The recent incident in Malappuram Kerala, (India) on 27th May, 2020 where a
pregnant elephant died after a local allegedly fed her a pineapple stuffed with
crackers and later she died while standing in the water. This showed our concern
of towards the environment and towards the animals.
It also pinches us to think do animals have rights in India?
In order to get answer we must introspect I have included in this paper the
importance and rights of the animals since ancient period. First of all, it is
important to understand that the Animals are an inevitable part of environment.
Animals are a source to maintainthe balance in environment. In ancient India,
the protection of environment was taken care of properly and that's why all the
religions have added the protection of environment in their script.
The concern for environment protection dates back to the age of Vedas. Rig Veda
mentions Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space as the five essential elements which
form the basis in life in anything and everything. Thus, it calls out for the
protection of vegetation and animals. In all the religions, the saints, sages,
gurus, faqir tried to live in a peaceful place and that used to be forests.
Hinduism considers the nature as the body of God and thus different
aspects of nature i.e. plants (tulsi), trees (peepal), birds (garuda) and
animals (lion) are worshipped. Kautilya's Arthashastra calls it the dharma
of every individual to preserve the nature.
Buddhism preaches simplicity and non- violence. Which means that even animals
should not be killed. A simple life is led by optimum utilization of resources
and lease cases of overexploitation of nature. Non-violence teaches us not to
kill animals for fulfilling our own selfish needs.
The holy Quran declares that everything is created from water and thus, there is
significance of purity of water. Purity of water can be maintained with the sea
In Christianity admission is granted after baptizing in water. It is considered
a symbol of purification. Human being can only make the water dirty. But the
water can be made pure through the natural process with the help of animals.
So, one should not consider himself more important than animals. We all are
equal on this Planet earth. It means that even a single human being is not more
important than a single honey bee, ant, or even minute creature.....because we
all are contributing to create the balance in the environment.
Even the text in Sikhism in in Guru Granth Sahib, it is emphasized that
everything is a creation of the Almighty and hence, we cannot limit their use to
the present generation or ourselves.
A verse states that:
Terejeehjeeya ka tohe.
Hence, this implies all belong to you and all are yours. Here, all does not
merely include humans but everything in this universe from planets to plants. To
follow the principle of sustainable development, first and foremost is that we
must learn to live in harmony with the nature.
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib proclaims that our purpose is to encourage harmony
with all creation and discourage undesirable human domination. The Sikh Gurus
preached us showing way to live in harmony with the ecology as well as all their
constructions are adhered to this philosophy.
We have various laws in India to protect the animals. However these are not
sufficient to deal. The provision in Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Wildlife
Protection Act, have various provisions for the protection and preservation of
the animals. Still in India and in the most educated state the local people are
killing pregnant elephant. Do we have sufficient laws or whether laws alone can
help the protection of environment. The need of the hour is to understand that
animals do have their rights in Pluralism. Every religion and even those who do
not follow any religion they must respect the animal rights.
The One right Approach must be followed. State welfare includes the welfare of
both human and non humans. Just like judiciary is also recognizing the animal
rights. The Human and Environment (which includes plants, animals both) should
fit in legal paradigm for Anthropocene. The protection of human and environment
is both necessary.
If we see the legal rights through courts, probably the first case came before
the court for the animal rights was when Manu Needhan Chola, The King , who hung
a bell in Public Place for ordinary people to ring it up if they need justice
from the King . Once a Cow's horn was stuck in the bell and it rang. The cow was
brought to the King and he came to know that its calf has been killed by the
carriage of his son. He gave justice by ordering to kill his son so that he
(king) should suffer the same pain as cow suffered because of the act of his
Recently, Islamabad High Court on 21stMay, 2020 recognized that animals do have
legal rights . Earlier India , Argentina has also recognized the rights of
animals. It is necessary to impose duties for the protection of environment.
Without protection of environment even humans cannot survive. We must have
animal courts to deal with the protection of animals as they are under estimated
by the human beings.
It is a time to consider the legal right of animals which is delayed for a
longer time because of illiteracy of human beings. The challenges today we are
facing in COVID 19 is result of human being's selfish motives. We consider
ourselves superior than other creatures. We think everything is for us and we
own this Planet. No one owns this Planet earth rather we play our part in it
with harmony to each other.
- Saskia Stucki and Tom Sparks, The Elephant in the (Court)Room:
Interdependence of Human and Animal Rights in the Anthropocene, European
Journal of International Law, June 9, 2020.
- This King rules South India around 250 B.C (now this place is in Sri
Lanka) has been the torch bearer of the Judges' work philosophy that no one
is above the law and all are equal.
- KrishandasRajgopaldas, When the Chola King was personification of
Perfect Judge, The Hindu, January 29, 2017
- On 21 May 2020, the Islamabad High Court issued a remarkable judgment in
the.case of Kaavan the elephant (among other inmates of the Marghazar
Zoo), affirming without any hesitation that animals have legal rights
Chief Justice Athar Minallah held that the pain and suffering of Kaavan
must come to an end, and ordered his release and relocation to an elephant
- Animal Welfare Board v. A. Nagaraja and others,
MANU/SC/0426/2014.available at https://www.nonhumanrights.org/content/uploads/Animal-Welfare-Board-v-A.-Nagaraja-7.5.2014.pdf.
Written By: Dr. Sangeeta Taak