Being one of the most biodiverse countries of the world, India accounts for 7-8 percent of the world’s recorded species. Its vast biodiversity includes over 91,000 animal species and 45,000 plant species.
Animal protection and welfare have been given noteworthy prominence in India. There exists a legislative framework for animal protection and safeguard of animal rights.
Protection of Animal Rights
- Constitutional Protection of Animal Rights in India
The Constitution of India, under Article 51A(g) lays down a fundamental duty for all Indian citizens to “protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.”
The duty of animal protection has been augmented by the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48A which promotes a broader framework for foreign policy. It mandates that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment along with safeguarding the forests and wildlife of the country.
Even though these Constitutional Provisions are not strictly enforceable in the courts, they become the guiding light for the legislations and policies formed at the State and Central Level.
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
A crucial part of the animal welfare legislation in India, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (PCA) is applicable to ‘all living creatures other than a human being’ (Section 2(a)). The legislative intent behind the act is to prevent any person from inflicting or causing, or in the case of the owner – permitting, unnecessary pain or suffering on any animal.
Even though the PCA, 1960, does not acknowledge sentience in the legislation explicitly, one can see instances in the act where importance is given to mitigate physical as well as the mental suffering of animals.
Following are some important provisions under this Act that one must be aware of:
- Animal Abandonment
Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), PCA Act, 1960 prohibits animal abandonment without reasonable cause, wherein such animal may suffer pain by starvation or thirst. It also prohibits pet owners from permitting any animal affected by contagious or infectious diseases to go at large or allow any diseased or disabled animal to die on the street.
- Conveying of animals
Conveying or carrying any animal that causes unnecessary pain or suffering, whether in or upon any vehicle, is punishable by law under two Central Acts, namely Section 11(1)(d) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Transport of Animal) Rules, 2001 and Motor Vehicles Act 1978.
- Organizing/Inciting Animal Fights
Organizing or participating in or inciting any animal fight for the purpose of baiting any animal is an offence under Section 11(1)(m)(ii) and Section 11 (1)(n), PCA Act 1960.
- Animal Neglect
Section 11(1)(h) states that if any person, being the owner of any animal fails to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter or keeps them chained/confined for a long period, the person can be punished.
The Punishment for the above given offences is a fine upto Rs. 50 and in the case of a subsequent offence a fine upto Rs. 100 or imprisonment of up to 3 months or both.
- Animal Slaughter
As per Rule 3 of PCA, Slaughterhouse Rules, 2001 and Chapter 4, Food and Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011,slaughtering of animals (including chickens) in any place other than a slaughterhouse is not permitted as these slaughterhouses would be subject to various inspections and licenses to prevent any unnecessary cruel acts towards animals. Slaughtering sick or pregnant animals is also strictly prohibited. Furthermore, giving heed to the mental suffering of animals, the rules also stipulate that no animals shall be slaughtered in the presence of other animals.
- Animals for Entertainment Purposes
Section 22(i) and (ii), PCA Act, 1960 provides for certain restrictions on the exhibition and training of animals and mandates registration of these animals. Moreover, the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, lays down that the prescribed authority may impose such terms and conditions so as to protect such animals and ensure that they are treated in a humane way.
Similarly, Section 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA, 1960 while dealing with animal harm concerning solely with a view to providing entertainment, forbids confining any animal (including the tying of an animal as bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) to make it an object of prey for any other animal.
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 works towards the protection of all wild animals, birds and plants. Animals here include amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and their young, and also includes, in the cases of birds and reptiles, their eggs respectively.
The aim was to protect the wildlife of this country and bring into control the practice of poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife. The amendment to the act in January 2003 made stricter penalties for offences committed under the Act.
- Teasing, Feeding, Disturbing Zoo Animals
Section 38J of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 mandates that no person shall tease, molest, injure or feed any animal or cause disturbance to the animals by noise or litter the grounds in a zoo or else a fine of Rs. 25000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years will be imposed.
- Prohibition of Hunting
If a person disturbs or destroys eggs or nests of birds and reptiles or even chops or attempts to chop a tree having such nests of such birds and reptiles it will be considered as hunting as per Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The person is liable to receive a punishment of a fine of up to Rs. 25000, or imprisonment of up to seven years or both. Hunting of animals is permitted in certain areas and in special cases under Sections 11 and 12 such as in defence from a dangerous animal.
- Indian Penal Code Sections 428 and 429, 1860
Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, states that it is a punishable offence to kill or maim any animal, including stray animals.Moreover, it is illegal for cars to purposefully injure or kill dogs, cats and cows on the street. Offenders can be reported to the local animal protection group and police station and a punishment of Rs 2000 and/or a jail term of up to five years can be imposed.
- Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945
Rule 148- C bans the use of animal testing for cosmetics in India. Additionally, even the import of cosmetics tested on animals is banned as per Rule 135-B.
India has been developing an effective and progressive space for legislation around animal protection and safety. With the increased reporting on animal cruelty in the recent few years, we may see stronger, more concrete laws backed by stringent penalties towards those who commit violence against all animals of nature.