With 2.4% of the world's surface area and 7-8% of all known species, including 45,000 plant species and 91,000 animal species, India is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world. Numerous animal species call it home, including the Great Indian rhinoceros and Bengal tigers. The environment is thought to be crucial to animal species. They provide various functions, including domestication, and act as resources and employees who greatly benefit humans.
In addition to outlining people's rights and responsibilities and establishing the guiding principles of state policy, the Indian Constitution also gives the country's institutions of government structure and authority. The Indian Constitution declares that citizens are responsible for caring for and protecting animals, acknowledging their intrinsic purity.
Overview of Animal Rights
Most of us consume meat, wear leather, and visit zoos and circuses. Many of us buy pets, such as dogs and birds, and keep them in cages. Humans are accustomed to eating chicken burgers, dressing in wool and silk, and participating in fishing-related activities. We never consider these behaviors' potential impact on animals, though. According to Peter Singer in his book, the fundamental principle of equality calls for equal attention but not equal or equal treatment. Regarding animal rights, the distinction is very important.
Animals ought to be spared pain and exploitation. They can also experience happiness, sorrow, worry, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love. Most animal rights activists believe that animals have inherent value. It is crucial to understand that animal rights are not just a philosophy but also a more significant social movement that challenges the widely held belief in society that animals live only for human consumption.
The only thing that may allow us to deny others the freedom we take for granted for ourselves is prejudice. Whether it is based on a person's colour, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is seen to be morally wrong regardless of the reason for it.
Animal welfare vs. Animal Rights
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), views about animal welfare are based on the notion that animals have rights and interests but that these rights and interests may be compromised in exchange for human advantages.
The concept of animal rights, on the other hand, refers to the reality that, similar to people, animals have interests that cannot be forsaken or compromised just for the benefit of others. In that neither set of rights is absolute, the argument for animal rights and that for human rights are relatively similar. There should be limitations on animal rights, and there might be conflict. Animal rights advocates believe no animal should ever be used for experimentation, food, clothing, or entertainment. As long as a humane level of care is met, these uses are acceptable regarding animal welfare.
Supporters of animal welfare believe that even captive animals should be treated humanely. They also acknowledge that there are circumstances in which using animals for human purposes is acceptable. According to some ideas of animal welfare, using animals for human purposes is permissible as long as they are treated with compassion. Many individuals favour treating animals humanely and sparing them from needless pain. Just as many people favour animal care, there are also some extreme animal rights proponents. Supporters of animal rights overwhelmingly believe that the only way to protect animals' rights is to cease all human consumption since animals should have the same rights as people. On the other side, animal welfare proponents think that using and eating animals is acceptable as long as they are handled humanely and not harshly.
History of Animal Laws in India
Indian culture has always had a strong connection to animals, and many kinds of domesticated and wild animals are respected and worshipped. Along with a deep love and respect for the Almighty and his other extended creations on Earth, such as trees, forests, rivers, mountains, etc., animals are seen as "The Almighty's" creations. Each culture's spiritual life is infused with the universal ideal of harmony between humans, animals, and the environment. However, because they view animals as divine messengers, there are still many places where people have practiced animal worship.
Depending on the time period, humans' sentiments about animals can change. Hinduism's founding writings, the Vedas, strongly emphasize ahimsa, or non-violence, towards all living creatures. A large number of both adhere to vegetarianism and reject the killing of animals, just like Buddhism and Jainism. The consumption of meat was nevertheless common in ancient times despite this.
The British also showed that they cared about animal rights. To prevent animal cruelty, Britishman Colesworthy founded the first Indian society in Calcutta in 1861. Later, in the late 1800s, more anti-cattle slaughter campaigns emerged in northern India.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, the first animal welfare law passed after independence, makes cruelty to animals a crime. The Act also includes guidelines for doing scientific research.
