Animal Cruelty and essential religious practices

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Humans and animals are living together prosperously for a long time period. As quoted by Kamaran Ihsan Salih, “Lots of humans take a refuge for friendship with animals, because the brutality of human is more dangerous than animal.” Despite this, animals are subjected to cruelty by human beings for their benefit. Cruelty to animals means exposing them to an environment in which they are vulnerable, terrified, and afraid. Humans believe that they have a right to animal life; therefore, they can treat them in whatever way they want. These creatures are facing cruelty and brutality daily in one or another way which is against the clause of Article 51 (A) of the Indian Constitution, “It is the duty of every Indian citizen to protect animal life and environment.” Cruelty to animals is done in different ways, especially to stray dogs, draught animals, and wild animals.  Some of the crimes committed against animals are murder, kicking, poisoning, torturing, smothering, maiming, attacking with sticks, burning them alive, stone pelting, sexual harassment or rape, and putting them in plastic bags. Despite the fact that some of the animals such as tigers, snakes, monkeys, elephants, lions, and cows are worshiped alongside deities but they also face cruelty from human beings in one or another way. This ensures that the law has failed to protect such animals from unnecessary pain and suffering. In this context, the current article highlights the prevention of cruelty to animals using the law along with the punishments announced to the offenders. 

Types of Animal Cruelty

Animals can be maltreated physically as well as psychologically which are discussed as follows:

  • Neglection: Depriving animals especially domesticated animals from cats to dogs and sheep to horses of adequate sources of water, veterinary attention, food, or shelter. Neglect by an animal’s caretaker results in a large amount of pain and suffering as of deliberately abusing an animal such as hitting an animal or forcing them into fights. Neglection is divided into two sub-categories, simple neglect, and gross neglect. A typical example of simple neglect is chaining dogs without a dog belt around their neck by the dog owner. Gross neglect is an intentional act of withholding food, shelter, and water from an animal or group of animals. This type of animal cruelty is one of the most common around the world. 
  • Physical and emotional abuse: Physical abuse is deliberately assaulting and torturing animals (beast of burden), organizing animal fights (dogfighting or cockfighting), maiming animals, and other inhumane activities for training them causing unnecessary pain. In addition, animals do suffer from psychological or mental issues which is due to a lack of social interaction with other animals and come under emotional abuse.
  • Animal Hoarding: A large number of animals are confined in a small area where no adequate sources are provided for living such as lack of sanitation, nutrition, veterinary care, and others. The most common example of animal hoarding is the transportation of animals in an inhumane manner as well as keeping them in an un-conducive environment.
  • Animal Sexual Assault: The conduct of sexually assaulting an animal that results in the animal's death or pain. This type of crime is defined as a detestable and abominable crime against nature.
  • Ritualistic Abuse: Killing of animals such as goats, cows, sheep, hens, or turtles as a part of religious or ritualistic belief. Later eaten by human beings as a part of religious ceremonies such as deaths, births, and weddings.
  • Intentional Abuse: It is a type of animal cruelty in which animals are intentionally harmed causing severe pain or even death. A typical example of this abuse is using animals for research while making new medicines. Drugs or new medicines which are in process are first tested on animals such as rats, dogs, etc. to analyze their effect and consequences which lead to severe pain and even cause death sometimes.

Preventing Animal Cruelty using Law

Constitution of India

In Indian Constitution, animal rights are recognized under Article 48 and Article 51 (A)(g).

Article 48 of the Constitution of India states that “The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

Article 51 (a)(g) of the Constitution of India states that “It is the duty of every Indian citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC ensure punishment for killing or maiming animals. Under Section 428 of IPC, “Whoever commits mischief by poisoning, rendering, killing, or maiming any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or more should be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to two years, or with fine or with both.” On the other hand, Section 429 of IPC states that “Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering any animal or animals of the value of fifty rupees or more should be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to five years, or with fine, or with both.”

