Anatole France rightly said that "until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened".
Animals add to the beauty of nature and enhance the biodiversity of the earth. Animals, too, have a life like humans, yet they are not treated with due respect and often fall prey to the atrocities of humans. They are killed and harmed, for commercial reasons, by the industrialists and capitalists. Many laws and Acts have been enacted. However, the implementation and awareness of those laws have been inadequate, and most of us are unaware of animal rights and the need to protect them.
India, being one of the most bio-diverse countries, is home to many species of animals. It has 4 of the world's 36 fauna hotspots. Animal protection and provisions for their welfare have significantly developed over time. The Indian constitution states the duty of every citizen in protecting the natural wealth of the country, including wildlife. Side by side, there are several legislations to ensure the safety and proper treatment of animals.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are two such legislation in India. Indian Penal Code, 1860, the criminal code law of our country, in sections 428 and 429, provides punishment for acts of cruelty and heinous behaviour towards animals such as killing, poisoning, or rendering them ineffective. These laws are must be adequately enacted to avoid outrageous conduct towards animals.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 is the most vivid of all.
Causes of Animal Abuses
In the past, humans were heavily dependent on animals for food, security, and labour. They understood the role and importance of animals in their lives and treated them like family members. However, there is no such necessity anymore; plenty of food is available, and animal labour has been replaced by machinery.
There could be many reasons behind the barbaric treatment of animals. First, animal body parts are used for commercial purposes, pushing the industrialist to any extent, even if it involves torture or persecution. Moreover, some people tend to be ignorant towards animals. They do not understand that animals have life, and they may also suffer from depression and anxious behaviour. Some trainers often cannot comprehend that hard training and inhumane tasks can cause injuries to the animals in the same capacity as humans. People who have aggression issues or have suffered trauma tend to develop the habit of harassing animals and venting their frustration.
Overview of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960
This Act is fundamental against cruelty towards animals. It is comprehensive and describes animals as all living creatures except human beings. However, the concept of cruelty has not been aptly described.
Section 3 of the Act states that the in charge of the animal must take the necessary steps to ensure an animal's wellness and prevent any unnecessary suffering or pain to the animal.
Section 11 is the most elaborative section under this Act and covers different forms of atrocities committed on domesticated and wildlife animals for economic gain.
Section 11(1)(a) talks about the injury done to animals in the form of physical torture. Considering the person is the owner and permits violence towards the animal.
Section 11(b) states that if any person employing an unfit animal or an owner of an animal unfit for employment permits, such employment is an offence.
Section 11(c) provides that if any person willfully or unreasonably gives any drug to any animal that may cause harm to the animal, it shall be an offence.
Section 11(d) specifies the offence of carrying an animal in a manner that may cause them inconvenience.
Section 11(e) makes the restriction of an animal's movement—by confining it to insufficient space—an offence.
Section 11(f) states the offence of restricting the movement of an animal by a chain.
Section 11(g) states that confining a dog's movement—by chaining them up every day and keeping them enclosed—by the owner is an offence.
Section 11(h) makes it the owner's duty to provide adequate food, water, and shelter to the animal.
Section 11(i) this sub-clause states the offence of abandoning the animal.
Section 11(j) prohibits owners from allowing animals suffering from contagious diseases to roam freely on the roads. This sub-section also restricts leaving a pet animal suffering from a disease to die.
Section 11(k) states that it is punishable to buy or possess any animal suffering from hunger, thirst, or mutilation.
Section 11(l) makes the harming or killing of animals—by cruel practices—an offence.
Section 11(m) restricts using animals for entertainment and as prey or bait—making animals fight is also punishable.
Section 11(n) a person organising animal fights or providing a place for any such event shall be liable under the Act.
Section 11(o) restricts the use of animals for participation in shooting games as prey. Anyone who is involved in such an event will be held liable under the Act.
In the first offence, the fine shall not be less than ₹10, extending up to ₹50. The fine shall not be less than ₹25 for the second and subsequent offences and may extend to ₹100. Alternatively, it is punishable with imprisonment, which may extend up to three months. Section 11 does not acknowledge dehorning the cattle or hurting stray dogs in lethal chambers.
Section 13 instructs the court to take the necessary steps to halt animals' suffering after being prey to any of the offences as stated under section 11 after a thorough checkup by the veterinarian. The cost of restoring an animal's health shall be recovered from the owner in the form of a fine or penalty.
Although this Act has attempted to improve the quality of life for animals, there is still a long way ahead, as many provisions are unreasonable and contradictory.
Section 28 of the Act states that killing any animal for religious or community purposes is not an offence.
Similarly, section 14 made the use of animals for experimentation lawful under supervision.
Section 28 is derogatory and hostile towards wildlife as it is not justifiable to slaughter an innocent animal for blessing. It is a curse as we face the extinction of the rich biodiversity.
The point to be noted is that Article 51A of the Indian constitution states that "it is the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and have compassion for all living creatures." Provisions of this Act are very much contradictory to the law stated in the constitution—the country's supreme law.
Article 48A of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that,
"The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the country's forests and wildlife."
The fundamental right to life and liberty under article 21 is challenged in the court to suffice animals with the same rights to live and exercise their freedoms like humans. Irrespective of the injuries suffered in the past, animals should be given proper treatment and shelter for recovery. Like in the case of humans, no one has the right to take any animal's life.
There are legislations to control atrocities against animals, but such behaviours continue. It is required to keep a close check on the industries that use animal parts as raw materials for their factories. Punishment and penalty for crimes against animals should be made harsher to create a sense of fear among those who infringe the law. Moreover, it is also required to create a sense of humility and empathy in humankind for animals. Proper counselling and instructions should be given to pet owners, and they should be taught about animal behaviour and their needs. From time to time, awareness programmes should be organised to spread the message against animal cruelty. States should enact laws properly and make changes in the existing laws as some provisions do not favour animals. As there is a whole procedure before adopting a child, few such inquiries should also be made in the cases of animal adoption. Healthcare infrastructure also needs to develop in India to cater to the needs of the animals.