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This article is written by Ankita Jangid from Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan, and Nikunj Arora of Amity Law School, Noida. This article deals with the various laws for the protection of animals in India. 

Table of Contents


India is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world and consists of 2.4 % of the world’s land area that accounts for 7-8% of all recorded species including 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. It is a home of many animal species ranging from Bengal tigers to the Great Indian rhinoceros. Animal species are considered essential components of the environment. They serve many purposes like domestication and act as workers and resources that help humans to a great extent. 

The Constitution of India is a document that expresses the constitutional principles, outlines the rights and duties of its citizens, establishes the guiding principles of its state policy, and provides structure and powers to institutions of government. Indian Constitution recognizes that animals have inherent sanctity and prescribes that citizens have a duty to protect them and treat them with dignity.

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An international animal welfare organization, the World Animal Protection, has developed the Animal Protection Index (API), in which 50 nations are evaluated based on their animal welfare policies. The index establishes which country has the highest score (A) and lowest score (G). India was rated ‘C’ on the Animal Protection Index released in 2020, alongside Spain, France, Germany, and Poland. Meanwhile, nations like the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark were ranked in the ‘B’ band. With a rating of ‘G’, Iran was the weakest country, and no country got a band score of A. While India’s performance in the 2020 Animal Protection Index was average, the scores suggested that the animal welfare laws in place in India are quite weak as compared to other nations and that the inefficiency of the current legal framework is a significant reason for the increasing number of animal cruelty cases n the country.

According to Article 51(g) of the Indian Constitution, Indian citizens shall be obliged to preserve and improve the environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. This article focuses on various rights of the animals in India that one might not be aware of.

Animals are also essential for maintaining the ecological balance on the earth. In recent years, the protection and welfare of animals have taken a prominent place in the country. Every year billions of animals are exploited by humans for their benefit and put them in a position to suffer harm and pain. Various legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are there to protect the animal life on earth. The constitution of India has also recognized the sanctity of animal life and laid down protection and treatment of animals with dignity as a fundamental duty of the citizens of India. This article will focus on the various legislation and laws for wildlife protection. 

Overview of Animal Rights

Why animal rights

Most of us eat meat, wear leather, and attend zoos and circuses. There are many of us who buy dogs and birds as pets and then keep them in cages. It is normal for humans to wear wool and silk, eat chicken burgers and do fishing-related activities. However, we never give consideration to the effects that these actions will have on animals. The fundamental principle of equality, according to Peter Singer in his book, does not require equal or identical treatment, but it does require equal consideration. The distinction is particularly significant when considering animal rights.

Animals deserve to be free from suffering and exploitation. They also can experience pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love. Most animal rights activists believe and consider animals to possess an inherent value.  It is important to recognize that animal rights is not a philosophy, but is also part of a broader social movement that confronts society’s traditional view that animals exist solely for human consumption

The only thing that can allow us to deny other people the rights that we expect to enjoy for ourselves, is prejudice. No matter what the reason is, whether it is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, it is believed that prejudice is morally wrong. For example, it would be unreasonable to eat a pig if someone would not eat a dog. There is no difference in the ability of dogs and pigs to feel pain. It is prejudice based on species that allows us to consider one animal to be our companion and the other as our meal.

It has been held in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja and Ors.(2014) that the animals also possess honour and dignity and that they cannot be arbitrarily deprived of them. According to the Court, the rights and privacy of the animals need to be protected from unlawful attacks. Accordingly, the right to dignity was extended and is not just limited to human beings.

Animal welfare v. Animal rights

According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal welfare theories are based on the assumption that animals have interests and rights, however, these interests may be traded away if there are human benefits to justify the sacrifice.

The concept of animal rights, on the other hand, refers to the fact that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be abandoned or traded away just for the sake of benefiting others. The rights of humans do not hold that the rights are absolute, this is quite similar to the case of animal rights too. An animal’s rights should be limited, and there can be a conflict between them. As part of animal rights, animals should not be used as food, clothing, entertainment, or for experimentation. In terms of animal welfare, these uses are permitted as long as a humane standard of care is observed.

In the eyes of animal welfare supporters, animals should receive humane treatment while in captivity. Moreover, they acknowledge that there are certain areas in which animal use by humans can be justified. The use of animals by humans is acceptable in some theories of animal welfare as long as the animals are treated humanely. Many people advocate humane treatment of animals and deprive them of unnecessary suffering. Animal rights proponents can be extremists too, just as there are many people who support animal welfare. There is an overwhelming belief among animal rights supporters that stopping all human consumption of animals is the only way to preserve their rights since they deserve the same rights as humans. On the other hand, the supporters of animal welfare believe that as long as animals are treated well and not in a cruel manner, there is nothing wrong with the use and consumption of the animals.

