By: Shreya Srivastava
Assuming that animals are without rights and their treatment won’t have any moral significance is positively atrocious. Animals are not for the use of humans, for any experiment[i], entertainment or for food. There exists a right for animals to not be exploited by humans for their own purposes and to provide humane[ii] treatment to them. As the interest of humans is given consideration, the same should be given to non-human animals also known as animal liberation[iii]. People who work for animal rights require animals to be regarded as individuals and not as personal property. They often cover areas like aquariums and zoos as these are the places where most of the testing is done on animals and pets[iv]. Every human being has ethics and morals, the concept of animal rights is developed on the philosophy of morals and ethics.
Jeremy Bentham was the great influencer of social and political change in England. He was the opinion for the welfare and rights of the animals, quoted that-
“The question is not can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”
Social movements bring people together on the aspect of cultural, political and religious topics, where people fight against injustice. Working on animals and their rights is a social movement where people work on their own conscience, which brings people together and work on the things which can’t talk but can still suffer injustice. Discrimination is not only on the basis of religion, race, caste, creed and colour but it is also on the basis of species which is called speciesism[v].
Every living creature on this Earth has the right to live, free from pain and torture. Animal rights is not merely a philosophy. It challenges society on the traditional views and morals that all non-human animals are made for the use of humans. Animals have an equal capacity as all humans. They can listen, understand, feel pain, pleasure and fear. When we humans do anything, which would interfere with their needs, we have a moral obligation to take them into account.
History shows us that people were working on animal welfare and their rights. In 1822, UK passed the first legislation ‘Martins Act’[vi] for the welfare and protection of the animals. The Act was mainly for horses and cattle. The society’s main focus was on enforcement of the law and when needed, there should be prosecution. Two years later, in 1824 there was an establishment of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which later in 1840, became Royal SPCA
In 1860, Mary Tealby established the Battersea Dog for all the strays in order to end their difficulty caused due to living on streets and thus became the first woman to found an organisation on British animal welfare[vii].
A book by Peter Singer named ‘Animal Liberation’[viii] has played an important role in motivating the activists of that time in increasing the movements on animals.
1970 was the time where the movement for animals started splitting into two i.e., animal welfare and animal rights. Many organisations in Europe and North America extended their focus from national to international issues and tackling higher issues like fur, whaling, dog eating, bear dancing, etc. In 1988, the first international campaign was started which was called the ‘No fur campaign’.
In India, a ban on the killing of animals started from Ashoka’s time which is during the 3rd century. After the great war when Ashoka became Buddhist in his edicts[ix], he expresses concerns over the many animals killed to serve him meals. Ashoka banned animal hunting and he established first of the animal rights laws. He made it illegal to kill animals like parrots, monkeys, squirrels, etc. for sacrifice[x].
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Central Government has introduced various acts to curb nuisance against animals. The main acts which were introduced to prevent cruelty against animals are ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960′ and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972[xi]. Section 50 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 gives authority to the Chief Wildlife Warden, Director, any forest officer, any officer authorized by them or any police officer who is not below the rank of sub-inspector to arrest any person and detain him without the warrant, but should have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an act[xii]. Our Constitution of India also recognises the lives and welfare of animals under Article 51A(G) of Fundamental Duty, where every citizen of India is to protect wildlife and for all living creatures have compassion towards them[xiii].
The Government of India has faced various issues regarding the protection of animal rights. Considering the past history and present, animals are treated for personal use and are been tortured. Despite the various laws enacted by the Government, animals are still used for cosmetic testing, kept in battery cages, forced to perform in a circus. For instance, after the stray dogs give birth, they are neglected and are thrown back from the place they were picked, despite being very vulnerable after surgery and are also subjected to cruelty. Animals are being used for food, the skin is used for clothes and are used for experimentation. They are burned alive, tarnished, used for entertainment in movies and circus and forced to do things which is horrible.
India is known for being the land of Elephants and Tigers. Hindu mythology talks about Gods riding animals like peacocks, tigers, rats, etc. There are various challenges which government has to go through. The first big challenge is lack of political will, neglect in wildlife, illegal hunting of animals for using it as a showpiece, religious practices which use animals as a sacrifice. With issues and challenges like these, there have to be stark measures taken but people first have to understand the truth and the adverse effect taking place in the environment. People are rational beings. Once they understand the stark truth, they will modify their behaviour towards wildlife. There are rays of hope, many organisations, individuals and groups have understood the reality and are trying to generate pragmatic solutions.
[ii] PubMed Central (PMC). 2021. Humane Treatment of Animals. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1494506/?page=1> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[iii] Yourdictionary.com. 2021. Animal-liberation Meaning | Best 1 Definitions of Animal-liberation. [online] Available at: <https://www.yourdictionary.com/animal-liberation> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[iv] US Legal, I., 2021. Animal Rights Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc.. [online] Definitions.uslegal.com. Available at: <https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/animal-rights/> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[v] Bbc.co.uk. 2021. BBC – Ethics – Animal ethics: The ethics of speciesism. [online] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/rights/speciesism.shtml> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[vi] http://www.animalethics.org.uk/i-ch6-4-martin.html ‘Martin Act’ was introduced by Richard Martin who was an Irish Politician also a human and animal activist. The Act was the first parliamentary law to proscribe cruelty to animals in any country. The Act was introduced to ban all the ill-treatments that are done on animals mainly cattle and sheep.
[viii] PETA. 2021. What Is Animal Liberation? Philosopher Peter Singer’s Groundbreaking Work Turns 40 | PETA. [online] Available at: <https://www.peta.org/about-peta/learn-about-peta/ingrid-newkirk/animal-liberation/> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[ix] http://think-differently-about-sheep.com/Animal_Rights_A_History_King%20Asoka.htm edicts – the fourteen rock edicts, minor rock edicts, the seven pillar edicts.
[xi] Furtado, R., 2021. Animal rights in India: The most underrated topic of environmental law – iPleaders. [online] iPleaders. Available at: <https://blog.ipleaders.in/cruelty-animals-india/> [Accessed 13 July 2021].
[xiii] iPleaders. 2021. A compilation of animal protection law in India or animal protection laws. [online] Available at: <https://blog.ipleaders.in/animal-protection-laws-in-india/> [Accessed 13 July 2021].