Behind the Facade: Assessing the Enforcement Efficacy of Animal Protection Laws

Abstract

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 was made by the government to protect the rights of animals in the context of modern human society. The core intention behind this legislation was to establish adequate protections for animals, preventing them from experiencing harm, undue pain, or torture inflicted by humans unless such acts were deemed necessary as explicitly outlined in the act. However, the effectiveness of the law faltered due to the minimal penalties it imposed. This inadequacy rendered the legislation practically useless, failing to achieve its intended objective over time. At its core, the paper asserts that this legislation echoes outdated Victorian values, projecting a seemingly benevolent exterior while, in practice, carrying adverse consequences.

Keywords

Cruelty, Animal rights, Slaughter, Sacrifice, Right to life

Introduction

India is like a treasure chest of diversity. It is home to a wide variety of species of animals ranging from the Great Indian Rhinoceros to the Bengal tigers. It is a mix of different environments. This diversity, both in its culture and nature, makes India incredibly special and unique. Throughout its ancient history, animals have held a dual significance—they have been revered in worship rituals and, paradoxically, offered as sacrifices to deities. This longstanding tradition has persisted over the ages, reflecting the complex and multifaceted relationship between humans and animals in the cultural and religious tapestry of the nation. While the practice endures, it has slowed down to some extent. Laws have been enacted to protect the rights of animals such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, of 1960, IPC sections 428 and 429 provide punishment for all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animals,[1] and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, but there is insufficient evidence to confirm their proper enforcement.

This paper talks about the effectiveness of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, which is the primary law for safeguarding animals’ interests in the country. While it aims to protect animals from harm and prioritize their well-being over human interests, the Act includes exceptions that allow certain acts, regardless of their nature, to be exempt from its regulations. This contradicts the law’s own goals and principles and is argued to be against the Constitution, as per a decision by the Supreme Court in AWBI v. A. Nagaraja. The language used in the Act seems to undermine its purposes, revealing a contradictory nature.

Research Methodology

The paper takes a descriptive approach, centering around case analyses, constitutional provisions, and pertinent acts. It extensively utilizes real-life case studies to illustrate and elaborate on key concepts. Moreover, theoretical analysis and exploration of concepts drawn from secondary sources such as articles, blogs, online databases, websites, and journals.

Review of literature

“Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me”

– Anthony Douglas Williams

[Animal activist]

Every life on Earth deserves equal consideration; there are no inherently superior species. Each being shares the same capacity for pain and joy. The only distinction lies in the level of development among species. Unfortunately, as humans have advanced, there has been a tendency to disregard the rights of animals for personal gain. Despite animals not having the ability to communicate verbally, it’s crucial to recognize that they do experience pain It’s imperative that we now stand as advocates for the voiceless and establish robust laws to safeguard the rights of animals.

Laws on Animal Rights

The legislative framework places significant emphasis on Section 11[2] and Section 9[3] as these provide penalties for cruelty and the function of the animal welfare board. Examine the significant portion of Section 11(1), which prescribes ‘substantial’ penalties. For the initial conviction, a monetary penalty ranging from ten to fifty rupees is applicable. Subsequently, in the event of a second conviction, occurring within three years of the initial offense, the prescribed fines increase to a range of twenty-five to one hundred rupees, accompanied by a mandatory three-month term of imprisonment.

 The act, whether resulting in the loss of an animal’s life or, at the very least, causing harm to their dignity and inherent worth, is a violation of an Animal’s right to life. However, the ‘significant’ punishment stipulated for this offense reveals the lawmakers’ insensitivity in creating laws for those unable to voice their concerns. While the imposed fines could have served as a potential deterrent, this law has proven ineffective over decades. Even the people in charge entrusted with the duty of updating these laws have failed to do their jobs and recognizing that the affected parties lack the ability to advocate for their own rights still remains the main concern.

Phooka or cow blowing is a technique observed in numerous countries, as stated by ethnographers, which involves the application of forceful air blowing into a cow’s vagina (or occasionally the anus) with the aim of stimulating increased milk production.