Cruelty against animals in India

In Re: Bruno vs Union Of India (2021) The Kerala High Court acted suomotu on reports of a violent killing of a labrador dog in Thiruvananthapuram in protest of the lack of executive and legislative measures for the protection of animals. Bruno was brutally killed on Adimalathura beach on the outskirts of Trivandrum by three men using a heavy stick to strike the animal, hanging it from a boat, and hitting it again until it appeared to be dead. The Kerala High Court issued a number of instructions in the case. It was renamed “In re Bruno”. The two-judge bench of Justices Nambiar and Gopinath P. called it a fitting tribute to the hapless dog that died because of human cruelty.

The HC ordered the DG of Prosecution to prepare a report and to give Bruno’s case personal attention. In regard to the Prevention of Cruelties to Animals Act, it instructed the advisory board to submit a report setting out a feasible action plan in one month to sensitize the populace about its duties and responsibilities toward animals and their rights. According to the High Court, the Additional Advocate General is to inform the Court about the steps taken to restructure and revive the State Welfare Animal Board. Furthermore, the HC expressed concern over the poor conditions of veterinary hospitals and allied infrastructure and directed the state government to improve these facilities. The HC referred to the well-known Nagaraja Case (already discussed above) in which the SC read the five freedoms into sections 3 and 11 of the PCA and upheld the notification banning any kind of bull racing. The HC recommended that the state organize and promote animal adoption camps regularly (not less than thrice per year). The district administration was requested to be given the power to deal with such complaints by the state government

Various forms of cruelty are committed against animals by humans. Animal cruelty is most commonly committed against dogs, cats, horses, and cattle. Experimentation, dogfighting, hoarding, genetic manipulation, puppy mills, circuses, animal smuggling, and sexual harassment of animals are some of the ways animals are abused. The following are some of the ways:

Experiments on animals:

Researchers use non-human animals in laboratories to conduct tests, experiments, and research on a variety of biological problems. New medications, treatment methods, and surgical techniques are tested on animals to ensure that they are safe for use in humans. Humans make animals endure distress, pain, and even death, all for the sake of benefiting themselves. Even though research or tests can be successful for humans, animals’ right to life is violated. In addition to medical tests, animals are used to test foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc. On 23rd May 2014, India banned animal testing for cosmetics. The Drugs and Cosmetics (Fifth Amendment) Rules, 2014 prohibited the importation of cosmetic products that had been tested on animals. First, in South Asia, India has taken a stance against animal cruelty and has banned the use of animals in cosmetic testing. Despite efforts to eradicate animal testing in India, animals are still being used for drug testing. In order to verify whether a new drug is safe and effective, it must be tested on humans, regardless of the positive results of animal testing. Therefore, we are in need of new legislation and amendments to the current legislation that will help reduce animal drug testing and introduce alternatives to it. 

Animal fights:

Dogfighting in India is illegal, but it is quite common. In dogfighting, dogs are trained to fight for the pleasure of spectators and for financial gain. The sport is practised both in rural and urban areas. A dogfight usually ends with one dog being declared the winner and the other crippled or killed. Besides dogfighting, there are also other animal fights and races such as cockfighting, bullfighting, etc.

In the case of AWBI v. A Nagaraja (2014), the Supreme Court ruled that bulls are suffering tremendous pain and stress during bull races like Jallikattu. Therefore, the contention made by the Indian Animal Welfare Board that Jallikattu is against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was accepted by the court and Jallikattu was made illegal together with another animal fighting.  However, as a result of the protests, the Tamil Nadu government later passed an Ordinance that permitted Jallikattu and its other forms in many parts of Tamil Nadu. According to Sections 11(1) (m) and 11(1) (n) of the 1960 Act, organizing, participating in, or inciting animal fights is a crime.

Manipulation of genetics:

In genetic engineering, animals are created just to meet human needs and are treated as if they were nothing more than possessions for humans. Such animals have no right to life. The genetic manipulation of animals would only benefit mankind at the expense of their lives. In addition to having higher productivity, transgenic animals are more likely to contract infectious diseases. 

Currently, there is no law in India to prevent animal cruelty caused by genetic modification. However, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 regulates genetically modified organisms and their products.  In India, it is regulated under the Rules for the manufacture, use, import and storage of hazardous microorganisms, genetically engineered organisms or cells, 1989, which are notified by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.


Although circuses are presented as entertainment, animals are abused and tortured behind the scenes. It is often the case that circuses force animals to perform in dangerous ways and as a result, they are beaten or severely abused. Even though tigers have a natural aversion to fire, they are forced to jump through fire hoops. Elephants, being the largest land animals in existence, are forced to ride bicycles. Additionally, sloth bears are forced to dance.

