We have often seen animal abuse cases in social media posts that outrage people’s sentiments. These recorded incidents of animal abuse have been reported to the appropriate authorities. But several cases ended up unreported, and victims never get access to justice even after being buried in land or turned into ashes. You must have heard the term “animal rights” through various communication mediums by activists, writers, actors, and even politicians. Animal rights in India is a wider term that aims to protect these harmless creatures from abusive human behavior and ensure dignity and respect in animals’ lives. Today, we will examine provisions in the Indian legislature for animal protection. This article aims to draw the reader’s attention to the importance and objectives of animal rights and animal welfare.
When we hear animal rights, the first thing that comes to mind is animal protection. Animal rights are based on principles of autonomy and freedom for non-human animals. Animal rights advocate that non-human animals deserve to live their lives without human interference. It is important to note that, it encourages non-human animals to live with respect and dignity without being subjected to human desire. According to animal rights, animals are exploited if they were adopted as pets, domesticated on farms, used in lab experiments, or any such activities involving human desire or welfare.
The destruction of animal habitats by humans is a violation of animal rights. The objective of animal rights is to make animal lives worth living on planet Earth similar to human rights which aim to protect human lives and make them worth living. Animal rights are widely known as animal advocacy that aims to improve the living condition of non-human animals. Animal rights in India activist is a group of people who advocate the idea of animal rights and ensure humane conditions for animals without human interference. Animal rights activists advocate for freedom with reasonable restrictions for animals that are not practically feasible to be guaranteed.
Importance of Animal Rights
Animal rights are based on the principles to protect and spread awareness to protect non-human animals from inhumane treatment. Animals are sensitive, emotional, and intelligent non-human animals who deserve to live their lives with respect and dignity. It was found in many scientific studies that animals possess cognitive, emotional, and sophisticated abilities. These animal abilities make them susceptible to physical pain and psychological effect. Some thinkers and educators compare the exploitation of non-human animals to vulnerable religious and racial minorities subjected to inhumane treatment in their native countries. To protect animals from human exploitation, the enforcement of animal rights in India is necessary. Awareness regarding animal rights is one of the initial steps that need to be taken to ensure animal protection.
Animal Rights in India
India has a diverse culture where animals are regarded as divine beings, but still, animals are abused and exploited by the will of humans. The supreme law of India is the Indian Constitution which was enforced on 26 January 1950. Indian Constitution guaranteed animal protection through various provisions inserted in Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSPs). Since animals are considered sentient beings, the Indian legislature emphasizes animal welfare laws and policies. These legislations ensure animal protection and punish offenders who commit crimes against animals. Animal welfare legislation spread awareness regarding the animal’s right to life with respect and dignity.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is a fundamental right that ensures the right to life with personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of his or her life except by the procedure established by law. Any person’s right to life can be invoked irrespective of nationality. In other words, the right to life can be invoked against the state by both citizens and foreigners. Supreme Court of India observed that animals are sentient beings and possess sensitive feelings such as emotion, love, affection, and pain. The apex court held that animals are also entitled to the right to life in India.
Article 51(g) of the Indian Constitution is a fundamental duty of Indian citizens to protect, improve and preserve the natural environment including wildlife. The Supreme Court of India held that Article 51(g) of the Indian Constitution is the “Magna Carta of animal rights”. Fundamental Duties under Article 51 of the Indian Constitution were incorporated by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 which is popularly known as the “Mini Constitution”.
Articles 48 and 48(A) of the Indian Constitution is the Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSPs) instruct the state to take necessary measures to protect, preserve and improve the environment, forest, and, wildlife. It directs the state to prevent animal slaughtering of cows, calves, and, other cattle. It also encourages the state to organize agricultural and animal husbandry based on modern and scientific methods.
Indian Legislations to Ensure Animal Rights
Apart from Indian Constitution, the Indian legislature incorporates provisions for animal protection with the help of amendments in the acts. These laws aim to protect animals from exploitation and abuse and punish the offenders who commit crimes against non-human animals. According to Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 anyone who commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards shall be liable for imprisonment or fine, or both. The offender is liable for imprisonment of up to 2 years and tried before any magistrate. Any person who commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards shall be liable for imprisonment or fine or both. The offender is liable for imprisonment of up to 5 years and tried before the first-class magistrate. Both offenses are cognizable and bailable under the Indian Penal Code, of 1860.
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 prohibits the killing and hunting of wild animals listed in schedules I, II, III, and IV of the Act. It also restricts cutting, selling, damage, possession, collection, or uprooting of specific plants from any forest lands. There are certain exceptions in the above mention clauses where wild animals can be hunted or killed on the grounds of being dangerous to human life or properties or the concerned wild animal is subjected to a disability or disease that is beyond recovery.
Similarly, there is an exception for cutting or uprooting specific plants for scientific research, education, or preservation. The act also empowered the central government to constitute any area as a wildlife sanctuary or national park and appoint appropriate authority to administer the declared sanctuaries or national parks. The Act provides for the establishment of the National Board of Wildlife, State Board of Wildlife, Central Zoo Authority, National Tiger Conservation Authority, and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. In the 1860s, Britishers started the introduction of new drugs in India but they couldn’t administer the newly introduced drugs to a human being. They started administering the drugs to stray animals and that is how animal experimentation started in India.
A revolutionary action was taken by Colesworthey Grant, who established the first Indian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Calcutta (now Kolkata, West Bengal) in 1861. Post-independence, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 criminalizes cruelty to animals. The act of 1960 became India’s first animal welfare law. The act aims to safeguard or protect animals from any kind of torture, infliction, hurt, or harm. Section 11 of the Act prohibits humans from performing certain acts on animals such as beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, or torturing any animal that causes harm or injury. It also prohibits humans to administer injurious drugs to animals, keeping animals in suffocating cages or places where animals are unable to take breathe or move, and an owner failed to provide sufficient food, water, and shelter to an adopted animal. There are several legislations for the protection of animals in India which protect animals from slaughtering, inhumane living conditions, cosmetics experiments, sexual abuse, unnatural acts, and other inhumane activities.