Laws for protecting Animal Rights
The Indian government passed several legislations to safeguard animal interests. The legislature has given high importance to safeguarding the comfort and safety of animals because they lack a voice and the ability to communicate their emotions. Similar to promoting human rights, it is crucial to advocate animal rights. A discussion of various animal rights statutes is provided below.
The Prevention of Cruelty Acts, 1960
In 1960, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was passed by Parliament. The goal of the Act is to change the laws governing the prevention of animal cruelty and to prevent the suffering or agony of animals. Any living being that is not a person is considered to be an animal. The Act's most important provision is found in Chapter II, which calls for creating the Animal Welfare Board of India to prevent animals from suffering needlessly.
The AWBI carries out the following duties:
- Advising the central government on modifications and regulations to avoid needless suffering when housing and transporting animals for use in studies, etc.
- To promote financial support, animal shelters, and homes for rescued elderly animals.
- To advise the government regarding medical treatment and support for animal clinics.
- Educating the public about animal welfare through publications, lectures, posters, and commercials.
- To provide broad animal welfare advice to the national government.
The Prevention of Cruelty Act's Section 11 defines various types of animal cruelty, including:
- Beating, kicking, overloading, torturing, and harming any animal without justifiable cause.
- Using an animal that is ill or otherwise unsuited for employment.
- Knowingly or recklessly administered any harmful medication or substance to an animal.
- Conveying or carrying something in or on a vehicle in a way that causes it pain.
- Putting any animal in a cage or container that isn't big enough in terms of height, length, and breadth to provide it a chance to move around reasonably.
- Being an owner fails to give the animal enough food, water, and shelter, keeping the animal for an excessive amount of time in any heavy chained or chord.
- Leaving an animal unattended and abandoned.
- Will fully allow an animal that belongs to you to roam the streets or abandon it there to become sick or disabled.
- Offering an animal for sale that is in pain because it has been tortured, starved, thirsted, or subjected to other cruel treatment without justification.
- Any animal was tortured or killed by injections of strychnine.
- Using an animal as entertainment-only bait for another animal.
- Arranging, maintaining, or running a venue for animal combat.
- Promotes or participates in any event when animals are released from captivity to be shot.
A person who violates any of the provisions of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 will be punished.
- For a first infraction, there will be a fine that cannot be less than ten rupees but can be up to fifty rupees.
- If a second crime is committed within three years of the first, the offender will be subject to a fine of at least twenty-five rupees and up to one hundred rupees, as well as a term of imprisonment that might last up to three months or both.
The Constitution of India, 1960
India is one of several nations with laws pertaining to animal welfare that have been written with the required requirements relating to preserving and safeguarding the interest of animals' rights. The preservation of animal rights is under the purview of Fundamental obligations and the Directive principle of state policy, and the Indian Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, addresses this issue. The term "life" has been broadened under Article 21 of the Constitution to embrace all forms of life, including animal life, which is necessary for human life. Fair treatment and the Right to Dignity are also important for animal rights.
According to Article 48 A, the State must work to safeguard the nation's forests and wildlife as well as to protect and develop the environment.
According to Article 51 A (g), every citizen has a fundamental responsibility to preserve and enhance the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and animals, as well as to have compassion for all living things.
The 42nd amendment, which went into effect in 1976, added the aforementioned constitutional clauses. Although these clauses are not immediately enforceable by courts, they serve as a foundation for federal and State legislation, policies, and laws that enhance animal protection.
The Indian Constitution's concurrent list (seventh schedule) grants both the federal and State governments the authority to enact legislation on:
- Prevention of cruelty to animals
- Protection of wild animals and birds
The Animal Welfare Act, 2011
The Animal Welfare Act, which would impose harsher punishments for animal cruelty in India, was to be introduced by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, it was revealed in the Lok Sabha in 2010. In order to repeal the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Animal Welfare Board of India produced a proposal called the Animal Welfare Act, 2011. The intention was to extend the definition of animal maltreatment and impose more severe punishments for animal mistreatment.