Since 2001, circuses no longer operated free and are now subject to the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, notified under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It is forbidden to display, exhibit, or perform with animals without a mandatory license under the prescribed rules. Furthermore, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, animals were banned from being used in performances. In a landmark decision of N.R. Nair and Ors. v. Union of India (2001), the Kerala High Court held that wild animals, like bears, tigers, panthers, monkeys, and lions could not be taught or exhibited as performing animals under any circumstances.

Illegal trading/smuggling of animals:

increased. A ruling by the Supreme Court of India in Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India and Ors. (2016) prohibited the illegal trafficking of cattle to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival. Among the largest festivals in India, the Gadhimai festival is a huge event where a large number of animals are sacrificed to the goddess Gadhimai (goddess of power).

Sexual harassment:

Earlier, according to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code,1860, sexual offences against animals are punishable. However, it was held in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018), that the Supreme Court of India decriminalized unnatural offences under Section 377. Section 377 also had provisions for sexual abuses against animals. Though the decriminalization of this provision was intended to protect LGBTQ+ communities’ rights, but it adversely impacted animal rights.

Historical background of animal laws in India

In Indian culture, animals have always been an entrenched part of the ethos of this culture which consists of several species of both domesticated and wild being cherished and worshipped. Animals are considered as the creation of “The Almighty” and also a deep sense of respect, love to the almighty with his extended creations on earth like trees, forests, rivers, mountains, etc. There exists a universal concept of harmony between humans, animals, and the environment that become a part of the spiritual life of its people. Still, there are many places where people have worshipped animals because they believe that animals act as a messenger of God for them. 

Different kinds of attitudes are shown by humans towards animals in different eras. Vedas (the first scriptures of Hinduism) teaches ahimsa and non-violence towards all living organisms. Similarly in Jainism and Buddhism, the practice of vegetarianism and avoiding killing animals have followed to a great extent. Despite this, meat-eating was still common in ancient times. 

The  Britishers also showed their concern for the rights of animals. The first Indian society was founded by Briton Colesworthy for the prevention of cruelty to animals in 1861 in Calcutta. After this many movements arose in the late 1800s in northern parts of India against the slaughter of cattle. 

After independence, the first animal welfare law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, criminalizes cruelty against animals. The Act also contains provisions for scientific experiments.

Various legislation for protecting animal rights

A lot of provisions were enacted by the government of India to safeguard the interest of animals. Animal welfare and the protection of animals have been given utmost importance by the legislature as animals are voiceless, they cannot express their feelings, and it is crucial to support animal rights just like how human rights are supported. Various legislation to protect animal rights are discussed below:

The Constitution of India, 1960 

India is one of the many countries that have animal welfare laws that are drafted with the necessary provisions relating to the protection and safeguarding of the interest of animals’ rights. The Constitution of India as supreme law of the land also deals with the protection of rights of animals under the ambit of Fundamental duties and the Directive principle of state policy. Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the expression ‘life’ has been expanded to include all forms of life including animal life which is essential for human life. Moreover, the Right to Dignity and fair treatment is also significant to animal rights.

Article 48 A states that the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the country’s forests and wildlife. 

Article 51 A (g) states that every citizen has a fundamental duty to safeguard and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and animals as well as to have compassion for living creatures.

The above Constitutional provisions were introduced by the 42nd amendment in 1976. These provisions are not directly enforceable by courts but provide a base for legislation, policies, and laws in further animal protection at the central and state levels. 

The concurrent list (Seventh Schedule) of the Indian Constitution gives power to central and state to make laws on: 

  • Prevention of cruelty to animals
  • Protection of wild animals and birds 

The Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted by Parliament in the year of 1960. The Act’s objective is to prevent the infliction of pain or suffering on animals and amend the laws related to the prevention of cruelty to animals. The word ‘animal’ is defined as ‘any living creature other than a human being’. The most significant part of the Act is given under chapter II which prescribes the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board of India to protect animals from being subjected to unnecessary pain. The AWBI performs the following functions: 

  • To advise the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while storing animals for experiments, transporting animals, etc.
  • To encourage financial assistance, animal shelters, and rescue homes for old animals.
  • To advise the government on medical care and assistance for animal hospitals.
  • Imparting education and awareness on animal welfare using books, lectures, posters, advertisements.
  • To advise the central government regarding the general matters on animal welfare.

Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, provides different variants of cruelty to animals that are:

  1. Beating, kicking, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary injury, harm to any animal;
  2. Employing any animal having any disease or unfit to be so employed;
  3. Administered any injurious drug or substance wilfully or unreasonably to any animal;
  4. Conveying or carrying either in or upon any vehicle in such a way as to subject it to suffering;
  5. Confining any animal in any cage or receptacle which does not measure property in height, length, and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for move;
  6. Keeping an animal for an unreasonable time in any heavy chained or chord;
  7. Being an owner fails to provide the animal with sufficient food, water, and shelter;
  8. Abandoning an animal without any reasonable care;
  9. Wilfully permitting an owned animal to roam on streets or leaving it on the streets to die of disease or disability;
  10. Offering an animal for sale which is suffering from pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, or other ill-treatment without any reasonable cause;
  11. Mutilated or killing any animal by using the methods of strychnine injections; 
  12. Using an animal as bait for another animal solely for entertainment;
  13. Organizing, keeping, or managing any place for animal fighting;
  14. Promotes or takes part in any competition wherein the animals are released from captivity for shooting.

However,  the Act does not consider cruelty on animals if-

  • Dehorning of cattle, castration, or branding of any animal done in a prescribed manner
  • Destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers done in a prescribed manner 
  • Extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law

If a person committing any acts as mentioned in Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act,1960 shall be punishable, 

  • In case of a first offense, with a fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees, and ;
  • In case of a subsequent offense committed within 3 years of the previous offense, with a fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to, one hundred rupees with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or both.

How to file a complaint

Every citizen has a responsibility to protect animal rights. An observer of cruelty to an animal may contact their local police station or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to assist in enforcing the law to punish the perpetrator. You can report animal cruelty directly to the following organizations:

  • Local police station.
  • SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
  • Senior Government officials at the State or District Animal Welfare Board.
  • MLA for the area.

The victim has the option of filing a police report against the accused and providing the police with a concise written statement along with a photograph. In such a case, the person may be legally charged under Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC, both of which are considered to be cognizable and bailable offences. These sections are as follows:

Section 428 reads as:

“Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards shall be punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of two years with fine, or with both.”

Section 429 reads as:

“Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards shall be punishable with imprisonment of a term which may extend up to five years, or with fine, or both.”

It should be noted that the above provisions defined under Chapter XVII of the IPC pertain only to animals with monetary value, whether it be more than ten rupees or fifty rupees as defined in the above sections. As strays do not belong to households and do not hold a monetary value, these provisions rarely lead to the commission of a crime. Thus, if stray animals suffer cruelty, it is very difficult to apply these provisions since stray animals have not been purchased from pet stores and thus do not have a monetary value, nor can they be regarded as someone’s property. However, there are several non-profit organizations that provide online access to register complaints regarding animal abuse. Any individual wishing to file a complaint is encouraged to visit the websites of animal welfare organizations.

Draft Animal Welfare Act, 2011:

In 2010, it was announced in the Lok Sabha that the Ministry of Environment and Forests would introduce a Bill titled Animal Welfare Act that would provide steeper penalties for animal cruelty in India. As a result, the Animal Welfare Board of India drafted a proposal known as the Animal Welfare Act, 2011, to repeal the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The goal was to introduce more stringent penalties for cruelty against animals and to broaden the definition of animal abuse.

Under the draft Act, the first-time offenders may be sentenced to imprisonment up to two years and may be fined as much as twenty-five thousand rupees. The punishment for a subsequent offence may range from a maximum of three years in prison to a fine of up to one lakh rupees. However, the Parliament still needs to approve this Bill.

Accordingly, in 2016, the AWBI prepared a new draft, namely the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This measure was initiated as a reaction to the recent rise in incidents of animal abuse and the scant punishments provided under the 1960 Act. An appeal was made by the AWB and several NGOs to the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to consider this bill in Parliament. Unfortunately, the bill has not been passed yet.

Rules under the Act

A number of rules have been enacted to regulate every aspect of animals under this Act:

Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965:

This rule prescribes the maximum and minimum load to be carried by pack animals (pack animals are those who are used to carrying loads). Animals shall not be used in drawing vehicles or load for more than nine hours a day without adequate rest and in areas where the temperature exceeds 37 degrees Celsius, particularly at noon, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Performing Animals Rules, 1973:

The purpose of this rule is to regulate the rights of performing animals. The guidelines restrict the use of animals in displaying and training for performances for public performances unless the individual running the event is a person that has been licensed under the Parent Act. A general ban also applies to bears, tigers, monkeys, panthers, and lions. It is important to realize, however, that animals used for police or military purposes may be an exception to this rule.

Transport of Animals Rules, 1978:

In this rule, guidelines for transporting various animals including monkeys, poultry, cattle, etc. are included. Furthermore, it lays out strict requirements for the size of transport cages. 

