In a monumental step forward for animals, last week the Uttarakhand High Court declared that all animals, including birds and aquatic animals, have the “rights, duties and liabilities of a living person,” according to The Indian Express.
In 2014 Narayan Dutt Bhatt filed a petition to restrict the movement of horse carts, or tongas, between India and Nepal. But last week the High Court expanded the scope of the petition to promote the protection and improve the welfare of all animals. The High Court directed the state that no animal, including horses, would carry any excess weight and banned the use of any sharp equipment “to avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions, or severe pain” to animals.
An order given by the Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh states:
The entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
The balance between the rights of farmed animals and those of humans in India is yet to be ascertained.
An article on TheQuint.com observes:
If we are to truly recognize all animals universally as legal persons having rights against exploitation, and being entitled to protection, we would have to completely overhaul our legal system. We would have to eliminate the use of animal labour and bodies for our agricultural, medicinal, nutritional and recreational needs.
Indeed, animals raised and killed at the hands of agriculture suffer immensely around the world.
Chickens used for meat are confined in overcrowded, filthy sheds in near darkness. Bred to grow unnaturally fast, they endure chronic, debilitating pain and frequently become immobilised under their own weight. They also suffer organ failure and other problems because of rapid growth.
At the slaughterhouse, these innocent animals are violently shackled upside down, painfully shocked with electricity, and cut open at the throat—often while still conscious and able to feel pain.
And cows in the dairy industry don’t have it any better.
In the dairy industry, newborn calves are separated from their mothers to prevent them from drinking their mothers’ milk. This practice is very common. In a 2000 interview, Maneka Gandhi, head of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, explained:
No cow lives out her normal life span. She is milked, made sick and then killed. Even worse happens to her child. The male calves are tied up and starved to death. Or sent to the slaughterhouses. It is not by chance that a calf is no longer called bachda in India. It is called katra, which means one who is to be killed. … In Mumbai every year 80,000 calves are forcibly put to death.
Don’t believe it? Watch this Mercy For Animals footage of calves being ripped from their mothers’ sides within hours of birth.
Gauri Maulekhi, a member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, says that animals forced into dairy production are kept in atrocious conditions with no shelter from extreme weather. “Animals are tethered with such short ropes that they are unable to lift their head, turn around, groom themselves or even ward off the flies that the filthy surroundings attract,” she explains. Unwanted animals, if they are not sold and transported for slaughter outside India, are abandoned on the street.
So while this is a huge step forward for many animal species throughout India, questions about how it will affect farmed animals remain unanswered.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to stop contributing to the suffering of animals like chickens, cows, pigs, lambs, or fish. By leaving all animal products off your plate, you can help end some of the cruelest forms of animal exploitation.