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Animal Cruelty: An Analysis of the Existing Laws

Updated: Mar 14, 2022


Srishti Jha[1]

This paper evaluates the deplorable instances of animal cruelty in the Indian biological sphere as opposed to developed nations. The legal rights of animals more often than not go on ignored. A direct impact of this is that even though there are comprehensive statutes and regulations in place to deter and penalize cruelty towards animals, the implementation of the same is set on the backburner. India’s varied biological diversity and the constituent plethora of flora and fauna require protection now more than ever due to issues like climate change plaguing the globe. This paper highlights the need for an alternative model wherein the rights of animals and the laws in place in the Indian legal framework ensure that those are implemented stringently. An examination of the steady growth in the propensity of corporations and poachers exploiting animals for economic gains and research and development is suggestive of the fact that many species are now endangered because of this callous attitude of humans. Different countries across the globe have a varying level of strictness in their animal rights law and implementation. There is a pressing need to ensure that the laws that are already in place are implemented and new laws with higher penalties to act as a deterrent are introduced. Ecological balance must be maintained for the furtherance of human lives.

[1] Author, 2nd-year student, Army Institute of Law; Email id–; Phone number– 9645099772; Postal address– Army Institute of Law, Mohali.


Cruelty is essentially an infliction of aggressive or violent behaviour accompanied with meting out of mental torture. The common understanding of cruelty and its imposition is restricted to human beings. The ignorance of cruelty and torture endured by animals has increasingly been brought to the forefront. It can be the causing of harm or suffering for a specific achievement, such as killing animals for entertainment; cruelty to animals sometimes encompasses inflicting harm or suffering as an end in itself. In a country like India, the varying biodiversity is susceptible to the harms of animal cruelty to a greater extent. Many developed and developing countries have made laws, banning cruelty against animals but cases persist in vast numbers and there is a pressing need to ensure that the instances are brought under control. The protection of animals is laid down as a fundamental duty in the Constitution of India. In consonance with the Constitutional provisions, there exist several legislations in India like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and various cattle protection and cow slaughter prohibition legislation at the State levels. Cruelty against animals is done for various purposes ranging from their consumption to the selling of their body parts in the market to make money. A few common instances of cruelty and poaching can be seen in the cases of elephants, where their tusks are sold in black markets for various purposes and in the case of rhinos who are poached mercilessly in Africa and North-Eastern India.

Human behavior towards animals

In the fields of conservation and wellbeing, human perceptions towards animals are rising in importance. It has long been taken for granted that the degree of biological or behavioural resemblance between a given species and ourselves shapes our attitudes.

It was found that a strong association existed between similarities and attraction by comparing the bio-behavioral similarity, showing that humans are predisposed to like animals based on common bio-behavioural characteristics. These observations indicate that the survival and health efforts of animals might be more skewed than historically understood by anthropocentric opinions. It may be important for a new approach to be taken when it comes to determining the targets of conservation.

Animals, also being living beings, are even more commodified than humans in that their very bodies are turned into consumable objects in the process. In the case of animals, it is clear that human activists are needed, to articulate the point of view of voiceless animals; to plead that they do not want to be killed mercilessly and handled in painful and exploitative ways. Human advocates are also necessary to defend and organize against the practices that reify and commodify animal subjects.

Therefore, animal standpoint criticism begins from the assumption that animals are seats of consciousness-subjects, not objects; that they are entities with stories/biographies of their own, not undifferentiated masses; that they suffer discomfort, love relief; that they wish to survive and thrive; that they have observable wants and needs in short, much of which we share with human beings.

The outlook of the common public towards animals is greatly influenced due to the ‘egregious aestheticization' of animals which has become commonplace in the contemporary expression of art in various forms. In pointing out the manifest authoritarian and analytical ignorance that frequently follows the treatment of animals, challenging the absences or blind spots, the lapses and lacunae in texts protecting and representing animals and spreading awareness about the same, the role of animal rights activists cannot be ignored.

The realization, that to promote human welfare, there is a need to attend to the plight of animals as well as becomes increasingly important. Animals are part of both the natural world and human beings' homes. The well-being of animals is intrinsically linked to the well-being of their human counterparts and partners in all contexts. Initially, based on transactions between humans and the social world, the ecological viewpoint has grown to encompass the natural environment and accept the importance of animals for human wellbeing.

Social experiments suggest that there is evidence that animal abuse often occurs in families in which the propensity of children being physically or sexually abused is much higher. The link between animal abuse and domestic violence completes the "circle of abuse" more commonly called the "tangled web of abuse". Empirically, trends in the study of animal cruelty have linked animal maltreatment to significant antisocial tendencies, particularly interpersonal violence.

Position of Animal Laws in the world

1. United States of America

In the United States, at any level of legislation, animal welfare laws can be passed and implemented. Many regulations on animal welfare occur at the level of the state. A handful of federal rules on animal welfare also operate. In addition, some towns and counties pass ordinances to protect wildlife. The PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act, 2019 categorizes the most egregious forms of animal cruelty — specifically crushing, burning, suffocating, impaling or sexual exploitation — 'in or affecting interstate commerce or within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States a federal crime. The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases an annual report ranking the animal protection laws of every state based on their relative strength and general comprehensiveness.

