The first chapter of Genesis gives human dominion over the animals: “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground”. This statement from the Bible has been a long time used argument to justify human’s supremacy over animals.
The first documented pro-animal activist goes back to 6th century BC with Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher. Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls between human and animals, a reason for him to treat animals with respect. Ahead of his time, he opposed meat and religious sacrifices from fear of killing the soul of a loved one, or an ancestor. “Human beings, stop desecrating your bodies with impious foodstuffs. There are crops; there are apples weighing down the branches; and ripening grapes on the vines; there are flavorsome herbs; and those that can be rendered mild and gentle over the flames; and you do not lack flowing milk; or honey fragrant from the flowering thyme.
The earth, prodigal of its wealth, supplies you with gentle sustenance, and offers you food without killing or shedding blood.” Ovid, “Pythagoras’s Teachings: Vegetarianism” Empedocles, 450 BCE, was another pro-animal activist, who talked against animal slavery and the consumption of meat. “Slaughter and meat-eating are the most terrible of sins, indeed for him animal slaughter is murder and meat-eating is cannibalism. He disagreed with his teacher arguing that eating animals was wrong because it robbed animals of their life, that animals could reason, sense and feels like humans do. Eating them was therefore unfair.
The most ancient law about animal right comes from India. It was proclaimed by King Asoka (274-232 BCE), Emperor of India. He became a Buddhist. “Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice” (The Fourteen Rock Edicts.) India has a long history of non-violence against humans and animals. Jainism is the strictest religion of the world when it comes to committing violence. Animals’ right is very high in the scale of what is important. Jains cover their faces to avoid swallowing bugs inadvertently, and say a prayer every night to ask for forgiveness to animals they might have killed during the day. Classical Roman Empire
Cicero , Virgil and Plutarch were all opposed to human’s domination over animals and the cruel used they made of them. In their writings, they plead for humankind to recognize the pain animals were enduring because of humans. “And for a little peace of flesh we take away their life, we bereave them of their sun and of light, cutting short that race of life which nature had limited and prefixed for them; and more than so, those lamentable and trembling voices which they utter for fear, we suppose to be inarticulate or insignificant sounds, and nothing less than pitiful prayers, supplications, pleas & justifications of those poor innocent creatures, who in their language, every one of them cry.” (Plutarch, Morals) Christianity
St. Chrysostom was against the treatment reserved to animals in the remnants of the Roman Empire. This early father of Christianity opposed this treatment of animals in the arenas in many of his letters. “Why need I speak of the sort of charm which is found in the horse races? Or in the contests of the wild beasts? For those places too being full of all senseless excitement train the populace to acquire a merciless and savage and inhuman kind of temper, and practice them in seeing men torn in pieces, and blood flowing, and the ferocity of wild beasts confounding all things. Now all these our wise lawgivers from the beginning introduced, being so many plagues! And our cities applaud and admire but which clearly and confessedly are abominable.” (St. Chrysostom, Homily XII. 1 Cor. iv. 6) In the Middle Ages and until Renaissance, animal’s rights are left in the dark, nobody raises a voice to protest the treatment made to animals.
One of the first defender of animal right during Enlightening Era is Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712- 1778). Descartes had stated that animals have neither souls nor minds, and therefore cannot think or even feel pain. Rousseau argues that animals are sensitive beings, they seek to participate in the natural rights of the universe and as such, man is subject to some sort of duties toward them,” specifically “one has the right not to be needlessly mistreated by the other.” Rousseau. “
Scottish writer John Oswald (1760-1793) was another advocate of animal rights. In his “Cry of Nature or an Appeal to Mercy and Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals”, he says that the division of work in society was the reason why vegetarism was not more common. He thought that if every person witnessed the death of the animals they ate, vegetarism would become more popular. Ireland was the first state in modern times to pass a Law for animal right. In 1635, the “Act against Plowing by the Tayle, and Pulling the Wool off Living Sheep”, was made public by Thomas Wentworth.
