New Delhi- Animals, whether they are our cherished companions within our homes or the captivating creatures we admire from a distance in the wild, hold a profound place in our lives. They offer us boundless joy, solace, and companionship, serving as constant reminders of the interconnectedness of all living entities.
The official website for World Animal Day eloquently states, "This year, we want to highlight the ways in which we can show our love and appreciation for animals, both big and small."
The Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) is a project of Voiceless, an animal protection organization based in Australia and a team of animal welfare advocates from around the world. The VACI looks at 50 countries and ranks them based on measures of animal cruelty. While no countries received the top grade of “A” or “very good,” plenty of countries rounded out the bottom of VACI’s list. Australia and Belarus were tied for the last spot, and are thus at the top of the list for animal cruelty. In the realm of animal welfare, India stands tall, but the quest for robust legal protection continues.
World Animal Day, observed globally on 4 October each year, was initiated with the primary aim of honouring animals and combating cruelty and indifference towards them. The day underscores the vital role animals play in human life, emphasizing that their preservation is critical for the continued existence of humanity. Animals serve various essential functions in our daily lives, and their well-being is interconnected with ours.
This annual commemoration traces its roots back to the compassion and reverence for animals exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi, who is celebrated as a patron saint of animals. World Animal Day has emerged as a platform to challenge and end cruelty inflicted upon animals, asserting that they, too, have a right to life.
A Historical Perspective: The inaugural World Animal Day was organized by Heinrich Zimmermann in 1925 at the Sports Palace in Berlin, Germany. However, since 1929, it has been consistently celebrated on 4th October. A pivotal moment occurred during the International Conference on the Protection of Animals held in Florence in 1931 when a resolution was passed, designating 4 October as World Animal Day.
The Constitutional Perspective: India, too, recognizes the importance of animals in its constitution, extending the right to life even to animals. The Constitution of India provides for various penalties and punishments for those who attempt to harm or disrupt the lives of animals.
Shraman Dr. Pushpendra Muni, a prominent Jain saint, has penned a heartfelt letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging for an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Dr. Pushpendra's appeal comes in the wake of mounting concerns over increasing incidents of cruelty towards animals across the country.
One striking example of the outdated nature of the Act is the paltry penalty of ₹50 for excessive animal cruelty. Dr. Pushpendra argues that this amount, once substantial, is now insufficient to deter animal cruelty in today's context. He calls for a revision of the penalty provisions to ensure that individuals think twice before inflicting harm on animals.
Furthermore, Dr. Pushpendra's proposed amendment seeks to include sections (11)(1)(0) to (11)(1)(0) and section 38 in Sector 31 of the Act, which would enhance the legal framework for the protection of animals.
A Call for Change: Dr. Pushpendra's appeal is part of a broader effort to bring India's animal cruelty laws in line with contemporary needs and expectations. As the government continues to amend various rules and laws, this longstanding demand for change underscores the importance of ensuring the welfare and protection of animals.
Anchor and actress Tarana Singh, a passionate advocate for animal rights, has articulated eight vital demands that she urges the Indian government to consider and act upon for the betterment of animals and society as a whole. " Let us come together to promote the principle of 'Jeene Bhi Do Yaaro' (Let them live too) for our community animals and advocate for their well-being" she says.
Tarana states, "Firstly, there is a pressing need to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) to ensure it is in line with contemporary needs and expectations. Such an amendment would fortify the legal framework for animal protection.
Another significant step is to ban live animal exports to prevent the inhumane treatment and suffering of animals during transportation.
Promoting a culture of compassion and non-violence, it is imperative to take steps to end animal sacrifice in various practices.
Inculcating a sense of responsibility and empathy towards animals, we should consider introducing the teaching of animal welfare in school curricula. This would help instill these values in the younger generation.
Wildlife conservation is vital, and as part of this, it is crucial to stop the practice of shooting wildlife as vermin.
For the welfare of cows and other cattle, it is essential that gaushalas (cow shelters) are not run like commercial dairies but focus primarily on the well-being of the animals they house.
To manage the population of stray animals and ensure their health, there is a need to systematize and extend the Animal Birth Control (ABC) sterilization and vaccination program to encompass all panchayats and municipalities.
Lastly, we must put an end to the practice of picking up community dogs for 'VIP' events, as this not only inflicts cruelty but also disrupts ABC programs aimed at controlling the population of stray animals.
The Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) stands as a significant initiative, a collaborative effort between Voiceless, an Australian-based animal protection organization, and a dedicated team of animal welfare advocates from across the globe. This groundbreaking project meticulously assesses 50 countries, providing a comprehensive ranking based on various measures of animal cruelty.
In a world where the welfare of animals often stands on the precipice of neglect, it's a sobering revelation that no countries have received the top grade of "A" or "very good" in the VACI rankings. Instead, a disconcerting reality emerges as a host of nations find themselves at the lower rungs of the VACI list. Australia and Belarus were tied for the last spot, and are thus at the top of the list for animal cruelty.
Rank 1- India is the top performer under the VACI, receiving a good performance rating (“B”), on par with the United Republic of Tanzania. Although the country has a low dependence on farmed animals and low animal product consumption, its farmed animal protection laws require improvement.
Producing Cruelty Rank 6- India slaughters around 2 land-based animals per person per year, less than a fifth of the global average of 10.1. The country’s dependence on farmed animals is the lowest amongst the VACI countries, with less than 1 farmed animal per person, compared to the global average of 4.1.
Consuming cruelty Rank 6- The Indian diet contains a relatively low proportion of animal products, with around 20% of the average Indian’s diet made up of land-based animal protein, versus a global average of 35.2%. Each Indian citizen consumes around 12.7g of land-based animal protein per day, compared with a global average of 26.7g. Around 23-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian, which may be partly explained by the value placed on vegetarianism by various religious traditions followed in the country. This is reflected in the low proportion of animal protein derived from meat (11.7%), compared with dairy products (80%).
Sanctioning Cruelty Rank 13- India is rated as an adequate performer (“C”) under the Animal Protection Index (API), and its farmed animal protection legislation achieved a poor performance rating (“E”) under the same index. The country has broadly adequate animal protection laws, with a particular focus on protecting cows on religious grounds. But the legislation falls short of international standards, due to the legalisation of husbandry practices which cause pain and suffering, such as dehorning and nose roping cattle. Like many countries, the sentience of animals is also not fully enshrined into law. There is also a lack of detailed regulation regarding the rearing of farmed animals and urban dairy production.