According to the proposed Act, first-time offenders might get a term of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 25,000 rupees. A further offense carries a potential sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to one lakh rupees. However, this Bill still needs to be approved by the Parliament.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was created by the AWBI as result in 2016. This action was taken in response to the recent increase in instances of animal maltreatment and the meager penalties offered by the 1960 Act. The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change received a request to discuss this Bill in Parliament from the AWB and numerous other NGOs. Sadly, the Bill has not yet been passed.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 contains the main legislation governing wildlife in India. According to the law, any wild animal or bird must not be killed, trapped, poached, poisoned, or otherwise harmed. This Act is the first legislation to have such a comprehensive list of threatened wildlife species. This Act's provisions cover several states and regions. To address the issue, it also stipulates the creation of wildlife advisory bodies for the conservation of wildlife in each State. The Act also includes measures for preserving zoo animals, birds, and aquatic life (marine creatures). Under the Act, any animal, aquatic organism, or land plant that is a component of a habitat is considered wildlife.
The Act outlines the creation of welfare advisory boards (Section 6) and a number of the boards' responsibilities (Section 8).
Poisoning, murdering, trapping, or attempting to trap wild animals is considered hunting. Such actions fall within the definition of hunting, including killing or disturbing bird or reptile eggs or carrying or driving any animal for transportation needs that injures other animals or damages their body parts. Schedules I, II, and III of the Act forbid the hunting of any wild animal (Section 9). Additionally, as stated in Section 11, the Act enables the taking of wild animals in specific circumstances.
- The Act enables the national and State governments to designate any land as "restricted" for a national park, animal sanctuary, etc.
- Additionally, the Act forbids the transfer of any wild animals, birds, or plants unless the chief wildlife warden or another authority designated by the state government grants authorization (Section 48 A)
- Section 49 of the Act makes it illegal to buy wild animals from traders without a license.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Animal-related offenses are subject to legal sanctions under Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code. According to Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, killing or injuring an animal worth 10 rupees or more is unlawful. According to the law, whoever kills, maims, poisons, or renders an animal worthless for 10 rupees or more will be penalized with up to ten years in prison, a fine, or a combination of the two. While the punishment for the same Act, but concerning animals valued at 50 rupees or more, is covered under Section 429 of the Code. The crime is penalized by imprisonment for a time that may go up to five years, a fine, or both.
Rights of Animals in India
Right to Life
According to Article 21, no one may be deprived of their right to life or personal liberty unless it has been specifically authorised by law.
Every species has a right to life and safety under the law of the land, according to the Apex Court. The definition of "life" in Article 21 of the Constitution, which also protects human rights, has been broadened. As a result, any disruption of the basic environment, which includes all forms of life, including animal life, and is necessary for human survival, is considered to be a violation of this article. The term "life" was used by the court to allude to something other than mere survival, existence, or any other kind of usefulness, such as leading a life of inherent worth, dignity, and honour.
Right of Preservation
Article 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy mandates that the State manage agriculture and animal husbandry along contemporary and scientific lines, with a focus on preserving and enhancing the breeds of cows, calves, and other milk and draught cattle and outlawing their slaughter. Because cows are regarded as sacred creatures by many religions, including Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists, cow slaughter is a very delicate topic in India.
Right of Compassion
Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution states that it is our moral obligation to preserve wildlife and show compassion for all living things. Animals therefore deserve to be handled with kindness. The Supreme Court has ruled that Articles 51A (g) and (h) are the cornerstones of Indian law relating to animal rights.
No animal shall be slaughtered
Animal sacrifice is a delicate subject in Indian culture. Even though it is illegal to perform public animal sacrifices for religious purposes, this is not how things actually work out. Despite countless cautions and recommendations, the flagrant breaking of the law persists across the nation. The Prevention of Cruelty Act of 1960 forbids public animal killing. As a result, each State in India must choose a slaughterhouse for any slaughters that take place inside municipal corporation boundaries, according to the Act. In a particular area, the number of slaughterhouses and animal sacrifices ought to be proportional to the population there.