The first animal protection right law of the US was passed in 1641 in Massachusetts. At the same time in Europe, Schopenhauer argues that animals have the same spirit as humans, though lacking reason. He thus pleads for consideration to be given to animals in morality, and he opposed vivisection as a means to experiment medical research. Britain founded the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. The same group sprang to several European countries and finally reached New York in 1866. Henry Salt wrote in 1898 the first contemporary book on animal right, “Animals’ Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress.” Modern Times
In 1933, one of the first laws enacted by national socialist (Nazi) party was one of animal protection. But the modern animal liberation movement was really born in the 70’s, when Oxford university philosophers began to question if moral rights of animals were necessarily inferior to that of human beings. The term speciesism was them coined to describe those who believe that the human species had superior rights to animals. Peter Singer then formulates the basic arguments on animal liberation in his 1975 book “Animal Liberation”, the “bible” of the animal rights liberation movement. In the 80’s and 90’s, the movement widens too many different professional and academic groups, and all over the world.
The Indian democratic law system, which provide protection to animals, are in fact a result of a thousand years of tradition, practice, cultural ethics and a deep rooted lifestyle. Despite that we still continue to ignore the barbarism that our present society inflicts upon animals, whereas on the other hand, two months back, an eleven-year-old female dog was hacked alive by a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. Despite a world wide, large scale uproar and protest against that man, not even a case was registered by the police…even after written statements by 41 witnesses! On the other hand, two years back, a man in London was sentenced to 180 hours community service, banned from keeping animals for five years and ordered to pay £1,200 costs at Sutton Magistrates’ Court… all because he neglected his dogs so badly that one had to be put down. Now, that’s what we call justice to our beloved canines!
Countries like UK have understood the rights of our animal friends and have devised ways to shun people from misbehaving with them. Back in India, it is really frustrating that in spite of liberal democracy, animal abusers are left scot-free. The reason for this callousness is not inadequate animal laws but lack of clarity in understanding that – Why such people should be punished at all in the first place?
Animal laws in India have been in place for centuries together. Interestingly, before the Constitution of India was formally constituted, these laws prevailed in the form of religious cults, sects, customs and rituals. Be it Islam or Hinduism, the respect for all life and protection to animals were very strongly highlighted in our daily lives as canons and markers. So, for many centuries, tradition of law rotated around “coexistence”, “tolerance” and “respect” for all life forms.
This philosophy and knowledge later formulated the basic building blocks of the constitution of India which are laid down through the canons of the “Fundamental Rights”, “Duties” and the “Directive Principles of State Policies” in detail. We are only aware of some of the direct laws pertaining to animal rights such as the ‘Prevention to Cruelty Act,’ the ‘Animal Birth Control Rules’ and a few more.
While Article 48-A says: “The State shall endeavor to protect & improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” Article 51-A deals with the fundamental duties of the citizen. Article 51-A (g) states: “It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect & improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” Article 19 deals with the fundamental rights of the citizen. So “Right to Protect the Environment” comes within Article 19. The ten Fundamental Duties— given in Article 51-A of the constitution—can be classified as either duties towards self, duties concerning the environment, duties towards the State and duties towards the nation.
“Directive Principles of State Policy” directs that the government should keep them in mind while framing laws, even though they are non-justifiable in nature. Directive Principles are classified under the following categories: Social, Economic, Political, Administrative, and Legal, and Environmental, protection of monuments, Peace and security.
After the Stockholm Declaration in 1972 the Indian Constitution (Forty second Amendment) Act, 1976 inserted for the first time, specific provisions to protect and improve the environment. The IPC Section 428 and 429 and the Delhi Police Act section 78 provides protection from dislocation of dogs, abduction and acts of cruelty. Ministry of Public Grievances notification and a similar notification by Animal Welfare Board of India dated March 2008, provide immunity to animal feeders.
The FBI, like the rest of the world, has recognized that the lives of serial killers suggested that most of them had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
Animal cruelty and its prevention is the first issue India needs to address to even start calling itself a developing nation and a civilized and a safe society to live in. The laws are strong enough for protection of animals in India, yet the mentalities of the people have to change so as to bring those laws into action and implementation.