Slaughter House Rules, 2001:

The rule states that animals are not permitted to be slaughtered anywhere other than in a recognized or registered slaughterhouse. Apart from the Act, animal sacrifice is also prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001:

A strict set of guidelines is provided in this Rule regarding  controlled breeding, inoculation, and sterilization of dogs. This rule also mentions euthanizing dogs. A committee-appointed qualified veterinary doctor will be able to euthanize street dogs who are incurably ill or injured as per a humane method using the drugs sodium pentathol for adults or Thiopental Intraperitoneal for puppies under the guidance of the committee. There are also provisions in this rule on how to handle rabid or infected dogs.  

The Wildlife Protection Act,1972

In India, the primary laws related to wildlife are found in the Wildlife Protection Act,1972. The Act prohibits the killing, trapping, poaching, poisoning, or harming of any wild animal or bird. This Act is the first legislation that provides a broad list of endangered wildlife species. The provision of this Act applies to various states and regions. It also provides the establishment of wildlife advisory boards for the protection of wildlife in every state to tackle the situation. The provisions for the protection of aquatic life (marine animals), birds, and zoo animals are also covered under the Act. The definition of wildlife under the Act includes any animal, aquatic, or land vegetation that forms part of any habitat. 

  • The Act provides the establishment of welfare advisory boards (Section 6) and various duties of the boards (Section 8). 
  • Hunting includes poisoning, killing, trapping any wild animals, or attempting to do so. Carrying or driving any animal for transport purposes that cause injury to any animals or on their body parts, killing the eggs of the reptiles and birds, or disturbing their nest or eggs of the birds and reptiles are such activities that fall under the ambit of hunting. The Act prohibits the hunting of any wild animal specified in schedules I, II, and III (Section 9). Furthermore, the Act permits the hunting of wild animals in certain cases as provided in Section 11
  • The Act allows the Center and State governments to declare any area ‘restricted’ for the wildlife sanctuary, National park, etc. 
  • Further, the Act prohibits the transportation of any wild animals, birds, plants except in the cases where permission is taken from the chief wildlife warden or any official authorized by the state government (Section 48 A)
  • The purchasing of wild animals from dealers without a license is prohibited under Section 49 of the Act. 

The Indian Penal Code,1860

Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code provides legal penalty for the offenses related to maiming and killing of animals. Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code provides punishment for misconduct of killing or maiming an animal for the value of ten rupees or more. It states that ‘whoever commits the offense of killing, maiming, poisoning, or rendering useless any animal for the rupees of ten or more than shall be punished with the imprisonment for up to ten years or with fine or both. While Section 429 of the Code deals with the penalty for the same offense, but concerning animals worth 50 rupees or upwards. The offense shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine or both.

The rights of animals in India

Right to Life:

According to Article 21, everyone has the right to life and personal liberty and cannot be deprived of either, unless established by law. The Supreme Court in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja and Ors.(2014) (already discussed above), specifically ruled on Article 21 in favour of animals.

According to the Apex Court, under the law of the land, every species has a right to life and security. In addition to protecting human rights, Article 21 of the Constitution protects life, and the meaning of the word ‘life’ has been expanded, and therefore, any disruption of the basic environment, which includes all forms of life, including animal life, and which is necessary for human survival, falls within the meaning of this article. The Court referred to the term ‘life’ as something more than survival or existence or any instrumental value, but to live a life that has an intrinsic value, dignity, and honourable behaviour.

Right of preservation:

According to Article 48, as a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, the State is required to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and, in particular, to preserve and improve the breeds of cows, calves, and other milk- and draught-beef cattle and to prohibit their slaughter. In India, cow slaughter is a deeply sensitive issue because cows are revered as sacred animals by various sects such as Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists.

During Abdul Hakim Qureshi v. State of Bihar (1961), the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the cow slaughter ban laws in Bihar. The Petitioner asserted that the laws violated the fundamental right to freedom of religion, under Article 25 of the Constitution, of the Muslims as they were interfering with the practice of traditions associated with their religion. The petitioner cited the example of the sacrifice of cows on Bakr-Id Day. In its judgement, the Supreme Court of India ruled that none of the Islamic texts, including the Hidaya and the Quran, authorized cow slaughter. Instead, goats or camels were permitted to be sacrificed. Therefore, the Court ruled that banning cow slaughter in its entirety does not infringe on the right to freedom of religion of Muslims. According to the Court, the directive applies only to cows, calves, and other animals which are capable of producing milk or that can work in drought conditions.