Rule 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001 states that chickens may only be killed in a slaughterhouse. Animals who are ill or pregnant cannot be killed.
Strays that have undergone surgical sterilization for birth control cannot be captured or relocated by anyone other than the authorized authorities:
According to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, which are notified under the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, the practice of sterilization and immunization, rather than the dislocation and killing of animals, is capable of controlling stray populations and the spread of rabies. The Rules shall take precedence over any local legislation in the event of a disagreement unless the local law is more lenient. Additionally, it will be the duty of the local authorities to see to it that sterilized stray dogs can be recognized so they can be sent back to their home territory.
Right to get sufficient food, water, and shelter.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 states that failing to give an animal with enough food, water, or shelter is cruelty to the animal. A fine, up to three months in jail, or both may be imposed on someone who neglects an animal by denying it sufficient food, water, shelter, and exercise or by keeping it chained or imprisoned for an excessive amount of time.
Right of monkeys as a special species
It should be mentioned that the Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 designates the langur as a protected species. The Act makes it unlawful to own, trade, buy, sell, or hire out langurs. The punishment for breaking this statute is a three-year prison sentence, a fine, or both. But it was discovered that numerous government agencies were openly breaking the law by employing poachers and even giving ID cards to these fictitious langur owners. The monkeys were taken from the wild by these poachers. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau informed all government agencies that langurs cannot be hired and that any langurs who are currently working must be fired on October 15, 2012.
No cosmetics to be used on animals
Following advice from PETA India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare accepted the updated Cosmetics Rules, 2020. The established regulations created a distinctive and up-to-date regulatory framework for creating, manufacturing, distributing, and importing cosmetic products. Additionally, the laws contained provisions that made it clear that importing cosmetics that have undergone animal experimentation is severely forbidden. India became the first country in Asia to forbid the importation of tested products and the testing of cosmetics and the ingredients that go into them on animals. A key tenet of the rules in place is that the potential benefits of cutting-edge cosmetics cannot justify any suffering of animals.
Right of protection against hunting
Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 forbids the hunting of a variety of native animals, including Indian Elephants, Snow Leopards, Indian Lions, Tigers, Great Indian Bustards, etc.
Right against harm and mischief
Animal mutilation, animal poisoning, death, and disablement are prohibited under Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code. It's also forbidden to throw acid or other poisons on cows. Additionally, the Act forbids vehicles from purposely injuring or killing cows, dogs, or cats while on the road. A police station or an organization dedicated to animal protection may be notified of the offense, which carries a fine of Rs. 2000 or a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
No animal should be poisoned or drugged
It is not against the law to feed animals living on the streets. Every citizen has a moral responsibility to feed stray animals that rely on us for survival. However, giving stray animals toxic food or providing harmful medication is not considered a moral obligation. Such behavior shall be deemed unlawful in accordance with Section 11(1)(c) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
No animal should be kept in cage.
According to Section 11(1)(e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is prohibited to keep any animal, whether a pet or a stray, in a cage or other enclosure that causes unjustifiable suffering or distress. If the animal must be contained, the container must be sufficiently big, broad, and tall to allow the animal to walk around freely.
Right against display for entertainment
It is illegal to exhibit or train animals, according to Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. If someone is doing this, they must have official government documentation. Additionally, the Central Government has the right to prohibit the display of a particular animal for amusement by publishing a notice in its official gazette.
India is a nation with a varied cultural heritage. It features several wildlife conservation initiatives that place the highest priority on environmental preservation. Indian culture places a strong emphasis on protecting the environment and wildlife. Various laws pertaining to the preservation and protection of animals have been passed. The clauses were intended to respect animal rights and those promised to humans.
Thus, it is clear that the laws in place to protect the interests of animals are enough. However, the fundamental issue is the lack of administration and implementation of these regulations. Despite the increasing number of conflicts between animals and humans, laws are not strictly enforced. Despite this, the Indian judicial system has done a fantastic job of addressing the inadequacies in animal welfare regulations and promptly defending the rights of animals.