2. Austria

The Austrian Animal Welfare Act, 2004 categorically states that the life of an animal is as important as that of a human being. It essentially seeks to equate and elevate the importance of animal life in the social and ecological atmosphere. In terms of rights and protections afforded to animals, Austria is considered to be one of the best countries all over the world. The AAWA 2004, considered to be one of Europe's harshest anti-cruelty laws, puts a ban on pet owners from cropping their dogs' ears or tails, forces farmers to uncage their chickens, and ensures that puppies and kittens no longer swelter in pet shop windows.

3. United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, cruelty to animals and negligence of animals are criminal offenses for which the perpetrator may be jailed for up to 6 months or 51 weeks respectively. The Animal Welfare legislation of the UK has stricter penalties for both cruelty and negligence of animals. The penalties include a lifetime ban from owning pets, a strict 51-week maximum jail term, and fines amounting up to £20,000.

4. Hong Kong

The animal welfare and protection laws in Hong Kong govern the welfare of food animals, companion animals, and laboratory animals. According to the law of the land, cruelty can be inflicted in the form of abuse, neglect, inappropriate transport, and fighting. Those found violating the law are liable to a fine of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars and imprisonment for three years.

5. Egypt

Egyptian law lays down that anyone who inhumanely beats or intentionally kills any domesticated animal can be jailed or fined. The Egyptian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was established by the Britishers. The SPCA was instrumental in promoting a 1997 ban on bullfighting in Egypt. According to ancient Egyptian law, the killers of cats or dogs were executed.

6. Sweden

The law in Sweden affords legal protection to both wild and domestic animals. In Sweden, the procedure for the slaughter of domestic animals has been enumerated and must be done following the sedation of the animal. Swedish animals live in enriched environments as compared to other countries. Also, the cattle and pigs in Sweden must be fed straw and the dairy animals should be allowed to venture out for grazing during the summer months.

7. Switzerland

It was the first nation which as a part of its legal framework had a provision to protect an animals' dignity. Switzerland is considered to be a leader in improving the living and working conditions of animals. In 1992, Switzerland became the first country to constitutionally recognize animals, with a provision warranting the protection of 'the dignity of the creature'. Activities that are deemed degrading to the dignity of animals are forbidden here by law.

Position in India

The historic cultural practices and religious beliefs in India can be attributed as glaring reasons for the large extent of animal cruelty and sacrifice that are evident. Not long ago under British rule, tigers and other animals were shot and killed for sport. Since the practice was carried on even after Independence, the tiger population of the country suffered greatly and was almost on the verge of getting wiped out from our country. Due to stricter laws and codes which were put in place to preserve our wildlife, the tiger population has started its growth and other animals too, have been provided with a cruelty-free haven to thrive. One such law which had been enacted to safeguard animal rights is The Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act, 1960. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 which enumerates the substantive aspects of criminal law contains under Sections 428 and 429 the 'punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless of animals'. The aim of inclusion and implementation of the aforementioned provisions is to avert preventable agony and suffering of animals. Similar legislation continues to be introduced in the Parliament keeping up with the changing circumstances. Besides specific statutory bodies, protections for animals are also afforded under the likes of the law of torts and constitutional law.

Constitutional provision against animal cruelty

The Constitution of India makes it the “duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.” The obligatory provisions of the Indian Constitution which lay down the duty of animal protection are complemented by Article 48A of the Directive Principle of State Policy. It endeavors to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’.

The aforementioned Constitutional provisions were introduced through the 42nd Amendment in 1976. While they are not directly enforceable in Indian courts, they lay down the groundwork for legislation, policies, and state directives in the furtherance of animal protection at the Central and State levels.

Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act, 1960

The most important animal cruelty law in India is contained in the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Act, 1960. The objective of the Act is to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. The Act defines “animal” as any living creature other than a human being.

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), established by the Government of India under the Act performs important functions like advising the central government on amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while performing experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity; Encouragement of financial assistance, rescue homes, and animal shelters for old animals; Advising the government on medical care and regulations for animal hospitals; Imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals and advising the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.

The Act enumerates different variants of cruelty to animals under Section 11. It, however, does not consider as cruelty the dehorning/castration of cattle in the prescribed manner, destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers in the prescribed manner, and extermination of any animal under the authority of law. The Act also covers experimentation of animals, the area of performing animals, etc.

The Act is subject to heavy criticism at the behest of animal rights activists due to the various loopholes provided in it. One such leeway is that under Section 28, ‘nothing contained in the Act shall render it an offense to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.


The 42nd Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1976 can be considered to be a progressive step towards establishing a firm foundation or groundwork for animal protection and rights in India. The constitutional provisions establishing the duty of citizens to protect animals have resulted in the introduction of animal protection legislation and statutes both at the central and state level. Furthermore, over the years Indian courts have also developed a growing legal jurisprudence in animal law.

The aim of truly developing a solid foundation for animal law in India is still a long way to go. The provisions for animal protection in the Indian Constitution remain principles instead of concrete law enforceable in courts. The penalties under the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals Ac, 1960 for cruelty against animals are simply not strict enough to truly deter crimes against animals. The law is not strictly enforced and contains several provisions which provide leeway through which liability can be escaped. Extensive reforms need to take place in this regard to provide a stronger animal protection law for India.


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Author Biography

Srishti is a 2nd-year law student currently studying at Army Institute of Law, Mohali. She works as an intern with The Stambh Organization and a content writer and event organizer at She is an avid researcher and debater with a keen interest in Intellectual Property Rights, International Law and Criminal Law.

Animal Cruelty - An Analysis of the Exis
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