In the case of, Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. State of Bihar (1959), the Supreme Court decided that a total ban on cattle slaughter was not legal if, under monetary circumstances, keeping useless cattle would burden on the society. The Supreme Court overruled this position in State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat (2005) in which it ruled that Article 48 bans the slaughter of cows and their offspring. According to it, cattle that have served the human species for many generations should be treated with compassion in their old age even though they are useless. In addition, the Court ruled that citizens must show compassion towards animals based on a combination of Article 48 and Article 51- A(g) of the Constitution. In addition, the Court ruled that animals are entitled to their own fundamental rights. Specifically, Article 48 provides that the state should endeavour to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves, and other dairy and draught cattle.

Right of compassion:

The Indian Constitution stipulates in Article 51A (g) that we have a fundamental duty to protect wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures. As a result, animals have the right to be treated with compassion.  According to the Supreme Court, Article 51A (g), as well as Article 51A (h), constitute the pillars of animal rights jurisprudence in India. The Supreme Court of India held in State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat and Ors (2005) that the Parliament enacted Article 51A in order to be read with Articles 48 and 48A, thereby ensuring that all provisions are read with the spirit of the law.

No animal shall be slaughtered:

Indian culture considers animal sacrifice to be a sensitive topic. Even though it is against the law to slaughter animals for religious sacrifices in public, what happens in practice is very different. There are numerous warnings and advisories, but the blatant violation of the law continues throughout the country. Under the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, it is illegal to slaughter an animal in public. Thus, the Act states that, in any state of India, a slaughterhouse has to be designated for the slaughters that occur within municipal corporation limits. Each slaughterhouse and the number of animals sacrificed in the area should be proportional to the population of such an area.

According to Rule 3 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001 it is illegal to slaughter any animal (including chickens) anywhere other than a slaughterhouse. Animals that are sick or pregnant must not be slaughtered.

Nobody, other than the official authorities, can capture or relocate strays that have been surgically sterilized for birth control:

According to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, which are notified under the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, the control of stray populations and the spread of rabies is possible through the practice of sterilisation and immunisation, rather than through dislocation and killing of animals. In the event of a conflict between these Rules and any local laws, the Rules shall prevail, unless the local law is less stringent. Additionally, it shall be the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure that stray dogs which have been sterilized can be identified to the extent that they can be returned to their territory.

Right to sufficient food, drink and shelter:

Section 11(1)(h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 provides that if any person, being the owner of an animal, does not provide that animal with adequate food, water or shelter, such an act will constitute cruelty towards the animal. If a person neglects an animal by denying it adequate food, water, shelter and exercise, or by keeping it chained or confined too long, they could be punished by a fine or jail time of up to 3 months, or both.

Right of monkeys as a special species:

It should be noted that the langur is a protected species under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. By virtue of the Act, it is illegal for people to trade, own, buy, sell, or hire out langurs. If this law is violated, there will be a penalty of a three-year jail time or a fine, or both. However, it was seen that many government organizations were openly violating the law by hiring poachers and even providing ID cards to these so-called owners of langurs. These poachers actually stole the monkeys from the forests. It was on October, 15 2012 that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau notified all government departments that langurs cannot be hired and that any currently employed langurs must be removed.

No cosmetics shall be tested on animals:  

PETA India made recommendations to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which resulted in the release of the new Cosmetics Rules, 2020. The prescribed rules introduced a separate and updated regulatory framework for the testing, manufacturing, selling, exhibiting, and importing of cosmetic products. The rules also included the provisions ensuring that the ban on the importation of cosmetics tested on animals is strictly enforced. India became the first Asian country to prohibit the testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals along with the ban on the importation of products tested. A key feature of the prescribed rules is that any harm caused to animals cannot be justified by the potential benefits of new cosmetics.

Right of protection against hunting:

Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 prohibits hunting of certain wild animals, such as Indian Elephants, Indian Lions, Snow Leopards, Tigers, Great Indian Bustards, etc. In the case of Mahaveer Nath v. UOI (2019), the petitioner challenged Section 9 of the Act on the basis of the restrictions outlined in this section. According to him, the section deprived him of his right to livelihood. The petitioner argued that Section 9 of this Act prohibited him from keeping snakes, and therefore, it shall be considered a violation of the right to trade and right to life under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution, respectively. The Court then emphasized that Article 19(1)(g) was not an absolute right but a qualified right, and that reasonable constraints could be imposed on it for the general welfare of the community. 

Right against harm and mischief:

In accordance with Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, it is illegal to maim, kill, poison, or disable any animal. The throwing of acid or other substances on cows is also prohibited. Furthermore, the Act prohibits cars from intentionally causing injury to or killing dogs, cats, or cows while they are on the road. The offence is punishable by a fine of Rs. 2000 or imprisonment for up to five years, and may be reported to a police station or animal protection group.

