January 17, 2022

Animal Cruelty in India and its Protection Laws


Sir Thomas Elva Edison said “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse, animal neglect or animal cruelty, is the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of harm upon any animal. More narrowly, it is causing of harm or suffering for specific achievement, which maybe of a personal kind or a commercial kind.

A current incident in which a pregnant elephant was killed took place in Kerala leaving the entire country fuming. It was absolutely heart breaking to watch, but it did give rise to many questioning the animal cruelty laws in India.

Elephant Incident in Kerala: Explained

Humans and animals are supposed to co-exist in peace. A very recent incident that took place in Kerala left everyone heartbroken with the state of animal cruelty in our country. The pregnant elephant ‘Saumya’ belonged to Silent National Valley Park. She fell victim to an act of human cruelty when she ate a pineapple filled with crackers, fed by a man and it exploded in her mouth.

“Her jaw was broken and she was unable to eat after she chewed the pineapple and it exploded in her mouth. It is certain that she was offered the pineapple filled with crackers to eliminate her,” said Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar. Later, officials said it was too early to say if the fruit was meant for the elephant.[1]

Even after being in so much pain the elephant did not hurt anybody or cause any destruction but simply moved towards Velliyer river in Malappuram and stood in the water with her jaw submerged till she died. People did try to help her once they saw her in the water bleeding but she refused any help and the stood there for hours.

The laws that come into play are mentioned as follows-

· According to Section 11(1)(1) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, “it is a cognizable offence, if any person mutilates any animal or kills any animal (including stray dogs) by using the method of strychnine injections, in the heart or in any other unnecessarily cruel manner” and it is also a punishable offence under Section 11(3)(c) of The PCA Act, “the extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law for the time being in force”.

· The Section 428 and 429 of the IPC deals with the punishment for committing mischief by killing, poisoning maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards and the person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

The Animal Welfare Board of India upon becoming aware of this news sent a notice to Chief Conservator of forest and Chief wildlife warden “to take immediate actions and set up an inquiry to make sure the culprit is properly punished and incidents like theses do no occur again”[2].

The major reason for such cases is that the natural habitat of wild animals is shrinking. Kerala is robustly protecting its reserve forests. But closer to buffer zones, encroachments are increasing, as farmers extend their cultivation unchecked[3]. These little fruit bombs are a routine practice made for wild boars by the local farmers who tend to cause destruction to the plantations. Ever since the government has legalized the killings of these wild boars, rapid increases in such wildlife deaths have been observed.

Animal Cruelty in Daily Life

In India animals are on a daily basis used and abused. We’ve becomes so used to seeing certain activities in our daily life, that it doesn’t even faze us anymore. Mentioned below are some of the most common ways that animals are abused in Indian society-

1. Animals used for Entertainment-

We’ve all seen animals being used for entertainment in one form or other. Ranging from local snake charmers who go street to street showing off the tricks his snake can to the circuses that we go to willingly to watch wildlife animals performing tricks they’ve learnt in fear of being tortured.

We’ve all seen shows and movies that feature animals doing charming tricks and winning hearts, but is the reality charming as well?

For these animals to be able to perform such tricks and “act” appropriately on the big screen they’re taken away from their mothers at a very young age. They then live life in a constrained manner deprived of everything that is natural and essential to them leaving them with lifelong emotional scars.

2. Animals as a means of transportation and sports-

Even today in various parts of our country horse drawn carriages are used for labour and people still hire horses in weddings in the name of out-dated rituals subjecting the animal to hours of loud music just for our sick amusement. These horses when not being worked are typically forced to stand amid their own waste in filthy, decrepit stables. They are not given food and water for long hours, made to work in extreme conditions leading to physical exhaustion, malnourishment and serious health problems. The High Court of Bombay has confirmed that horse drawn carriages are illegal; still you can easily observe them happening in many states.

Activities that involve animals like jallikattu, bull races, kambala, dogfighting, cock fighting, greyhound racing and horse racing are some of the most common spectacles that can be found in India. Animals are forced to participate, drugged and starved in order to win. These are not sports but a matter of life and death for them. And once an animal has been hurt or is injured and won’t be able to perform to the expectations of the owner they’re carelessly abandoned.

3. Commercial use of animals and their products-

The food industry is one of the biggest exploiters of animals and is responsible for mass suffering and death. Every year, tens of billions of animals are killed for food, and most endure lives of constant fear and torment. Nearly all the animals raised for food in India today are separated from their families and crammed by the thousands into filthy warehouses, where they spend their entire lives in abysmally filthy conditions. They’re mutilated without the use of painkillers and deprived of everything that is natural and important to them.

