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Anti Cruelty Laws in India – Are they really effective in protecting animals?

Anti Cruelty Laws in India – Are they really effective in protecting animals?


  • GS2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Fundamental Duties

Why in the news?

The Union government has recently proposed some significant amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 such as defining the ‘animal cruelty’, increasing the fine etc.

What is Animal cruelty?

  • Animal cruelty is the any kind of abuse or neglect of animals. It is a comprehensive term that includes anything which causes any sort of physical harm or mental traumatisation of animals.
  • Animal cruelty takes place every day in all kinds of places, not just in the world of industrial animal agriculture.

Cases of animal cruelty fall into several categories.

  • Animal Abuse: Most cases of animal abuse involve the wilful harming of animals. Animal abuse is a systemic problem that often gets handed down from parent to child, boss to worker, and culture to culture.
  • Animal Neglect: Lack of information about animal behaviour and disinterests causes animal neglect which makes the animals suffer in the long-term. It is more prevalent form of animal cruelty.
  • Animal Exploitation: Exploiting animals is a form of animal cruelty, however, especially when the exploitation goes against the animal’s instincts or forces the animal into frightening or unsafe situations. Eg: Circuses, zoos, aquatic theme parks, and other venues often exploit animals in the name of entertainment.
  • Animal Testing: Even though scientific developments have rendered animal testing unnecessary, it still occurs all around the world. Animals in testing facilities are exposed to all manner of substances, many of which cause itching, burning, chronic pain, loss of body parts, and other terrible consequences. It is the worst form of cruelty against the animals.
  • Human Predating: Humans are ‘apex-predator’. When humans prey on animals, we take away their agency and reduce them to nothing but food on a plate. Sometimes we even prey on animals without the desire to eat them. The fur farming industry is one example.

Reasons of animal cruelty:

  • Viewing Animals as Objects: Nonhuman animals are often viewed as objects. People who victimise animals see them not as sentient beings with emotions and needs, but merely as a means to an end.
  • Using Animals for Monetary Gain: Many instances of animal cruelty result from the desire to make money. In the process, the animals had to suffer endless cruel behaviour from humans for none of their fault.
  • Disregarding Animals’ Feelings and Emotions: Some people believe that animals don’t truly emote. They believe that human beings are the only animal on earth that can feel pain, fear, sadness, joy, despair, and hope. Hence they don’t see any of their violent acts against animals as ‘cruelty’.
  • Lack of investment in animal protection and welfare: Even though the rules and laws have been made to ensure that no animal is unnecessarily harmed, the lack of investment in animal protection and welfare only aggravate the animal cruelty from humans.

Correlation of Animal cruelty with other serious crimes:

  • Domestic Violence: Many studies have shown a correlation between domestic violence toward pets and domestic violence toward humans. In a household where domestic violence occurs, the family pet might suffer the first few blows, but the abuser is likely to hurt other members of the household
  • Homicide: Continuous animal cruelty erodes our basic moral norms against harming others. It has been established long ago that the persistent animal abuse leads to psychopathy and sociopathy. Perpetrators or witnesses of violence against animals appear to be desensitised to violence against other humans.
  • Criminal trade and enterprises: People who have record in animal abuse also most likely to be involved in criminal trade practices such as smuggling, human trafficking, drug trade, etc.

Constitutional position on prevention of animal cruelty: The Constitution of India is called ‘philosophical document’ for some reasons. It does not only include the directions for the state to govern people of India, but it also contain provisions which directs State and the people to prevent animal cruelty.

Some of these provisions are as follows:

  • Fundamental Duty: The Constitution enjoins upon each citizen of India “the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.” . It is part of Fundamental duty under Article 51A (g) in Part-4A (Fundamental Duties)
  • Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP): Article 48 and Article 48A respectively casts obligation upon the state to improve the living conditions for livestock and endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  • Responsibility of Union and the states: Item 14 of the State List provides that the States have the power to preserve, protect and improve stock and prevent animal diseases and enforce veterinary training and practice. In the Concurrent List, both the Centre and the States have the power to legislate on:
    • Item 17: Prevention of cruelty to animals.
    • Item 17B: Protection of wild animals and birds.

