Banning the use of bulls in south India’s Jallikattu festival and in Maharashtra’s bullock-cart racing or elsewhere in the country, the Supreme Court Wednesday said like human beings, animals’ “right to life” also signifies life with honour, dignity and fair treatment.
Taking into consideration that such events cause unnecessary pain and suffering on the animals, a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and P C Ghose held that the right to dignity and fair treatment is not confined to human beings alone, but is for animals as well.
“Right not to be beaten, kicked, over-ridden, over-loading is also a right. As far as animals are concerned, in our view, ‘life’ means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity,” said the bench. Accepting a submission by senior advocate Raj Panjwani, who represented the Animal Welfare Board of India and sought prohibition against inflicting cruelty on animals, the court said the animals also had “a right to get protection from human beings against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering”.
“Animals have also a right against the human beings not to be tortured and against infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering. Animal has also honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks,” it noted.
The bench was of the opinion that various rights under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act were statutory rights but they “have to be elevated to the status of fundamental rights, as has been done by few countries around the world, so as to secure their honour and dignity”.
Urging people to have “humanism” and “compassion for living creatures”, the court asked people to shed their “anthropocentric bias” when they say human life is not like animal existence.
The bench also regretted the international approach to animal welfare for not trying to protect their rights by way of any international treaty.
United Nations, all these years, safeguarded only the rights of human beings, not the rights of other species like animals, ignoring the fact that many of them, including bulls, are sacrificing their lives to alleviate human suffering, combating diseases and as food for human consumption. International community should hang their head in shame, for not recognising their rights all these ages, a species which served the humanity from the time of Adam and Eve,” it said.