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GS-II :

For the welfare of animals

  • 18 September, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

For the welfare of animals

Introduction:

  • Over the last one year, India has seen multiple instances of animals being subjected to sexual abuse, acid attacks, being thrown off rooftops, and being burnt alive.
  • A major factor that enables such violence is an inept legal framework in the country to prevent cruelty to animals.

Issues:

1. Paltry fine:

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 punishes the most serious forms of animal violence with a meagre fine of ?50.
  • This is one of the many issues plaguing the PCA Act.
  • Several petitions, social media campaigns and amendment bills seeking stricter punishment for animal abuse have all gone in vain.

2. Classification of offences:

  • Section 11 lists a series of offences, which vary from abandoning an animal to kicking it, mutilating it or killing it, and prescribes the same punishment for all these offences.
  • Severe offences are treated on par with less severe ones.
  • At present, a majority of the offences under the Act are non-cognisable, which means the police cannot investigate the offence or arrest the accused without the permission of a Magistrate.
  • This facilitates police inaction and ensures that most culprits of animal abuse go scot-free.

3. Exceptions diluting the protection to animals:

  • Though Section 11 criminalises several forms of animal cruelty, sub-section (3) carves out exceptions for animal husbandry procedures such as dehorning, castration, nose-roping, and branding.
  • These procedures cause tremendous physical and psychological pain to animals.
  • Moreover, the law does not provide any guidelines for these procedures. This allows individuals to resort to cruel methods.

4. Ambiguity in definition:

  • The PCA Act was enacted to “prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals”. However, this phrase is not defined anywhere in the Act.
  • This is crucial because what constitutes unnecessary is entirely a matter of subjective assessment.
  • In the absence of a clear statutory definition, crucial questions of animal welfare are left to the subjective moral compass of judges.

Way forward:

  • Given that the aim of the law is to achieve a certain standard of objectivity in questions of animal welfare, it is essential that the expression “unnecessary pain or suffering” be defined in the Act.
  • There is an urgent need to reconsider the exceptions in favour of animal husbandry practices as there are viable alternatives that would prevent animals from undergoing such trauma.
  • A petition by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) India suggests mandating the use of anaesthetics prior to castration and the replacement of cruel practices such as nose-roping with face halters and branding with radio frequency identification.
  • As opposed to dehorning cattle, it recommended that farmers breed hornless cattle.
  • An amendment is required to grade the offences according to their severity and specify punishments accordingly.
  • More severe offences must be made cognisable and non-bailable.

 

 

Source: TH

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