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  • Sonia Neralaly

A Comprehensive Analysis of Laws and Policies Regarding Animal Rights in India

Sonia Neralaly,

Vivekananda Education Society's College of Law

cruelty on animals

Introduction

India is a country famous for its wide range of cultural traditions and for having a vast range of fauna. But there has long been discussion and worry about how animals are treated in the nation. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), which was passed in 1960 as a response, has since undergone revisions to reflect changing public perceptions of animal care.

 Also, The Indian Constitution, which is the highest legislation of the country, recognizes the innate sacredness of animals and requires its citizens to protect and treat them with respect. Furthermore, international groups such as the World Animal Protection have implemented tools such as the Animal Protection Index (API), which assesses nations according to their policies regarding animal care. India scored 'C' on the 2020 API, meaning that although the country has regulations pertaining to animal care, they may use substantial improvement.

 This article explores the numerous laws, policies, and significant court rulings pertaining to animal protection as it digs deeply into the topic of animal rights in India. Additionally address some well-known instances of animal abuse and offer recommendations for better approaches to solving these problems.

 

India's Background in Respect to Animal Rights

The debate surrounding animal rights in India is not a relatively new one. Animals have always been viewed as property; this idea dates back to Roman law. Growing ethical arguments, on the other hand, have refuted this notion and supported the acknowledgment of animals as conscious entities with rights of their own.

 We are progressively approaching a future in which animals may have some rights that should not be violated without facing legal repercussions, as the courts interpret regulations pertaining to animal care within the context of Constitutional Rights and Duties.

The Importance of Animal Welfare

Animals have long been utilized by humans for a variety of needs, including food, clothing, amusement, and even companionship. We hardly ever think about how our activities affect these animals. The book by Peter Singer emphasizes that while the equality principle calls for equal treatment, it also calls for equal consideration. This distinction is especially important to consider when talking about animal rights.

IMPORTANCE OF ANIMAL WELFARE

Because they are sentient beings with feelings of pain, pleasure, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love, animals should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering or abuse.

The Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja and Ors. (2014) case set a precedent for the protection of animals' honor and dignity, which cannot be taken away from them arbitrarily. The court decided that animals should have the right to dignity and that their rights and privacy should be shielded from unauthorized attacks.

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights

Although the terms "animal rights" and "animal welfare" are frequently used synonymously, they have distinct meanings. Animal welfare theories recognize that animals have rights and interests, but they may also be traded off if doing so will benefit humans. This is according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

However, proponents of animal rights contend that, like people, animals have rights that cannot be exchanged or sacrificed in order to further the interests of others. Animal rights activists contend that using animals for experiments, food, clothing, or entertainment is wrong. On the other hand, proponents of animal welfare agree with these usage as long as a humane level of care is followed.

India's Actual Animal Cruelty Situation

Animal cruelty instances are frighteningly common in India, even with the current rules and regulations in place. The Kerala High Court acted suo motu in 2021 in response to a heartbreaking occurrence involving the cruel death of a labrador dog. The court called for improved administrative and legislative measures for animal protection.

India's Constitutional Animal Rights Framework

The Indian Constitution, which is the ultimate law of the land, recognizes the sacredness of animal existence and mandates that inhabitants of the country treat animals with respect and protection. Indian citizens are required by Article 51(g) of the Constitution to protect and enhance the natural environment, which includes forests, lakes, rivers, and animals, as well as to show compassion for all living things.

An Overview of India's Laws Preserving Animals

India has a number of laws and ordinances that protect animal life. These include the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty Act of 1960. These laws define penalties for animal cruelty and offer a framework for the legal protection of wildlife.

Laws Governing Cattle and Work Animals

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act's Chapter III addresses "Cruelty to animals generally." Section 11 states that a person may be fined up to Rs. 25–100 and imprisoned for a maximum of three months if they use an unfit animal for labor or cause it pain or suffering.

Rules Governing Wild Animals

The main legislation pertaining to wildlife in India is the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Any wild animal or bird that is killed, poached, trapped, poisoned, or harmed is forbidden. Additionally, it stipulates that Wildlife Advisory Boards must be established in each State. The Act also covers birds and aquatic animals.

Laws Concerning Stray Animals

As to Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the act of murdering, maiming, poisoning, or rendering any animal worthless carries a maximum two-year prison sentence, a fine, or both. The time is extended to five years if the animal costs more than fifty rupees (Section 429). In addition, regulations pertaining to street and pet dogs are provided under the Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001.

Laws Concerning Pets

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Section 11, contains several provisions pertaining to pets. The Performing Animals Rules, 1973, require registration for the usage of animals for entertainment.

