Taking note of the recent death of a seven-year-old boy, who was attacked by a pack of street dogs, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for a larger debate on the issue of human rights versus animal rights. The commission has also issued notices to the Delhi government and the Union Health Ministry, seeking their opinion on the matter.
The police had said that the boy, Mamun, had tripped and fallen down near a dog while playing. The startled animal had begun barking, attracting other dogs. Before the boy could get up, one dog bit him in the neck. He later died from his injuries.
The NHRC, which took suo motu cognisance of media reports of the incident, has called for a wider debate, pitting human rights against animal rights “in a situation where human lives are at risk due to attack by animals.”
A statement from the commission noted that, “It looks like a human rights versus animal rights battle. This is not a problem of Delhi alone. The commission has come across similar incidents in several other parts of the country.”
The statement added that the commission’s observations had also taken into account another media report exposing the “futile efforts made by the municipal corporations of Delhi to deal with the menace of stray dogs.”
The commission has given the chief secretary of the Delhi government and the secretary of the union health ministry four weeks to clarify their stand on the issue and on the incident that led to the child’s death.
“Prima facie, it is of the view that human rights should weigh above animal rights in a situation where human lives are at risk due to attack by animals. However, this calls for a debate by the civil society,” said the NHRC.
Animal rights activists pointed out that human rights and animal rights were linked intrinsically.
“Animal rights and human rights go hand in hand. A lack of respect for other species can translate into insensitivity and cruelty towards fellow humans too. For the sake of human rights, the NHRC must recognise that abuse of any living being, including animals, is unacceptable and endangers everyone,” said Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India.
It was important to discuss certain “human practices” while dealing with the issue of stray dogs, said Amritika Phool, a co-opted member of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
“If you take the recent incident, there are a lot of illegal slaughterhouses operating out of Jamia Nagar and as a result there are a lot of dogs in the area since they scavenge from such areas. Certain human practices need to be curbed alongside animal birth control. It’s important for both to happen simultaneously,” she said.
Meanwhile, municipal officials maintained that civic agencies were taking measures not just to control the increasing number of stray dogs but also to ensure sterilisation and anti-rabies immunisation measures.
According to North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) officials, about 19,128 dogs were sterilised and immunised in its jurisdiction between April 2012 and June 2015.
“We are concerned about the increasing number of stray dogs in the capital and we are taking all possible steps to control and prevent cases of dogbites or rabies. About 80 per cent of stray dogs have been caught by corporations and handed over to NGOs for sterilisation and anti-rabies immunisation,” said a senior corporation official.