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Punishment increases in proportion to the seriousness of a crime. If a fine, especially one that’s less than ones levied for overshooting a crossing etc., is peanuts for a perpetrator, how can it be a deterrant? #KhabarLive delves on how laws concerning animal cruelty are laughable in the country.

Do you know what are the consequences of violently hurting an animal for no reason in India? It is just bad karma and a paltry fine of Rs 50. It might be shocking, but it is sadly true that today a vicious animal abuser can get out of trouble for kicking,beating, abusing and hurting an innocent animal by simply paying as much as he would for a bar of chocolate.

Animal abuse rates have peaked and they have never been higher in India. According to a report compiled by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), between 2010 and 2020, a total of 4,93,910 animals were victims of crimes committed by humans.

With the rising numbers, the severity and perverseness of these crimes are also on the rise as each instance of animal abuse is more heinous and horrific than the one seen before. What is more galling is how these cases of animal abuse are treated. Lakhs of cases in fact go unreported every year. The laws concerning animal abuse are so vague that one cannot be sure that even courts would indeed uphold it as a crime. Often the offender is left alone with a slap on the wrist, even after he murders an animal.

“Apathy, ignorance, a lack of any consequence, and mostly the specific level of exploitative nature in the human being” are the reasons why such disturbing incidents are on the rise, notes Amala Akkineni, actor and animal rights activist.

A recent incident, fresh in the reader’s memory, might be the pregnant elephant that ate a fruit laden with firecrackers which exploded in its mouth, killing it in a few days. There was one arrest, but no details about the severity of punishment or what happened after the outrage surfaced. This sort of lack of information is commonplace, where the public is left in the dark as to what justice has been meted out to violent offenders after public outrage and media frenzy die down.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 (PCA) states that an offender will be punished accordingly “in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees, but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both”.

Section 429 of the IPC says “Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees. Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless, any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.” This scarily low fine is made even more terrifying when you know that it is still the same today, well after a whole seven decades!

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The new draft amendment by PFA (People For Animals) and HSI (Humane Society International/India) now proposes a minimum fine of Rs 750 ranging up to Rs 75,000. This amendment move follows an online petition, which gathered more than 7.5 lakh signatures last month.
Vasanthi Vadi, founder-member and president of PFA, Hyderabad says, “The PCA Act is comprehensive and covers all cruelty. The compassionate section of society must take it on to call out cruelty cases and culprits. Major awareness campaigns must be conducted across the country through all available platforms. Society needs to be shown the stick when animal rights are violated. This is done with the confidence of getting away with this crime.”

There is a long list of important laws that need to be amended before this happens. We are waiting patiently. The law does recommend each state to initiate a prevention of animal cruelty wing in the law enforcement body – to punish animal abuse. However, the use of animals is so intricately linked with human life, health and well-being that it seems impossible for any single body to enforce. There needs to be a network of best practices and better alternatives to existing cruel practices with consequences to causing harm — all to be monitored by networks together in the system and this must be upheld first, if we want to see change.
— Amala Akkineni, actress and founder of Blue Cross Hyderabad.

Notwithstanding the dangers posed to human society by animal abusers, the act of abusing animals in itself is aberrant behaviour that shows a serious lack of empathy and a cruel streak in a person. Intervention is required in the lives of those who think the easiest way to deal with stray animals is to be violent with them.

At a national level, it is certainly a disappointment to see that no action has been taken by the government whatsoever to reduce the rate of animal abuse, which keeps going up every year. Despite the written petitions, protests, and proposed bills, nothing seems to change. “Nothing matters to people in the government,” says Maneka Gandhi. “Every time they promise that the Act will be amended in the next term, but even I know that there’s nothing to expect from them. They do not realise the harmful impact animal abusers can have on society. What can you say to people like that?” she asks.

There is a psychological pandemic — a dearth of empathy in the young minds of the country that is being encouraged by some toxic forums on social media. In many instances, live streams have been found on the internet where sick young people craving attention and views from other cruel people mutilate and abuse animals for no reason. Recently, two teenagers tied up a community dog, flung it into a pond, and then pelted stones at it in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh — all for a Tiktok video. A child who is violent towards animals is bound to have sociopathic traits, according to many studies.

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If you’re wondering how you can help — Amala Akkineni says, “Citizens can do a lot and, without this; nothing will change. People can hold discussions in their communities about safe practises around animals, best practices for pet animals, sustainable and compassionate lifestyles with alternatives to cruelty and exploitation. In today’s world, the key lies in getting information and exchange of information. The responsibility has to be collective and not left to enforcers. However, the carrot and stick policy still works and has to be an option for violations.”

