January 23, 2022


Animal rights means that animals deserve certain kind of consideration of what is in their best interests, regardless of whether they are cute, useful to humans or an endangered species.

Mahatma Gandhi once rightly said, “The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals.”

It is a dated concept that only human beings are “persons” in the eyes of law, in the past even women and slaves were regarded to be property. The concept of predates animal welfare due to the fact that animals are regarded, in many laws, as property. The difference between animal welfare and animal rights is that while welfare focuses on minimizing an animal’s suffering, animal rights believes that animals are individuals who are entitled to justice. It is natural that giving animals legal standing will do more than just lend them a voice.

In today’s competitive world, no heed is paid to basic morals and ethics and in a rat-race to earn more and easy money, animals become the targets. People hurt animals because they don’t think or realize what they are doing. Animal rights are belief that animals have a right to be free of human use and exploitation. Aristotle argued that animals lacked reason (logos), and placed humans at the top of the natural world, yet the respect for animals in ancient Greece was very high. Some animals were considered divine, e.g. dolphins. In USA, Societies for the Protection of Animals (SPCAs) were introduced to run animal shelters and promote the enforcement of animal cruelty laws.[1] In the 1960s, pigs and cows were involved in industrial farming operations.[2] I must specify here, however the animals may be- dangerous to us, cute or anything else, every single animal should be treated equally. What do you think should warm and attractive animals like puppies and kittens have more rights than ugly animals like rats and cockroaches? What are the legislations on animal rights in India? Many people of India are not aware of the legislations and enactments which are for protecting animals. So, to answer this, the main laws concerning with animal rights are ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960′ and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Section 11 (a) to 11(o) of PCA Act, 1960 has given different forms of cruelty to the animals. The law strictly prohibits treating animals cruelly and has also laid down the ways in which an animal could be exploited or abused, like beating, kicking, over-riding or torturing by which it suffers pain unnecessarily, or keeping an animal chained for an unreasonable period and all, these acts would result in punishment including a fine ranging between Rs 10 and 50 and for a subsequent offence, a fine between Rs 25 and 100 or imprisonment for three months.[3]

In Indian Animal welfare Act 2011, cruelty to animals is an offence and is punishable with a fine which shall not be less than ten thousand Rupees, which may extend to twenty five thousand Rupees or with imprisonment up to two years or both in case of a first offence. Under the light of the statute, the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board took place. There are also provisions that define the terms like ‘captive animal’ or ‘domestic animal’.

It prohibits the sacrifice of animals, by Section 39 of the act there is a strict prohibition on any injury to the animals and the penalty is mentioned in section 51 of the act.[4] The Constitution of India, 1950 under the Part IV Fundamental duties at Article 51A(g) states that “The State shall endeavour to “– “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;”[5] The Wildlife Protection Act contains provisions to counter illegal poaching, hunting and killing of wild animals and includes schedules detailing endangered or otherwise protected species such as Elephants, Bengal Tigers, Lions and other wild animals that are threatened due to poaching and hunting. But in 2013, the Animal Welfare Board of India has banned the registration of animals for such purposes.[6] India is the third largest producer of eggs and around 70% of eggs comes from commercial poultry farms.[7] Cows and buffalo used in dairy production are sent to slaughter when they are no longer profitable and considered “useless”. Cruelty to animals takes place at every stage during slaughter in India. After birth, five to eight million buffalo calves are killed immediately. People (children, adult etc) tease animals like cow, dog, donkey and etc for their entertainment by throwing stones on them and these things irritate the animal and sometimes make them aggressive. Animals in circuses are kept under inhumane conditions where all the exotic animals are used in circuses like dolphin cannot survive for long time because of climatic changes. Animal like dogs and elephants are forced to walk on two legs which is quite difficult for cattle. In India, currently, use of big cats like tigers and lions is already banned, but now government is planning to even ban animals like horses, hippos, elephants, or even dogs in circus.[8] Dancing bears were found in India and Pakistan where the bear cubs were caught from the wild, usually killing their mothers to get the cubs.