Section 12[4] of the Act explains that participating in practices like Phooka and Doom Dev is subject to legal penalties, with the potential punishment increasing to either a fine of one thousand rupees or a two-year imprisonment. The punishment for such gross acts is still inadequate. Though, greater than the one provided in previous provisions. The assessment of such a law should be conducted not solely based on its own provisions but rather in consideration of the core principles of justice aligned with constitutional mandates. According to Article 51(g)[5] of the Indian Constitution, Indian citizens are mandated to actively contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment, which includes responsibilities toward forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. Additionally, there is an expectation of demonstrating compassion for all living creatures. When we juxtapose a provision of this nature in contrast to laws crafted for humans or evaluate the gravity of the actions in question, it becomes clear why one might label them as namesake protection laws. In the case Effective Implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 Vs. The State Government and Ors[6], a complaint was lodged for   transporting seven adult dogs in a van in a cruel manner, with their limbs bound by metal wires, under the accusation that they were being conveyed for consumption.

A Petition was filed against the non-implementation of the provision of the Act in the high court of Manipur. The important issue that arose was the custody of dogs. The court directed The confiscated dogs were initially directed to be housed at People For Animals (PFA), Manipur for seven days, after which their custody was to be transferred to the State Veterinary Hospital or any SPCA in Manipur. Following approximately a month and a half, PFA, Manipur requested the Principal Secretary of Veterinary & Animal Husbandry, Government of Manipur, to assume responsibility for the seized dogs. This request was based on PFA, Manipur’s lack of facilities for long-term dog care, and the financial burden incurred in their maintenance. However, the Director of Veterinary & Animal Husbandry Services, Manipur, conveyed in a letter that the department lacked any program for providing permanent or temporary shelter to animals and birds, aside from health services in its hospitals and dispensaries. Consequently, the department expressed its inability to take custody of the seized dogs. This case showed the Insensitive behavior displayed by the state government and a lack of compassion or consideration for the betterment of animals in its attitude.

The neglect exhibited by the Animal Welfare Board and the state reveals their lack of genuine concern for animals. While these beings may not communicate in human language, they inherently possess dignity and value that the Constitution requires safeguarding. Animal cruelty extends beyond bodily injury, encompassing Agony, cruelty, and the imposition of terror, leading to immeasurable psychological distress. It’s truly baffling how instances of blatant and shameless cruelty don’t seem to evoke a moral response in so many who witness them every day. Despite asserting our status as the apex beings on this planet, it is high time that now we translate such claims into responsible and compassionate action.

Bali: a sacrifice or slaughter?

In the name of religion, Bali is observed in India, with its origins deeply rooted in religious texThe act, whether resulting in the loss of an animal’s life or, at the very least, causing harm to their dignity and inherent worth, is a violation of their right to life. However, the ‘significant’ punishment stipulated for this offense reveals the lawmakers’ insensitivity in creating laws for those unable to voice their concerns. While the imposed fines could have served as a potential deterrent, this law has proven ineffective over time. Even the authorities entrusted with the responsibility of updating such laws have failed to do so, recognizing that the affected parties lack the ability to advocate for their own rights. However, The followers may have potentially misunderstood these texts, as correctly pointed out in the case of the State of Karnataka and anr. v. Dr. Praveen Bhai Thogadia[7]. The court observed that Communal harmony, mutual love, and the absence of hatred are essential components for the realization of social well-being.The essence of religion, rooted in spiritual values as articulated by the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas, appears to embody the principles of “Love others, serve others, help ever, hurt never” and “Sarvae Jana Sukhino Bhavantoo” – fostering a collective commitment to the happiness and welfare of all.

Section 28 [8]poses a significant challenge within the Act. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that this section lacks legal protection for animals engaged in religious practices, specifically those offered as ‘sacrifices’. This gap in the legislation raises pertinent questions about its effectiveness in safeguarding animals, particularly within diverse cultural contexts. The legislation consistently asserts its commitment to eradicating cruelty towards animals. They emphasize the need to penalize any instance that exploits animals or compromises their dignity. However, there is a significant loophole inherent in the legislation. In India, is a nation with varied religions, numerous customs, and traditions that involve the killing of animals. A more accurate term for this practice is “slaughtering” rather than “sacrifice,” and that distinction is crucial. Sacrifice means to offer something of value to save another or for the benefit of another[9]. Even though the term ‘sacrifice’ includes the idea of killing offered to gods, it generally carries a positive meaning. For instance, we use the same word for soldiers who give their lives on the battlefield. On the contrary, ‘slaughter’ has a negative connotation, and that’s precisely the message the lawmakers meant to convey to the general public. The use of the positive term to describe a provision which encourages the brutal act and hints at the lawmakers’ bias, potentially downplaying the true meaning of what happens under the guise of such a provision. It is also noted that the creature, that is being sacrificed, is not one on the verge of death or one that has to be killed due to a certain disease spreading inside it, rather, it is probably a healthy animal that would otherwise have led a considerable life span, if had not been sacrificed.