Even the dairy industry is not faultless. Animals like cow, goats, etc are exploited for their milk. They’re given injections to increase milk produce. The animal milk consumption is not just unethical but also contributes to human diseases. Dairy products can also contribute to heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, allergies, asthma and osteoporosis. Many knowledgeable doctors and nutritionists are speaking out against dairy consumption. World-renowned health expert Dr John McDougall calls milk “liquid meat” because he believes that it is just as unhealthy as animal flesh.[4]

4. Wearing animals-

Buying leather directly supports the wretchedness of the slaughter houses. Believe it or not, India’s treatment of cows is among the cruellest in the world[5]. Since it is illegal to kill healthy, young cattle in India, they are often deliberately maimed. Their legs may be broken, or they may be poisoned so that they can be declared fit for slaughter – not that many slaughterhouse workers care about the letter of the law. While most leather products are made from the skins of cattle and calves, leather is also made from the skins of horses, sheep, lambs, goats and pigs that are slaughtered for meat. Many of these animals writhe from the revulsions of severe crowding, anaesthetised castration, branding, tail-docking and dehorning.

Laws in India Against Animal Cruelty

Enshrined in the Indian constitution, Article 51 (G) states the following: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”[6]

· The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act[7]-

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. After the enactment of this Act, the Animal Board of India was formed for the promotion of animal welfare.

· The Wildlife Protection Act,1972[8]-

The Government of India enacted Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 with the objective to effectively protect the wild life of this country and to control poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife and its spin-offs. The main objective is to provide protection to the listed endangered flora and fauna and ecologically important protected areas. In 2011, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals revised and renamed as Indian Animal Welfare Act as a need was felt to change the old law[9].

· Abandoning any animal for any reason can land you in prison for up to three months. (Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), The PCA Act, 1960).

· No animal (including chickens) can be slaughtered in any place other than a slaughterhouse. Sick or pregnant animals shall not be slaughtered. (Rule 3, of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001 and Chapter 4, Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011).

· Neglecting an animal by denying her sufficient food, water, shelter and exercise or by keeping him chained/confined for long hours is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of (up to 3 months or both. Section 11(1)(h), The PCA Act, 1960).

· Cosmetics tested on animals and the import of cosmetics tested on animals is banned. (Rules 148-C and 135-B of drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945).

· Organizing of or participating in or inciting any animal fight is a cognizable offence. (Section 11(1)(m)(ii) and Section 11(1)(n),The PCA Act, 1960).

· Animal sacrifice is illegal in every part of the country. (Rule 3, Slaughter house Rules, 2001).


Even though India has a lot of specific and elaborate animal laws, they are often not implemented properly. If the punishments for such kinds of offense can be made sterner, only then people will be more considerate towards animals. The very first step that we need to take is realise that animals are not at the mercy of humans to use as they please. They are living beings and demand equal respect. We need to see them as part of our society and spread awareness about the animal cruelty even to the remotest areas of our country.

We need to help local NGOs and organization like PETA, STRAW, HansIndia, etc in their mission to bring the respect and dignity to animals. More time should be dedicated to making people responsive towards the current laws for animals. It is the need of the hour that we all stand up to animal cruelty because while they might not be able to express it well, they have feeling and emotions too.

[1] “Pregnant wild elephant dies in Kerala after cracker filled pineapple explodes in her mouth”, The Hindu,
(5 June 2020), online: < https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/pregnant-wild-elephant-dies-in-kerala-after-cracker-filled-pineapple-explodes-in-her-mouth/article31736516.ece#>.

[2] “Pregnant Elephant’s Death Highlights That Elephants Need You Now”, PETA India, (5 June 2020), online: < https://www.petaindia.com/blog/pregnant-elephants-death-highlights-that-elephants-need-you-now/>.

[3] Nidheesh M.K, “In God’s own country, a horror story of wildlife killing unfolds”, Live Mint, (4 June 2020), online: <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/in-god-s-own-country-a-horror-story-of-wildlife-killing-unfolds-11591210828039.html>.

[4] “The role of dairy industry”, PETA India, (2 March 2019), online: <https://www.petaindia.com/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/leather/>.

[5] “Leather”, PETA India, (23 September 2019), online:< https://www.petaindia.com/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/leather/>.

[6] Article 51, Constitution of India, 1950.

[7] The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

[8] The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

[9] Sanjeev Nanda, “Cruelty and inhumanity towards animals in India”, Legals Services India
< http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2320/Cruelty-and-Inhumanity-towards-Animals-in-India.html>.

Author Details: Anushka Singh (Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University)

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