DO ANIMALS HAVE A RIGHT TO LIFE ?
Updated: Jan 11
This Article is written by Shreyanshi Jain
Since there is a lot of debate going over vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism and the tragedy that happened with the 15 yr old pregnant elephant, it is very important to know whether such animals have a right to life or not ?
What does article 21 says ?
Article 21- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
N.R. Nair vs. Union of India
The debate over the issue was started by the Kerala High Court in 2000 in the case of N.R. Nair vs Union of India. The court opined that animals are also beings and have right to dignified existence and humane treatment without any cruelty. They only satisfy their need and not their greed, unlike humans. Further court said that If humans are entitled to fundamental rights, why not animals? Legal rights shall not be for the protection of human beings only and it must have a broader scope therefore we need to destroy the thick legal wall between humans and non- humans. while the law currently protects wild life and endangered species from extinction, animals are denied rights, an anachronism which must necessarily change.”
In the landmark Jallikattu case, the court clearly stated that the animals have a right to life. . It was a case concerning the violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA, Act), by the customary practice of ‘Jallikattu’.
Jallikattu Case – Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja
Apex court has discussed the Article 21 in the context of the animals. Jallikattu is a practice where bulls are tamed or annoyed in inhumanely manner till they get enraged, and start running haywire. It is a sport in which, silver or gold coins tied on the bulls’ horns, and players fetch it, as an act of bravery.
Apex Court, said that the rights guaranteed to the animals under PCA Act are only statutory rights, and the same have to be elevated to the status of fundamental rights. Article 21 has indirectly covered under its umbrella every species, and blessed them with right to life and security, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity. Article 21 protects life, and the word “life” has been expanded by the highest constitutional Court, so as to include all forms of life in the environment, which contains animal life also, which are necessary for human life. Honorable Court held that “life” in context of animals does not mean, mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but also life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity. It in addition enlisted these five internationally recognized freedoms for animals, such as:
(i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
(ii) freedom from fear and distress;
(iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;
(iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
(v) freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
They are also called “Brambell’s Five Freedoms”. They have been elevated and equated with rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country under Part III of the Constitution of India.
There is increasing need to protect the nature and wildlife from extinction, as without them there would be no sustainable development. They directly or indirectly serve for the welfare of the human beings. Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the people of the country right to life and liberty, also cast a duty upon them to not to deprive other from this right. People by destructing wildlife, are depriving the other people from their life and liberty. Therefore, Article 21 is indirectly providing the right to life to animals.
Further Killing, poisoning, maiming or torturing an animal is a cognizable offence under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for such an act is rigorous imprisonment which may extend for up to 2 years or a fine or both.
Recently the Kerala High Court allowed the plea filed by Cat Owner against the refusal of pass for buying the pet-food by Kerala Police during COVID-19 lockdown.
N. PRAKASH vs. state of Kerala and Anr.-
The petitioner, N Prakash, is an owner of three cats and has filed the petition as party-in-person. The petitioner has stated in the petition that the cats are fed a biscuit named “Meo-Persian”, due to impossibility of feeding the cats non-vegetarian food as he is a vegetarian, and hence non vegetarian food cannot be cooked in his house. He applied online for vehicle pass for travelling to Cochin Pet Hospital on April 4 for buying the said brand of cat food, as the food in stock got exhausted, and his application rejected stating that they regret to inform that his request for affidavit/ emergency pass has been rejected. The petitioner has contended that right to get food and shelter is a guaranteed right for domestic animals under Sections 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The petition also referred to the decision of the Apex Court in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja (2014)
The court recognized the right of cats guaranteed under PCA Act and Article 51 A of the constitution. It also relied upon provisions of IPC and guidelines issued by the World Health Organistion of animal health and directed the respondents to permit the petitioner to travel to buy food.
The animals thus have the right to Life under Article 21 but this is a less known fact. Article 21 includes every species, and blessed them with right to life and security, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity. However being vegetarian or non vegetarian is an individual’s choice but we need to understand the difference between eating for hunger and eating for taste. We need to understand that animals do have feelings and emotions, they too have life which need to be protected . we are no one to take their life or treat them with cruelty.