The right of an animal to live with honor and dignity falls under the purview of Article 21[10], as interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court[11]. Through Section 28, the legislature allows the authorized methods of animal slaughter as dictated by religious practices, considering them reasonable restrictions on the rights of animals under Section 3 in conjunction with Section 11(1). Apparently, these hindrances are seen as direct and unavoidable outcomes or effects anticipated by the legislature for human benefit. However, the judiciary’s stance on this matter seems contradictory. While it recognizes Sections 17 and 28 as means of exploiting animals, it simultaneously describes such instances as unavoidable and necessary. In this instance, it appears that the judiciary may have forgotten that religion isn’t the driving force behind our democracy. It  is the Constitution that the judiciary is meant to safeguard. Yet, when the judiciary issues conflicting statements that not only contradict each other but it also erode the essence of the Constitution and the pertinent legislation, it raises concerns about the potential infiltration of religious influence into the bedrock of our esteemed judicial system. It becomes perplexing how a religious mandate can supersede this fundamental principle. Isn’t this effectively granting religion authority over the law simply because the matter does not directly involve people? This scenario can be easily correlated to the practice of Sati in Indian society. Even during ancient times, a custom as harsh as “Sati” was acknowledged as unreasonably painful and needless, leading to its abolition. However, when it comes to the plight of animals, such occurrences are often overlooked. Similar to Sati, where someone is sacrificed due to unreasonable beliefs, it is deemed acceptable because human lives are not directly at stake. Instead, it provides a sense of comfort to those who, having slaughtered the innocent animal, believe it will bring them a fortune. In this era of modernization, Indian legislators appear to be moving backward by not aligning with global standards. Animal rights are often placed at the bottom of the priority list, as our instinctive sensitivity towards animals tends to be less than that towards our own species.

Scenario in other countries

Germany

Germany has taken a leading role in animal welfare laws. It became the first country to include animal rights in the constitution, elevating the status of animals from “things” to “beings”. This means animals are seen as beings with rights, not just things. It recognizes their dignity and right to life. The country has strict regulations on animal testing, farming, and pet ownership.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has put in place comprehensive animal welfare laws. Its Animals Welfare Act outlines the responsibility that pet owners and those caring have towards their well-being. It defines cruelty and preventive measures against it. Also, a noteworthy law called “Lucy’s Laws” prohibits the third-party sale of puppies and kittens, effectively ending puppy farming.

Conclusion

The primary legislation, namely The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, of 1960, falls short of offering sufficient support to uphold the interests of animals. This exposes the reluctance of legislators to genuinely protect and enforce such rights. Although the inclusion of Sections 11 and 12 in the Act seems beneficial for animals, the effectiveness of these provisions is greatly compromised by the insufficient penalties prescribed, which ultimately do not serve as a deterrent for offenders. Given the promises made by both the legislature and the judiciary regarding this issue, there is a pervasive sense of helplessness, as both branches claim to endorse the animal rights movement in rhetorical form rather than taking concrete actions. On 18th May 2023, Jallikattu case, the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the practice[12]. The court asserted that there is no precedent within the Constitution of India to extend fundamental rights to animals and, therefore, upheld the law permitting Jallikattu. This verdict again raises a question on the effectiveness of the said Act.

 Other countries like Germany, the UK, etc exemplify how Indian animal protection laws could be enhanced, by expanding coverage of laws, increasing punishment and penalties, and most important of all, public awareness. A law alone cannot ensure animal protection unless the public and society concerned are looking after it. By spreading awareness, a culture of empathy and respect towards animals will be fostered which is important for the effective protection of animal rights. The path of improving animal welfare will require persistent courage and resilience. The change will not come overnight, but each step taken toward enhancing the protection of animals is a step toward a more better and just society.

Name- Mahima Pandey

College- Faculty of Law, University of Delhi


[1] Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Imperial Legislative Council,1860

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

[3] The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 9.

[4] The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 12.

[5] Indian Constitution, Article. 51, cl. (g).

[6] the Effective Implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960  vs. The State Government and Ors., (2018) 0087 (Manipur HC)

[7] State Of Karnataka And Anr vs Dr. Praveen Bhai Thogadia, AIR 2004 SC 401.

[8] The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 28.

[9]  Cambridge Dictionary, (10th ed. 2014).

[10] The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Section 21.

[11]Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547.

[12]TheIndianExpressPvtLtd,https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-law/supreme-court-upholds-tamil-nadu-jallikattu-explained-8616020, 2023

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