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The Hypocritical Environment Week

Even Though World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5, every year, to raise awareness and inspire action across countries to protect, conserve and rejuvenate the shared and common gift of the environment and its biodiversity - from our natural flora to our vast species of animals, awareness often continues for a week, with many heads of state announcing elaborate plans for environment conservation. Though the focus this year is the Coronavirus pandemic, Friday saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitching for collective efforts to ensure the security of biodiversity across the world. In a true “Charity Begins from Home” style pitch, he announced and implored the youth to take the baton for environmental conservation and propagation. However, his charismatic speech seemed to have lacked a call to action, when referencing current events, back home. Ironically, while India is home to several religious traditions that advocate non-violence and compassion towards animals, and has passed a number of animal welfare reforms since 1960, it is also one of the world's leading producers of animal products which are obtained by animal torture and slaughter. The care and respect for animals that is often preached by pseudo activists, doesn’t seem to materialize when looking at recent reports!

The 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is the legal basis of animal protection in India however, it has never been amended since then- which means that the monetary fines imposed for crimes against animals in 1960, still stand to date. Provision 11 states that it is illegal for 'any person... [to treat] any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated', and that such mistreatment is punishable with fines or prison sentences. The maximum punishments, however, are either a fine of 70 US cents (Rs 52.90), 3 months imprisonment, or both, which, while many have been immensely high in the 60s, don’t seem to hold the same weight today. The law also states that the punishments do not apply 'to the preparation for the destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering', a clause extremely open to interpretation since “unnecessary” “pain” and “suffering” are all unquantifiable terms and open to interpretation. In addition, the last clause 'Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offense to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.' theoretically leaves open the option of unstunned ritual slaughter. On the other hand, stunning is legally required for animal slaughterhouses according to provision 6 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, and provision 3 states that slaughter is only permitted in recognized or licensed slaughterhouses.

With such flimsy rules in place, India fails to provide its animals and other living organisms with equal rights to life and liberty of movement, as encroaching hunters often begin to forage deep in forests for bounty, or builders expand into natural forests to create exquisite living habitats and infrastructure. May 27 saw the discovery of the carcass of a pregnant jumbo elephant with its mouth, jaw, and tongue blown in Velliyar River, the cause of death being a fruit (pineapple) laced with explosives by miscreants. Another shocking incident came to light on June 6th, 2020: a pregnant cow’s jaw was allegedly blown off by an explosive while it was grazing in a field in Jhandutta, Himachal Pradesh. A Twitter post from June 3rd highlighted that an unidentified man from Delhi had tied a dog to his two-wheeler and dragged it along the road. Upon alerts being raised by passersby, the man cut the rope and drove off. Commenting on the surge in the cases of animal cruelty, Former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) Vikram Singh said that this is due to a rise in the demand for animal parts in China to make traditional medicines.

With flimsy laws that fail to guarantee animals rights, letting miscreants off the hook with nothing more than warnings, we as citizens, more as human beings who have a voice to appeal, and a language to make known our distaste, must take up the responsibility and spread awareness against animal cruelty, educating people of the heinous crimes that are committed against these innocent lives on a daily basis, and raise our voices to demand stricter laws to save those who don’t have one.

By: Kashish Bhargava and Soorya Balasubramanian

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