The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around. … They die piece by piece.” – PETA Report. 

On 26th May 2017, the Government of India banned the sale and purchase of cattle for the purpose of slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Thereafter in July, the Supreme Court in its judgment suspended the ban on sale as a measure of relief to the beef industry. The Supreme Court on 24th August 2017 held that “nobody would like to be told what to eat or how to dress”  stating that these activities come under the realm of the right to privacy. 

Since then, around 18 States in India have completely banned the slaughter of cattles for beef. Cows have now been given a unique identification number that is linked to the national database to monitor smuggling within and outside India. 

Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act 1960

The prevention of cruelty against animals act 1960 is made to put a stop to the unessential pain and misery of animals and put an obligation on all of us to look out for the welfare of these voiceless animals. The act has in it, 6 chapters, 41 sections, and explains various crucial points. Few of them are:

Section-11 of the act sheds light on multiple harmful acts done to animals, like beating them, driving over them, using animals for work who are injured or unfit, administering them any harmful or hazardous drug, keeping them in battery cages, depriving them of proper food, water and shelter, etc. and thereby declaring such acts as an offence punishable with a fine of Rs. 100 plus imprisonment which maybe of 3 months.

According to section-31 of the act, such offences are cognizable, giving police the power to act on them immediately.

Section-18 of the act grants powers to the CPCSEA Committee to make regulations, enter and inspect any such institution concerned with experimenting on animals.

Police and Courts have been granted power to make sure that such regulations and laws are implemented. The Police can seize an animal on reasonable belief, is being wrongfully used or harmed. The Court can hand over the animal to the government officials if the animal’s owner has committed any offence against it. The state and the central governments can make rules for the benefit of animals and should take necessary steps to ensure that they are given proper medical care.

New legal development 

Recently it has been witnessed on social media that animal lovers and people who are trying to feed and vaccinate strays have faced discontent and detest by others. It is heartbreaking to see that some people don’t recognise that animals feel the same pain and have the same basic needs as humans.

However certain laws provide support for these voiceless animals including Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act 1960, Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the central level and Animal Protection and Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act at the state levels. Yet the animal welfare laws are failing in preventing needless animal use, suffering and death. Thus, addressing the rising need of amendment in such ancient laws, the legislation has come up with The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021.

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the species protected under the law and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It also increases the penalty imposed in case of violations. Further, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021 aims to increase the amount of fine and sentence on the persons committing such offence against animals so as to create a deterrence to prevent cruelty against animals as a fine of fifty rupees is not adequate fine when it comes to offences which may result in severe injury to animals. The legislature has taken note of the fact that the consequence of such miniscule amount of fine and sentence for such grave and serious offences is the recurring incidents of animal abuse.

The Delhi High Court has recently in a case observed that no such law exists that forbids any person to feed the strays. Recently a new rule has been passed which seeks to provide regular feeders with identity cards as well.

Administering any poisonous substance, trying to cause injury, maining any animals is a criminal offense under IPC, section-428 and 429 and section-11 of the PCTAA. Such an act will be punishable with imprisonment upto a period of 5 yrs, and a fine of at least Rs. 2000.

After the process of sterilization is complete, the dog has to be placed in the same area as before and should not be relocated as they are prone to attacks.

NGOs and Animal rights activists have been playing a strong role in the implementation of such laws and rules and try to be the voice of the voiceless.

Published by meghachaturvedi

Associate Partner, H.K. Law Offices

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