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Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

On December 26, 1960, the Parliament passed the Prevention of cruelty to animal Act with the motive “to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to animals and for that purpose to amend the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.” The provision of this Act allows law enforcement agencies, citizens (animal lovers), and animal welfare workers to take action against the culprit's cruelty toward animals. In addition, the Act provides guidelines for the establishment of an Animal Welfare Board as well as regarding the experimentation on animals to test medicines or any other scientific research. All acts of cruelty are mentioned in Section 11 of the Prevention of cruelty to animals Act, which is further divided into 16 sub-sections from Section 11(1)(a) to Section 11(1)(o) dealing with various forms of cruelty on both domestic and wild animals. 

  • Section 11(1)(a): Any individual beating, kicking, overdriving, torturing, overriding, and overloading an animal causing unnecessary pain and injury is an offence.
  • Section 11(1)(b): Taking work from an unfit animal suffering either from any disease, infirmity, or wound is an offence and a person can file a complaint against the culprit for performing such an act. 
  • Section 11(1)(c): Under this Section of the Act, it is illegal to unreasonably administer drugs or any other injurious substance to any domestic animals. For instance, dairy farmers give cows or buffaloes medicine or an injection for increasing milk production without consulting a veterinary doctor.
  • Section 11(1)(d): Prohibits transporting and carrying animals in an inappropriate manner causing them pain either via walking them on foot or in vehicles. 
  • Section 11(1)(e): It is an offence to keep animals in a confined place where they are not able to move freely. 
  • Section 11(1)(f): Chaining animals for a long time and restricting their movement is also an offence that can be filed as a complaint to the nearby Animal Welfare Board.
  • Section 11(1)(g): It is illegal to habitually chain up or keep a pet dog in closed places is an offence and anyone who witnesses this can complaint about the dog owner to the nearby police station or Animal Welfare Board. 
  • Section 11(1)(h): This Section ensures that owners should provide an accurate amount of food, water to drink, and shelter to the animals.
  • Section 11(1)(i): It is offensive to abandon an animal resulting in pain or suffering either due to thirst or starvation.
  • Section 11(1)(j): Prohibits abandoning of disabled or diseased animals to die on streets.
  • Section 11(1)(k): Forbids selling or possessing animals suffering from thirst, starvation, overcrowding, mutilation, or any other ill-treatment or ill-practice.
  • Section 11(1)(l): It is an offence to kill or mutilate any animal needlessly in a cruel manner.
  • Section 11(1)(m): Under this section, using animals solely for entertainment such as organizing fights, is an offence.
  • Section 11(1)(n): In this Section of the Act, an individual is held guilty of selling land to conduct animal fights as well as it prohibits organizing animal fights for earning money from spectators.
  • Section 11(1)(o): Prohibits participation and promotion in shooting competitions where animals are released from captivity.

All these offences except in clauses (l), (n), and (o) are non-cognizable which means that the offenders are punished only after receiving an arrest warrant from the judicial officer. Offences classified in Section 11 clauses (l), (n), and (o) are cognizable and offenders are arrested without an arrest warrant. 

Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act forbids activities such as ‘phooka’ or ‘doom dev’ which are performed traditionally on cow or milch animals for improving lactation. This is a cognizable offence containing imprisonment and a fine of maximum of 2 years and one thousand rupees respectively.

Section 28 of the Act stated that “Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.”

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

On September 9, 1972, the Indian Parliament enacted the Wildlife (Protection) Act with a motive to protect and safeguard the flora and fauna of the country. The primary objective of the Act is to protect endangered species of both plants and animals. With the enactment of this Act, various practices have been prohibited that impact biodiversity and are listed as follows:

  • One of them is the prohibition of hunting where there is an exception in cases when a wild animal becomes dangerous for humans or is suffering from a dreadful disease. This can be done only after receiving permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the state. 
  • Under this Act, uprooting or cutting off plants from the forest land is prohibited whereas certain plants can be uprooted and collected for educational and research purposes after receiving CWLW’s permission.
  • Initiates the protection of wildlife sanctuaries as well as introduces various bodies such as Central Zoo Authority, National and State Board for Wildlife, National Tiger Conservation Authority, etcetera for preventing loss of biodiversity.
  • It also imposes ban on the trading of animals and plants for commercial purposes. 
  • Under Section 9 of this Act, Trapping, poisoning, baiting, and capturing any animal is a punishable offence where an offender is punished either with imprisonment of 7 years or a fine of Rs. 25000 or both.