Legislative measures:

  • IPC provisions: The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the official criminal code of India which covers all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • Section 428 and 429 of the IPC provides for punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless animals.
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960: This law is perhaps the lynchpin of legislative framework for prevention of animal cruelty in India. The objective of the Act is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. Section 11 (1) (a) to (o) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 prescribes and enumerates comprehensively the various forms of cruelty. It also set-up  Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as a watchdog body for animal cruelty in the country.
  • Wildlife Protection Act 1972 : The Union government has enacted Wildlife Act, 1972 to protect the wildlife flora and fauna. It prohibits domestication of animals, birds and cruelty against them. It has emerged as the most effective Act for animal protection in the country.
  • Cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislation at the State level: Various states have enacted legislation prohibiting cow slaughtering and any sort of cruelty against them. Many states have started welfare measures as well for the straying cows.

Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI): National Watchdog

  • The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws and promotes animal welfare in the country.
  • The body was established in 1962 under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • The Animal Welfare Board of India was started under the stewardship of Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, a well known humanitarian and animal rights activist.
  • The Board consists of 28 Members. The term of office of Members is for a period of 3 years.

The functions of the AWBI are as follows:

  1. Advising the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while transporting animals, performing experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity.
  2. Encouragement of financial assistance, rescue homes and animal shelters for old animals.
  3. Advising the government on medical care and regulations for animal hospitals.
  4. Imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals.
  5. Advising the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.

Ethical Aspects: Views of Mahatma Gandhi and Henry Salt on Animal Cruelty:

  • Mahatma Gandhi’s profound theory of non-violence takes into account both human beings and animals.
  • He published several articles defending vegetarianism and a vegetarian lifestyle.

  • Gandhi was influenced by a man named Henry Salt, a devout vegetarian, who in the late 1800s advocated for the ethical treatment of animals, and wrote one of the first books on animal rights and the importance of giving animals a place in the moral system.
  • Salt believed that animals should have rights just like humans, and that we should “recognize the common bond of humanity that unites all living beings in one universal brotherhood.”
  • Gandhi’s commitment to not eating animal meat and being a vegetarian came from his own belief that it was immoral to eat meat or animals.
  • He was aware that eating meat brought harm and suffering to animals, which he ethically and morally opposed, and it became his mission to promote and spread this awareness and a vegetarian diet.
  • Underscoring the ethical underpinning of ethical aspect of animal protection, Mahatma Gandhi said:

“Ethically they had arrived at the conclusion that man’s supremacy over lower animals meant not that the former should prey upon the latter, but that the higher should protect the lower, and that there should be mutual aid between the two as between man and man. They had also brought out the truth that man eats not for enjoyment but to live.

Measures to prevent animal cruelty:

  • Aware citizenry: The citizens need to be aware about the animal cruelty. They must not allow animal abuse of any form and should report it immodesty to the law enforcement agencies.
  • Joining animal rights organisations: The animal rights associations need to be strengthened by passionate people joining such organisations. Governments need to take measures to increase people’s participation in such organisations.
  • Refusal to use or buy animal products: Refusing to consume animal products is a great way to discourage animal abuse. It will lead to closure of black marketing animals and thus, their suffering.
  • Consider going vegan : If possible, people should not eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey, or any other animal by-products as it leads to more and more animal abuse. It is also against the environment.
  • Effective enforcement of anti-animal cruelty laws: The laws meant to protect animals must be effectively enforced. The organisations entrusted with such responsibilities must be adequately empowered to take actions against people or institutions causing harms to animals.

Model Mains Question:

  1. Discuss the ethical underpinning of animal abusing behaviour among humans while throwing light on Mahatma Gandhi’s views on animal cruelty.