Backgrounder on animal laws in India:
“The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals”, said Mahatma Gandhi once as he was leading India through the country’s fight for independence from the colonial rulers. But long before animal activism became a global movement and animal laws were enacted in India in their present form, there are pointers that India as a nation has revered nature, its flora and fauna. The earliest laws of conservation date back to as early as 3rd Century B.C when Emperor Ashoka had banned killing and hunting of all animals in his kingdom. Images depicted in ancient Indian art and wall carvings, the notes and stories mentioned in Indian scriptures and fables like Panchatantra and Hitopdesha, all of these reflect the ethos of conservation and reverence for animals. But as India moves ahead in the rat-race for being a developed country, morals and ethos are being left behind and superseded by an insensitivity and egotistical attitude that is hard to comprehend.
Stand up against Cruelty to Animals
“Unseen they suffer, unheard they cry
In Agony they linger, in loneliness they die
Does it mean anything to you or anyone who passes by?”
These words penned above epitomize the pain, the suffering that millions of animals endure at the hand of humans every single day.
Though killing or torturing humans is considered to be a crime instantaneously, many amongst us perhaps pay mute witnesses to incidences of animal cruelty happening all around us. The fact is that laws do exist in this country of ours for protection of cruelty towards animals. The main laws are The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. However few people and even fewer policemen and lawyers are aware of these laws and in the wake of human ignorance on these laws, animals are helpless and fall victims to needs and deeds of humans.
Overloading donkeys with bricks, exhausting the elephant and camels with over riding in a a mela or at a tourist spot, whipping the horse and the bullock pulling the tonga or the cart, stuffing the cages with chickens in your local meat shop, transporting cattle and livestock one on top of the other in trucks while being taken to slaughterhouses or even treating your pet with neglect- not providing him food or water or chaining him in the sun, killing, maiming beating an animal…each of these acts is an act of animal cruelty under either Section 11 or Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (PCA Act 1960).
PCA Act is a Central Act and is in force throughout the country/Indian territory. There are many rules drafted within this act that look into usage of animals in films i.e performing animal rules, transport of animals rules, rules for prevention of cruelty to draught and farm animals and many more. Though in terms of penal provisions these laws are still weak and in urgent need to be reformed, but that will only happen when public wants or asks for it as the animals themselves will never be able to do so, contrary to the activists who fight battles for laws to protect tribal rights or gay rights for that matter!
Many of you would have seen an overloaded mules or an overloaded bullock/horse cart on the roads every day. Most people prefer to ignore that sight but even when the very few who are aware of animal cruelty laws objects to the ‘owner’ of the animal being ill-treated to not to inflict their animal with cruelty, generally the owner objects loudly in retaliation! The reason behind this marked indifference on part of the ‘owner’ towards the pain and suffering of their very own animal is “because humans treat animals as ‘commodities’ and ‘machines’, something that they have purchased and they now ‘own’…something that they are within their rights to both, use as well as abuse!”, says Anjali Sharma, a senior advocate representing Animal Welfare Board of India.
Below is a list of what every citizen should do when they see someone inflicting cruelty upon animals:
1. Complain to the local state SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)/Animal Welfare Organisations working in your area, though as an entity an NGO can’t enforce the law, but they can put you in touch with an animal activist who deals in filing complaints and bringing attention to such matters with legal or media-based intervention. Importantly, Animal welfare Organisations and Animal hospitals can be contacted to provide relief to the suffering animal.
2. Contact the Police: On a national level, Police are the major enforcement body for the PCA Act 1960. They are obliged to take action against the offender and render help to the suffering animals as per the procedure outlined in the PCA Act when the offence against the animal is amongst those listed in Section 11 or 12 of the PCA Act. Police are even obliged to extend help to the enforcement staff of SPCA as well as ordinary citizens to lodge a complaint/FIR against an incident of animal cruelty. If the Police doesn’t adhere to your complaint, you can also contact the magistrate directly with a written complaint.
One can also lodge a complaint under Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 under which, ‘mischief of killing or maiming an animal amounts to an offence’ and the offender can be imprisoned for upto five years or a fine or both.
3. Know the law: for example a donkey should be loaded with only 35 kgs of weight at one time; the permissible loading capacity of a truck is 4 buffaloes or 40 sheep/goats. Anything over and above it is technically illegal under the law.
Learn to make a distinction of cognizable and non-cognizable offences outlined in the PCA act 1960. Section 43 of Criminal Procedure Code empowers every citizen the right to perform a ‘citizen’s arrest’ i.e the right to arrest a person who has committed in their presence a ‘cognizable’ offence, an offence for which the offender can be arrested without a warrant.
Cognizable offences under PCA Act 1962 include the following:
a) Under Section 12 of the PCA Act, 1962, injecting oxytocin injections to cows/milch animals, to improve lactation/milk-giving capacity – which is injurious to health of the animal or permitting such operation to be performed by any other person on the animal he/she ‘owns’ is a cognizable offence. However, this may be one of the most common things that you see used by local legal/illegal dairy owners throughout the country.
b) Under Section 11(1)(l), mutilating or killing any animal, including stray dogs by using poisoning methods or any other unnecessarily cruel means
c) Under Section 11(1)(n) organizing/keeping/using any place for animal fighting/baiting and receiving money on the same.
d) Under Section 11(1)(o), promoting or taking part in any shooting match or competition wherein animals are released from captivity for the purpose of shooting/killing.
4. Documentation is the ‘Key’: In your complaint, be as factual and precise of your observation of the animal crime. Give precise dates, times, locations and photographic evidence if any (while remembering to keep a photocopy with yourself). You are also advised to keep a record of all the officers you are interacting with so that if they don’t listen you can proceed to the next level in the hierarchy to demand justice for the animal/s you are fighting for. Getting a vet’s certificate for the animal in consideration would also prove to be good documentary and supporting evidence.
When reporting animal cruelty, we should look out for the following: Physical condition of the animal, telltale signs of animal cruelty, cruelty during their training and practice, housing (size of cages), overcrowding, mode of transportation, sanitation and hygiene.
5. Stand up, speak up against injustice. Never give up, keep up the effort!
The Indian Constitution, also, under Article 51 A (g) imposes upon every Indian Citizen a fundamental duty to have compassion for all living creatures. But, from subjecting animals to meaningless experiments in cosmetic-testing laboratories to killing one animal in front of the other in an illegal slaughterhouse, from holding cockfights to boiling monitor lizards alive to extract oil from their bodies, mankind does it all and that too shamelessly. It is for us who are aware and informed to keep our comforts aside momentarily and become the voice for these mute, speechless animals as they wage their lonely hopeless battle against the all powerful ‘man’.
What makes cruelty to animals morally unpardonable and unacceptable, over and above human cruelty? Humans can still protest against cruelty meted out to them, they have a voice to raise alarm, hands to hit back. The animals sadly don’t have those options either, so in effect they are defenseless in the face of the cruelty humans mete out to them, be it for their own pleasure, benefit or to fulfill their sadistic desires!
Fyodor Dostoevsky once said that, “no animal could ever be as cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” One would agree to it as Advocate Anjali Sharma concludes, “Perhaps humans are the worst animals ever born on this planet”.
“I don’t believe in the concept of hell, but if I did, I think it would be filled with humans who are cruel to animals”- Gary Larson
Text: Vasudha Mehta