Notable Animal Rights Court Decisions

The Indian context for animal rights has been established by a number of significant court rulings. For example, the Bombay High Court held in PETA v. Union of India that any movie involving an animal has to get a No Objection Certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. In Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, the court upheld animals' rights to dignity and outlawed cruel animal-racing customs like jallikattu and bullock cart racing.

The Right to Live Without Pain

Every year, millions of animals are killed in India for research purposes or as food. According to Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, cruelty to animals is a crime. Encouraging youngsters to respect and be kind to animals is the first step in putting the laws designed to protect them into effect.

Laws and Policies Regarding Animal Rights in India

Understanding the street dogs - human conflict

The tragic battle between humans and stray dogs in India is acknowledged by the Stray Animal Foundation India (SAFI). This conflict is brought to light by the 21 documented rabies deaths in Kerala within a year, including the recent loss of a 12-year-old girl. Tensions have been heightened by incidents of stray dogs and household pets attacking people, which has resulted in retaliatory measures like poisoning, killing, and cruel strays management techniques. SAFI denounces such measures, acknowledging their short-term incapacity to control dog populations, even as the government contemplates widespread culling in response to political pressure.

According to World Health Organization statistics, rabies is common in India, which explains why a large percentage of rabies-related deaths worldwide occur there. Rabies cases are primarily caused by dog bites, and children under the age of 15 are disproportionately affected. The World Health Organization and World Animal Protection work together to promote sustainable methods, stressing the value of rabies vaccination and sterilization for dogs.

Goa is noteworthy for being the only state in India free of rabies, proving the efficacy of attaining a vaccination rate of 70%. But problems still exist because of things like overpopulation caused by the popularity of breed dogs, pets that are not sterilized, and violent occurrences that are frequently the result of fear or other triggers.

In order to solve these problems, SAFI encourages community involvement through programs such as rabies vaccine drives, promoting vaccination and sterilization, and adopting community and abandoned breed dogs. Debunking myths regarding canine behavior and the value of rabies prevention techniques is largely accomplished through education.

Data collection, analysis, the creation of dog population control committees, adherence to the legislation, and the infrastructure necessary for public education, sterilization services, and enforcement are all necessary for the successful execution of these projects. In addition to placing a high priority on dog health, SAFI's Rabies Day vaccination campaign in Hyderabad highlights the vital role that immunization plays in avoiding the spread of rabies to humans.

In conclusion, SAFI advocates for a humane and all-encompassing strategy to resolve the conflict between stray dogs and people in India. It highlights the significance of immunization, sterilization, community involvement, and education in reducing the danger of rabies and fostering canine and human coexistence.

Recent Controversy

Regarding Section 291 of the BNS, an advocate recently posted a video to social media that went viral. In it, he foolishly claimed that animal feeders would be held accountable if stray animals attacked people. Several social WhatsApp groups were in disarray after seeing this video, and the feeders received verbal abuse. Later, the attorney removed the video and uploaded a new one in which he provided accurate facts in response to criticism from many NGOs and Animal activists. However, because of people's anxiety, some societies are pushing individuals to feed them outside of the society's boundaries, which is challenging for the feeders.

Solutions to such conflicts

In the recent case of Dr. Maya Chablani vs Radha Mittal & Ors., the plaintiff had filed an I.A. No. 4164/2021 to retrain the defendant from feeding the stray dogs inside the society premises. However, the dispute got resolved when both the parties agreed upon feeding the dogs at a designated place at fixed times.

Conclusion

In India, there are several laws and procedures in place, but animal abuse and cruelty are nevertheless commonplace. 19,028 instances of animal abuse were reported during a five-year period, according to the Bombay Society for Prevention of abuse to Animals (BSPCA), yet no one was ever arrested or found guilty in any of the incidents. To guarantee animal protection, stronger legislation and better execution are desperately needed.

References

1)Animal Welfare Board of India vs.A. Nagaraja and Ors. (2014) 7 SCC 547

2)PETA versus Union of India & Ors. 2490/2004

3)Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 11

4)Animal Welfare Board of India. "About Us." Retrieved from http://awbi.org/awbi-pdf/about_us_awbi.pdf 

5)People for Animals. "Campaigns." Retrieved from https://www.peopleforanimalsindia.org/campaigns/.

6)Humane Society International/India. "Animal Welfare in India." Retrieved from https://www.hsi.org/news-media/animal-welfare-india/ 

7)INDIA CONST. Art. 51 cl. (g)

8)Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 429 & Section 428

9)Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, Section 291

10)Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001

11)Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

12)UjwalaChintala, “India's human, stray dog conflict. – Stray Animal Foundation India.” (Feb 8, 2024, 7:00pm), https://strayanimalfoundationindia.org/keralss-human-stray-dog-conflict-mass-stray-dog-killing-and-cruelty/ 

13)Dr. Maya Chablani vs Radha Mittal & Ors. 4164/2021

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