No animal shall be fed poisonous food or drugs:

A person is not prohibited from feeding animals living in the streets. Each citizen is morally obligated to provide food for stray animals who are dependent on us for survival. However, feeding poisonous food to stray animals or administering any injurious substance or drug to them is not considered a moral obligation. According to Section 11(1)(c) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, such conduct shall be considered illegal.  

No animal should be kept in a cage:

Section 11(1)(e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 provides that it is illegal to confine or keep any animal (pets or strays) in a cage or container that causes it unreasonable suffering and pain. If the animal must be enclosed in a container, then the container should be sufficiently large, wide, and tall for the animal to be able to move about comfortably. 

Right against display for entertainment:

According to Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is prohibited to exhibit or train animals. In case a person is doing so, such a person shall possess legal documentation from the government. In addition, the Central Government has the authority to declare that a particular animal cannot be displayed for entertainment purposes by notifying it in its official gazette.

Various rules related to the protection of animals 

  • The Prevention to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001: Certain provisions are provided under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 named as Slaughter House rules, 2001. The Act defines the ‘slaughter’ as the killing of any animal for food and ‘slaughter house’ as a place where 10 or more than 10 animals are slaughtered per day and is duly licensed under a Central or State or Provincial Act or any rules and regulations made thereunder. Section 3 (2) of the Act prohibits slaughtering any animal which is pregnant, has an offspring of fewer than three months, is under the age of three months, or has not been certified by a veterinary doctor. Slaughtering of animals in slums areas, roadside meat shops or in dhabas, or private houses is prohibited. Further, the Act provides the basic requirements for a slaughterhouse.
  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965: The Rules contain the provisions for the prevention and protection of animals from unnecessary pain, cruelty, torture when used to draw carriages and loaded with packs and people. Small buffaloes/bullocks, ponies, horses or mules, camels are used to carry vehicles according to the general conditions as specified in Section 6 of the Act.  The Act also provides the rules for the use of draught and pack animals and the maximum load permitted on draught and pack animals. 
  • The Transport of Animals Rules,1978: The rules provide the general conditions for the transport of animals, that is, they should be in good condition, fit for transportation. During transportation, pregnant, diseased, or young animals must be separated from other animals. Overloading of animals amounts to treating an animal cruelly under the provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. 
  • The Animal Protection (Dogs) Rules, 2001: These provide the rules relating to pets and street dogs. 
  • The Performing Animals Rules, 1973: A performing animal means an animal that is used for entertainment through which the public are admitted through sales of tickets. No animal can be used for entertainment purposes until registration is done under the Act. 

United kingdom

In the United Kingdom, animal welfare is different from animal conservation. The latest Animal Welfare Legislation in both Wales and England is the Animal welfare Act of 2006. The Act also mandates the duty of care towards pet animals by their owners to provide them with necessary basic needs. This Act provides strict punishment of a 51-week maximum jail term with fines of £20,000 for the offense of cruelty and negligence of animals. 


Austria is one of the best countries when it comes to animal welfare. The Austrian Animal Welfare Act, 2004 suggests that the protection of the animal should be held to a value equal to humankind. The Act prohibits unnecessary pain, suffering, exposure to heavy fear, and injury to animals except hunting and fishing. The Act also restricted the use of wild animals in circuses and prohibits fur farming. Later on, the country banned the use of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans for experiments.

New Zealand

The rights of animals are protected under the Animal Welfare Act (1999) and the Animal Welfare Strategy (2013). The Acts state that animals are sentient. This legislation emphasizes the global position of New Zealand and wishes to maintain progressive stances in scientific and technological advances regarding animal welfare. 


Switzerland is a leader which improves the living and working conditions of animals. It became the first country to constitutionally recognize animals to validate the protection of ‘the dignity of the creature’. Activities that degrade the dignity of animals are prohibited under Animal Welfare Act. Various other provisions that are considered insufficient are illegalizing the stopping a dog barking and ordering the owners of the pet to attend classes to learn to take care of their pets has been undertaken by this country. 


Sweden penalizes any cruelty to animals due to negligence or with intention as per the penal code of the country, such protections apply to both domestic and wild animals. The Animals Welfare Act, 1988 provides that animals must be protected from unnecessary pain or suffering, diseases and to be treated well. The Act also includes the basic requirements for animals like food, water, care, and sufficient space. 

Various judicial interpretations 

The judiciary of India has played a major role relating to the enforcement and applicability of laws that protect animal rights. The Indian judiciary stood up for this cause and ensured that animals are not subjected to cruelty by humans. Animal rights are supported by the judiciary and legislature in the same way as human rights because it is quite necessary to protect and safeguard animals from offensive treatment, confinement, and cruelty which they may be prone to suffer at the hands of human beings. The court has played an important role by protecting the rights of animals and securing the environment. 