To help show your support for the cause of amending the law so abusers do not go scot-free, “Just keep writing to the government; hashtag the Prime Minister on social media. There’s nothing else that can be done,” says ex-Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka.

Additionally concerning is the woeful lack of statistics that can help organisations like FIAPO create a comprehensive database and come up with reports on crimes against animals going through cases reported in the media and sourced through other organisations, shelters, etc. In their 2020 report, they mention clearly, “In the narrow category of the public space, we have counted 20,000 senseless, intentional, brutal crimes against animals over the past 10 years. This works out to an average of five animal deaths per day from a violent act.

The actual figure could be at least 10 times higher, which at 50 animal deaths per day, would mean an average of two animals being senselessly killed every hour in India.”

With the now-added issue of a dearth of numbers, we can begin to understand how important it is for the government to realise that the status quo is not doing our animals any favours. Things have changed since the 1960s. As the years go on, so do the rates of crime. Laws not being amended because of bureaucratic red-tape is simply not a valid reason for the delay.

Gauri Maulekhi, Trustee of People for Animals, divides stray animals into two: dogs and cattle. Speaking of cattle, she says, “The animals that were once part of the economy are abandoned by their owners on the roads. They should be given a proper retirement by the same people who have minted profit out of them during their productive years; sadly that doesn’t happen.” It is a common and disturbing sight in many areas of India to see cows and goats munching away on plastic at dumpsters. In a perfect world, only those who can take responsibility for taking care of an animal until its demise can be allowed to rear cattle. In many areas like Bikaner, Varanasi, Ratnagiri etc, animals are found roaming the streets causing menace. Strays are everywhere, but dealing with them in a humane way is what is expected of the government. With proper measures to take care of strays, a lot of the issues can be solved. These include funding NGOs, setting up shelters, establishing veterinary clinics, making euthanasia legal, and beginning to regulate what happens to animals. This will also ensure that reports are available for introducing measures to raise public awareness.

Coming to dogs, which are a menace in many residential areas, there is only one way to deal with them, suggests Maulekhi. “According to WHO, animal birth control is the only method by which the population can be sustainably maintained. In colonial times, dogs were poisoned — and this went on for decades and centuries and it just doesn’t work. Neutering and spaying are the only things that can bring the population down.”

Every study has shown that everybody who has been vicious to animals ends up being a danger to human beings. Every study done in jail with prisoners involved in heinous crimes shows that they started their lives by attacking animals. Any man who gets angry with his neighbour for feeding animals is sure to be abusing his wife at home. It is a small symptom of a larger disease.

— Maneka Gandhi, animal rights activist and member of Lok Sabha

This strong statement can be backed up by multiple studies — in a survey by the Humane Society of the USA, 71 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets. A 1983 study by the Animal Defence Fund notes that animal abuse was found in 88% of homes in which physical child abuse was being investigated.

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The practice, amid roaring spectators, involves a charging bull being let into the public with flags on the horns. The bull is usually raised captive and meant to go wild. A cruel practice that has left many bulls and humans dead, it is in the spotlight after a big do by animal welfare groups. The legal situation surrounding Jallikattu is as yet not clearly resolved.

While the Tamil Nadu government has claimed that its draft ordinance is a “permanent solution”, many Jallikattu supporters view it as merely being a “stop-gap measure”. When tradition plays into the mix, lines are blurred. There is no valid reason for anything that causes unimaginable pain and trauma to animals (as well as humans) to be allowed to go on purely on the basis of ‘tradition’. After all, tradition is a way to keep society closer to its roots.

The Telangana government has recently given sarpanches authority to have wild-boars culled in areas of agricultural devastation. Wild boars are a menace in the farming areas and most of the healthy crop every year is raided and lost to wild boars. Culling is deemed to be a case of necessity in this case, where the presence of this invasive species is causing disruption to humans.

Gauri Maulekhi maintains that the delegation of power is incorrect in the case of wild boar culling, where the Telangana state gave the sarpanches of villages power to order culling of wild boars found devastating crops. “The law allows for the power to cull wild animals to be delegated, but to a few people. In this case, mindless delegation has been done. In all, 12,576 sarpanches have the power now to kill wild animals, and that is a number that cannot be monitored. It renders the provision null and void when such actions are taken.” This huge number of sarpanches with new power handed to them cannot be gauged if they have the right knowledge about wildlife conflict, its resolution, which species to be culled, identification of the right species, etc. “You cannot use a section of the law against the objective of the law,” she says. #KhabarLive #hydnews

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