The cubs were inhumanly treated to train them to “dance” on their hind legs. Animals are used for tourist rides. Animals such as donkeys may have to bear too much weight, causing suffering. Exotic animals, such as camels and elephants, will most likely not be able to be kept in circumstances that respect their behavioural needs. The recent death of Shaktiman (a stallion) who served the Uttarakhand police force highlights the need to radicalize the movement for the protection of animals against any cruelty. BJP leader Ganesh Joshi attacked it during a protest.[9] the 2007 judgment of Madras High Court K. Muniasamythevar v Dy. Superintendent of Police[10] in which Jallikattu sport was allowed. But the Supreme Court banned the sport and struck down the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009. Now I would like to bring in account While a majority of these judgments were rendered along the lines of safeguarding animal welfare, the 2014 AWBI v. Nagaraja was the first judgment to take a step towards granting animals rights, similar to the Right to Life guaranteed to Indian human citizens. This decision was the first to develop the concept of dignity for animals. Another case is Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India W.P.(C). No.881/2014. This case examined the legalities of animal sacrifice during the Gadhimai festival in Nepal which is said to have caused the cruel deaths of hundreds of thousands of chickens, goats and buffalo at its peak. The Supreme Court declared the practice of animal sacrifice of the scale practiced during the Gadhimai festival to be “demeaning and cruel”, declared a ban on the export of animals to Nepal without proper licenses. The SC noted that Indian animals shouldn’t be subject to such cruel treatment –and ensuring that the State carry out its responsibility to ensure that animals are not subject to any cruel treatment. Another landmark judgement is State of U.P vs. Mustakeem and Ors.

In the state of Uttar Pradesh, in a case where goats were found to be transported for slaughter in a cruel manner[11] (they were tightly bound to each other, which was against the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960), an FIR was filed against the owner. However, the UP High Court returned custody of the animals to the owner while the matter was under litigation. On appeal, the Hon’ble Supreme Court declared that the animals were supposed to be confiscated from the owner and housed in a gaushala, under the care of the state government who was given their charge for the duration of the case. With this ruling, the Court made it amply clear that once an animal was removed from a person’s care on grounds of cruelty to his/her charge, the animal would not be returned until the case was resolved. The judiciary has a very important function, i.e., if the punishments for such kinds of offense can be made stricter, then the people will try to take care and will not ruthlessly kill innocent animals. However, in cases like Bharat Amratlal Kothari v Dosukhan Sindhi[12], which amounted to major cruelty only a paltry fine of Rs 50 was imposed on the defendants. In 2011, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was amended and renamed as Indian Animal Welfare Act as a need was felt to change the old law. Despite so many laws the drive will only come when people collaborate with animal rights bodies and organizations and make efforts to improvise the pitiable condition of animals. Illegal animal trade includes the trafficking of ivory, tiger parts, rhinoceros horn, shark fin, exotic birds, reptile skin, bush etc. The trade includes the sale of live animals for pets, rare butterflies for collectors, and animal parts for medicines or exotic garments or foods.

The Constitution of India, 1950 under the Part IV Fundamental duties at Article 51A(g) states that “The State shall endeavour “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;” Fundamental Duties are not immediately enforceable. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has made them enforceable in various decisions by reading additional meaning into the Fundamental Rights. In Francis Coralie Mullins v. Union of India 1981 SCR (2) 516, the Hon’ble Supreme Court declared that the Right to Life goes beyond mere existence and includes a Right to live in dignity. Thus, the Article 21 Right to Life is no longer purely a Civil and Political Right but has been interpreted by the Courts to further the ends of social justice. Therefore, there may be scope for the reading of the Article 51A(g) obligations into law and this has been done in many animal welfare decisions by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Hon’ble High Courts.

Animals take care of each other without knowing what rights are. The term “right” was created by people and it does not have any influence on other live beings. So why do we discuss animal rights then? The answer is quite simple: animal rights are human rights which people need to set limits for people. If we do not set limits for people in treating the animals in a form of law, then we will not be able to use legal liability for the violation of these limits by other people. Animals are more defenseless creatures compared to humans, who have more power. People, who violate the animal interests, must be brought to justice to take responsibility for their actions.

[1] David Walls. “Animal Rights Movement”. Retrieved April 27, 2016.

[2] Danielle Nierenberg (2005) Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry. Worldwatch Paper.

[3] Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

[4] Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

[5] Constitution of India, 1950.

[6] Animal Welfare Board of India.

[7] Poultry Sector Report of India.

[8] Performing Animals (Registration) Amendment Rules, 2018.

[9]Available at – https://indianexpress.com/article/india.

[10] W.A. no 119 of 2006.

[11] Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

[12] S.L.P. (criminal) No 198 of 2009.

Author Details: Vaishnavi Nimje (Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur)

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