Animal Welfare Board v. A. Nagaraja & Ors (2014) 

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Animal Welfare Board (AWBI). The court also held that Article 51A (g) of the Constitution of India is the Magna Carta of Animal Rights which also extends to the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, to every living being including animals. 

State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig (1989)

In this case, the Court dealt with the hunting of elephants. The question before the court was whether the hunting of elephants is justified under the provisions of the Indian penal code and the Wildlife Protection Act. The Court further deals with Sec. 10 and 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 that provides schedules. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that since the elephant was an animal under the list of animals provided under Schedule 1, the hunting of elephants is prohibited. 

Further, the Court observed that the offense of hunting as defined in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is not the same as the offense provided under Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The ingredients of the offense under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Indian Penal Code are quite contrary. Hence the two offenses are not the same. 

Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2001)

In this case, the issue arose relating to the skinning of a tiger in a zoo in Andhra Pradesh. The Court was in utter shock when they heard the facts of the case. The tiger received no protection from whose duty it was to protect and safeguard them. The Apex Court viewed that it was extremely necessary to call the chairperson of the central zoo authority to present before the court and to elucidate the measures being taken to protect and preserve the tiger species in zoos and reserved forests. The Court then passed the orders with regards to the protection of tigers. 

Shri Sachidanand Pandey & another v. the State of West Bengal & Ors (1987)

The Supreme Court held that any person disturbing the lives of animals in the premises of the zoo will be held liable and punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years or a fine up to Rs. 25000 or both. 

Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India, Writ petition (PIL) No.77 of 2010

This case deals with the matter of the illegal exportation of cattle and buffaloes from India to Nepal for a religious festival. In Nepal, the Gandhimi Festival is celebrated every five years and there is a tradition to sacrifice animals (buffaloes, rats, pigs, goats, bats, etc.) to fulfill their wishes. This festival is regarded as one of the world’s largest sacrifices ever. For this Gandhimi Festival, a huge number of animals were usually exported from India. The Supreme Court in the said matter opined that unnecessary pain or suffering cannot be inflicted upon any non-human living beings simply to satisfy the desires of human beings. It was also held by the court that sacrificing an animal can by no means be deemed to be regarded as a way to appease Gods. Further, the Court directed the Central Government of India to ensure that no cattle and buffaloes are transported illegally to Nepal. And to make changes in the export and import policy. 

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Union of India (2004)

In this case, the Bombay High Court ruled that any film wishing to use animals needs to obtain a No objection certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. This ruling ensures a better safeguard to the animals during the course of filmmaking. The ruling thus prevents animals from other abusive activities like being exposed to loud, strange sounds, beaten or kept without food and water. 


India is a country with diversified culture. It has several wildlife conservation programs that give the utmost importance to environmental protection. Environmental conservation and the protection of wildlife have been deeply rooted in Indian culture. Various legislation was enActed with regards to the protection and conservation of animals. The provisions were specifically designed to recognize the rights of the animals with the rights guaranteed to humans. 

Hence we can easily conclude that there is no inadequacy of laws for safeguarding the interest of animals. However, the main problem is the lack of implementation and administration of these laws. There does not exist strict enforcement of laws with the ever-increasing conflicts arising between animals and humans. Regardless of this, the Indian judiciary has done a great job in dealing with the gaps that exist in animal welfare laws and timely protecting the rights of animals.


  1. What are animal rights?

The term animal rights refers to the idea that animals deserve their interests to be considered regardless of whether or not they are cute, useful for humans, endangered, or whether they are cared for by any human in any way.  

  1. What is the difference between animal rights and animal welfare?

In animal welfare theories, the interests of animals are acknowledged, but these interests are traded for human benefits as long as those benefits are deemed sufficient to justify such sacrifice.

In the eyes of animal rights advocates, animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be traded away or sacrificed simply for someone else’s benefit. Animal rights, however, do not assert that rights are absolute; an animal’s rights should be limited, just as those of humans, and there can certainly be conflicts between rights.

According to supporters of animal rights, animals should not be eaten, worn, experimented on or used for entertainment. The proponents of animal welfare believe these uses are acceptable if guidelines for humane treatment are followed.

  1. What is animal cruelty?

There are various types of animal cruelty, ranging from neglect to malicious killing.

  1. Why are animal rights important?

It is important for animals to have rights. Having rights would prevent them from being trapped, beaten, caged, artificially inseminated, mutilated, drugged, traded, transported, harmed, and killed just for the benefit of someone else. If animals had rights, world suffering would be greatly reduced.


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