Landmark Judgments for Animal Protection
Indian judiciary left no stone unturned to secure animal protection in the country. We have witnessed several landmark judgments that ensure animal protection over human cruelty. The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act transferred forests and protection of wild animals and birds from the state list to the concurrent list. It allows both governments (central and state governments) to make laws on the concerned subject. In the case of Animal Welfare of India V. A Nagaraja and others (2014), the Supreme Court of India held that the traditional sport of Jallikattu, practiced as a ritual during the Pongal Festival in the state of Tamil Nadu was unconstitutional and unreasonable. The court also instructed the union government to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to include bulls in the act and protect them from deadly sports practices.
In the case of the State of Bihar V. Murad Ali Baig (1989), the issue of elephant hunting was raised before the court on the grounds of whether hunting elephants is justified under the provision of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Wildlife Protection Act, 1976. The apex court held that elephants are animals. Therefore, they fall under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1976, and the hunting of elephants are prohibited by law.
In the case of Tilak Bahadur Rai V. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1979), the accused shot and killed a tiger. In the given circumstances, the accused acted in good faith to protect himself. The Supreme Court held that the intention of the accused was to protect himself and not to kill the wild animals. The accused was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.
In the case of N.R. Nair V. Union of India (2001), the challenge before the court is whether training monkeys, bears, tigers, panthers, and lions to perform specific acts is subjected to cruelty or justified on the grounds of exhibiting animals. The Supreme Court held that constantly abusing and keeping animals in cages and restricting the free movement of animals amounts to cruelty and is against the provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It also violates the Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution and falls under reasonable restriction to carry out trade and business.
Recently, it was reported that a doctor tied his dog to his car and dragged it across the city. The dog faces severe injuries and got its leg fractured during the incident. It feels obnoxious when a doctor who is in-charged to protect human life, intentionally tortures animals and causes severe injuries or even causes the death of animals. In April 2021, four men were arrested for carrying out unnatural sexual activities with a female monitor lizard in the state of Maharashtra. In December 2020, the death of a female elephant created outrage among the people. The death of a female elephant was caused by eating firecrackers that were intentionally placed for the elephant by the natives of Periya village in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. A Youtuber was arrested for recording a video where he tied his adopted dog with air balloons.
The balloons were released freely into the sky, and the dog started flying in the sky without taking any precautionary measures. There were several incidences where the accused was arrested for mercilessly beating stray animals. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, several incidences were reported where stray dogs attacked civilians while passing on the roads. In Sitapur (a city in Uttar Pradesh) stray dog attacks are so massive that residents of Sitapur started using a weapon such as guns and pistols to avoid stray dog attacks. Recently, it was reported that an 82-year-old woman was mauled to death by her adopted dog, a pit bull, in Lucknow. Uttar Pradesh.
A few days earlier, the Bombay High Court passed an order to prohibit the feeding of stray dogs on roads or public places. The court held that those people who are interested in the protection and welfare of stray dogs can adopt them or put them up in dog shelter homes and bear all the expenses for their registration and maintenance.
We are heading toward 2023, but still, there are no major improvements in the vulnerable conditions of animals, especially stray animals. The laws implemented for the protection of animals are impressive on paper, but these legislations fall short practically. The compensation for causing animal abuse and exploitation costs hundreds or thousands of rupees. In the above incident, a doctor was convicted for causing severe injuries to his companion dog. The doctor was punished with compensation between Rs 10 to Rs 50. The legislation failed to punish the offenders for animal abuse proportionately for the damage caused to non-human animals physically and emotionally. The offenders got off scot-free by paying a small amount of money, and there are no provisions for stringent punishment for animal abuse in India. Arguments of people are divided on the subject of animal rights. There are arguments in favor of animal rights in India where people advocate for better living conditions for animals, animals are not subject to human desire, animals live their life with respect and dignity, and the elimination of animal exploitation industries that causes environmental disasters.
On the contrary, there are arguments against animal rights where people advocate for preferring non-vegetarian food over vegetarian. The country’s major source of employment is based on farms where animals play a vital role, and use animals for testing vaccines and medicines for human welfare. It is not necessarily up to the legislation, but it is primarily based on individual human duty to protect animals from torture, inhumane living conditions, and abuse. Governmental and non-governmental organizations are trying hard to ensure animal rights in India and protect them from torture and abuse. Stray animal attacks can be encountered by putting them into animal shelters or threatening them with a stick rather than adopting stringent measures to cause severe injury or kill them. The unusual behavior of stray animals might be a consequence of human behavior towards them, and they start attacking humans in retaliation.
Animal Rights: Definition, Issues, and Examples (thehumaneleague.org)
Animal Rights in India: An Overview (legalbites.in)
 Constitution of India
Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972 (drishtiias.com)
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (drishtiias.com)
The law against animal cruelty, and the ridiculously low fines for offenders | Explained News,The Indian Express
Four arrested for poaching, video shows suspect ‘raping’ monitor lizard in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve | Cities News,The Indian Express
Ailing female elephant dies in Coimbatore – The Hindu
Sitapur dog attacks: Fearing canine carnage, residents keeping guns to protect themselves (dnaindia.com)
82-Year-Old Lucknow Woman Mauled To Death By Pet Pitbull (outlookindia.com)
[Stray dog menace] Impose fine on citizens feeding them on roads, public places: Bombay High Court (barandbench.com)
The law against animal cruelty, and the ridiculously low fines for offenders | Explained News,The Indian Express