Animal Welfare Board

In order to protect animals from unnecessary pain and suffering, Animal Welfare Board is introduced which is a statutory advisory body that promotes animal welfare in the country. They also encourage animal shelters, rescue homes, and financial assistance for old animals. They give advice to the Central Government regarding rules and amendments to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering to animals while performing experiments on them, transporting them, or storing them in a confined place. The board consists of a total of 28 members including the Chairman, Vice- chairman, Animal Husbandry Commissioner (1), Inspector General of Forests (1), Representative of Ministry of Home Affairs (1), Representative of Ministry of HRD (Education) (1), 4 MPs of Lok Sabha, 2 MPs of Rajya Sabha, three Humanitarians, 3 Individuals,  Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (3), three Area Welfare Officers, Representative of Indian Medicine (1), Representative of Indian Veterinary Association (1), Representative of Allopathic Medicine (1), Municipal Corporations (2) and Representative of Indian Board for Welfare (1).

You can also go through “Maternity Benefit Act of 1961: Rights of Working Mothers

Animal Testing

Animals are used extensively for the purpose of scientific research which results in severe pain to the animals, sometimes causing their death. In order to reduce the unnecessary suffering and pain caused by the experiments on animals, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act established the CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals). It is a statutory committee bound to undergo all the measures required to ensure that animals are not subjected to any pain before, during, or after the experiments on them. In this context, a new rule was formulated for regulating the experimentation of animals, known as “Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control & Supervision) Rules, 1998” ensuring the ethical use of animals for education and research. The CPCSEA highlighted certain guidelines for laboratory animal facilities promoting humane care of animals in behavioral and biomedical research or testing. The main objective of these guidelines is to assure quality maintenance as well as the safety of animals used in laboratories either for research or educational purposes.

Beast of Burden

Beast of Burden is defined as a draught animal such as a mule, camel, horse, donkey, or ox that pulls or carries a heavy load or equipment for the benefit of a human being. In 1965, after the commencement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules commenced. Under this Rule, maximum loads for draught animals are listed. For instance, a large bullock or buffalo can carry 175 kilograms, Small and medium bullock or buffalo can carry 100 and 150 kilograms respectively, Donkey can carry 50 Kilograms, a Mule can carry 200 kilograms, and Camel can carry 250 kilograms. It also states that only four persons excluding children below 6 years and a driver can be drawn by animal vehicles such as bullock carts. Moreover, no person shall use an animal for drawing any load or vehicle for more than 9 hours a day and in any area with a temperature exceeding 37 degrees Celcius at noon. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, the use of spiked bits is prohibited that cause swellings, severe pain, bruises, or abrasions to the animal.

Authorities to reach for complaining against animal cruelty

Animal cruelty complaints can directly be reported to nearby police stations, senior Government officials at the State or District Animal Welfare Board, the Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA), and the MLA of that particular area. Moreover, the complainant can also reach NGOs such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which will guide them to take appropriate measures to stand against animal cruelty.

Case Laws


In a nutshell, it has been determined that there are various Acts and rules identified in the law for preventing animal cruelty but the main question arises regarding the cruelty done on the basis of religious sacrifice. As per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017, sacrificing any purchased animal for religious purposes is an offence and is against the law. Despite this, there are various cases related to the slaughtering of animals for religious purposes that are unanswered. In ancient Indian scriptures, it has been mentioned that animals should be respected and treated as living beings because they are also capable of feeling love and devotion.

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