Millennium Post

No let-up in cruelty to animals

In yet another case of cruelty to animals, another haughty and heartless act on display, a medical student months away from becoming a doctor recently had himself on camera holding a defenseless puppy on a terrace only to throw him off - because he knew he could. 

The video catches a glimpse of the puppy yelping desperately for help as he is dropped by the monster in human suit, who confidently smirks at the camera with zero regard to the repercussions.

That happened due to lack of legal awareness in general, and knowledge of animal welfare laws in particular, people feel at ease hurting vulnerable creatures. Earlier this year in another incident, a man was seen butchering young puppies late at night in cold blood at a metro station. This is a clarion call. 

Although there are a handful of provisions that claim to protect animal rights, the conviction rate remains low. Some appear to be half-hearted attempts by the legislature, making laws on the supposed edifice of an inclusive framework targeting equality for all including animals. 

There is a dire need to make the animal cruelty legislations more stringent and deterrent in nature. A paltry fine of Rs. 50 under the Prevention of Cruelty Act (PCA) is not going to deter the offender and he is more likely to repeat the offence, for which in turn he will be liable to pay a fine of only Rs. 100 or imprisoned for 3 months or both, provided he committed the offence within 3 years of the first act. 

These provisions are archaic in the present context. However, these provisions could easily be perceptible by the judiciary, and pursued more actively, if not for the heavy stack of matters before it already. 

The draft animal welfare bill 2014, which is a more stringent legislation, aims to replace the PCA has been hanging fire since its conception after its predecessor, the draft animal welfare bill 2011 failed to be passed.

 Against the numerous laws on display, guarding the interests of man, the status of the wild is only reduced to a second fiddle. In light of the recent and numerous other acts of aggression towards animals, ingress of more stringent provisions that has the force to capture the kernel of the matter in its entirety shall be welcome.

The sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code which make it illegal to maim or injure animals prescribing a punishment of up to 2 years and 5 years respectively, still witness a low conviction rate. Being bailable and compoundable render it lacking force and the poor implementation only aggravates the issue.

Moreover, our Constitution, the basic law of our land is essentially built around humans alone, providing a cushion of justiciability of their rights but against the animal rights that are sidelined in an obscure corner of the fundamental duties of the citizens, offering them a choice.

As it should be our duty to be the voice of the voiceless, defenceless  creatures, we are required to play a seminal role in this respect. Thus we need to know the next time we come across an illegal act committed against them-

(1) the stray dogs can be neutered and spayed in accordance with the government's notification of animal birth control rules 2001 (under PCA) and not otherwise,

(2) You can also make sure that the municipal authorities are not torturing the strays in order to remove them from their place. 

 No stray dog can be beaten or tortured or dislocated to another place than the place from where he/she was picked up to be sterilised (because animals make themselves familiar with certain territories which they associate with and a change of environment is not good for their health - also make them more hostile).

 The only way to cull their population is by sterilisation and in the lawful manner prescribed under the law.

(3) The wildlife protection Act protects a broad category of animals from being  hunted, subjected to inhuman practices and entertainment purposes. So it is restricted under the PCA on using certain animals for exhibition such as monkeys, bulls, bears, tigers.

However, in what is reflective of the mentality and attitude of some in the high echelons of governance, there have been ever multiplying attempts by several states by virtue of their power under Section 62 in the recent past, declaring certain animals as vermins. 

Citing crop destruction or their increasing number etc as the reasons they are being slotted arbitrarily without any concrete tangible evidence. Vermins under schedule V of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 are animals that are allowed to be hunted under specific conditions without attracting any penal action under the act for a stipulated time. 

Why does the killing of a man lead to life imprisonment and in some cases death penalty but the killing and maiming of animals are punished in the worst case scenario with 5 years? What is debatable is whether we really are the superior lot? Or is it just a human construct to pander to the needs of our fragile self-worth? I think it is subjective.

 Animals like humans feel pain the very same way and with the same intensity, the way of expression differs. That's all. They have the ability to express a thousand words through a single expression unlike most humans, who try to manoeuvre their way around words camouflaging true intentions.

The thoughts and intentions of the founding fathers of our Constitution or the Supreme Court, or the legislature the framer of most of the prevailing laws also need to espouse the actions of all humans altogether so that those living "at our mercy", or dwelling in our shelter could be saved from future acts of violence. 

As far as the to-be doctor in the mentioned case is concerned, hopefully more such degrees can be saved in favor of somebody who empathises with and values life.

(Ankita Sarangi is an Advocate. Views are strictly personal.)

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