India is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world containing four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. It is home to animals ranging from the Bengal Tigers to the Great Indian Rhinoceros and animal protection and welfare in the country has taken a prominent position over the recent years. Protection of animals is enshrined as a fundamental duty in the Indian Constitution and there exist several animal welfare legislations in India such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level and cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislations at the State levels.
We are standing on the land where animals have been worshipped and sacrificed to deities, all the same, since time immemorial. It raises a question as to what kind of culture this nation has: Pro-animals or killings of animals in the name of religion? The answer to this lies in the rich heritage and cultural diversity of this land. Its origin can be seen in the Vedas and Upanishads whereby these texts might have been misinterpreted by the followers as it is rightly pointed out in the State of Karnataka and anr. v. Dr. Praveen Bhai Thogadia that, “the chore of religion based upon spiritual values, which the Vedas, Upanishad and Puranas were said to reveal to mankind seem to be -“Love others, serve others, help ever, hurt never” and “Sarvae Jana Sukhino Bhavantoo”. One-upmanship in the name of religion, whichever it be or at whomsoever’s instance it be, would render constitutional designs countermanded and chaos, claiming its heavy toll on society and humanity as a whole, may be the inevitable evil consequences, whereof.”
Humanity, as a concept, is really hard to define and so does it seem to follow it: resulting thereby in causing attacks on animals in an inhumane manner. It is certainly shocking to one’s conscience when the civilisation has moved from one barbaric society to present-day civilised society and yet the civility of man seems to be moving backward. However, it would be unfair to say that humans develop irrational animosity towards wildlife because the wild animals devastate their lives by destroying their crops. Rather it is a vicious cycle whereby: humans, due to their various activities, have decreased the natural habitat of these animals and as a result of it, animals approach the human settlements and humans develop a harsh attitude towards such animals.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 is the official criminal code of India which covers all substantive aspects of criminal law to overcome the barriers of animal protection. Section 428 and 429 of the IPC provides for punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering use less of animals. The aforementioned legislations have been enacted to obviate unnecessary pain and suffering of animals and similar legislations continue to be enacted according to changing circumstances. Notwithstanding specific statutes, further protections for animals lie under general concepts such as tort law, constitutional law, etc.