Animal Law in Bangladesh

November 23, 2021Lu Shegay

Introduction

Bangladesh is a country in South Asia and the eighth-most populous country in the world having open access to the Bay of Bengal and consequently to the Indian Ocean. The fauna of Bangladesh is very diverse and wide. This is mainly due to the country’s geographical location, which has the long sea coast, many rivers, lakes, ponds, evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, flatlands with tall grasses, etc. There are approximately 1600 species of vertebrates and 1000 species of invertebrates in the country, which include 22 species of amphibians, 708 species of fish, 126 species of reptiles, 628 species of birds, 113 species of mammals, 30 species of aphids, 20 species of bees, 178 species of beetles, 135 species of flies, 400 species of spiders, 150 species of lepidopterans, 52 species of decapods, 30 species of copepods, 2 species of starfish, etc. However, because of the increasing population of humans, unplanned urbanization, and agricultural development, many animals and the ecosystem as a whole are affected by these factors that lead to the extinction of several species and make them endangered.

"The dog" by elsamuko is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Biodiversity in Bangladesh

​​In 1994, Bangladesh ratified the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, and, in 10 years, it was set to revise its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.


Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife in its forests, marshes, woodlands, and hills. The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, saltwater crocodile, black panther, and fishing cat are among the chief predators in the Sundarbans. The Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear, and oriental pied hornbill inhabit the ​​north and east of the country. Other animals include the black giant squirrel, capped langur, Bengal fox, sambar deer, jungle cat, king cobra, wild boar, mongooses, pangolins, pythons, and water monitors. Moreover, Bangladesh has one of the largest populations of Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins.


For the past century, several animals have become extinct in Bangladesh due to habitat loss, climate change effect, and human developments in the areas where animals live, especially the one-horned, two-horned rhinoceros, and common peafowl.

"Fishing cat lounging" by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920

This Act was enacted in 1920 and is the major legal source to regulate animal protection and cruelty to them. Animal in the Act as “any domestic or captured animal,” which, at first glance, may seem too broad, shall apply to all categories of animals that are subject to human exploitation. According to the definition, any domestic animal, farmed animals, and wildlife animals that are kept in captivity would fall within the scope of the definition.


Further, the Act proclaims that any person who

“(a) overdrives, cruelty or unnecessarily beats, or otherwise ill-treats any animal, or

(b) binds, keeps, or carries any animal in such a manner or position as to subject the animal to unnecessary pain or suffering, or

(c) offers, exposes, or has in his possession for sale any live animal which is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment, or any dead animal which he has reason to believe to have been killed in an unnecessarily cruel manner”

shall be punished by a fine for up to BDT 100 (~ USD 1.17) or with imprisonment for up to 3 months, or both. (Section 4)

Given the widespreadness of cruelty to animals in many parts of the world and especially in those countries where people are not educated on why there is an urgent need to protect animals, the amount of fine is ridiculously small. Thus, the provisions of the Act may not be effective as it would not stop other potential inflictors to commit a cruel act towards animals.


Overloading animals is also prohibited by the Act and is punished with the same fine as an act of cruelty, which is up to BDT 100 (~ USD 1.17), or with imprisonment for up to 3 months, or both. Notably, allowing such activity by the owner of an animal, a trader, a carrier, a contractor, or who, by virtue of their employment is in possession of an animal or in control over the loading, is punished with a small fine of up to BDT 100 (~ USD 1.17). (Section 5)


Phooka, otherwise known as cow blowing, is not allowed in Bangladesh. This is a process used in many countries, in which forceful blowing of air into a cow's vagina, sometimes anus, is done to induce a cow to produce more milk. Section 6 of the Act provides that if any person does phooka upon any cow or other milch animal, the person “shall be deemed to have committed a cognizable offense” and should be punished with a fine of up to BDT 500 (~ USD 5.83), or with imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both, and “the owner of the cow or other milch animal and any person in possession of or control over it shall be liable to the same punishment and the cow or the milch animal on which the operation of phooka was performed shall be forfeited to Government.” A repeated crime is punished with both a fine and imprisonment.


Unnecessary cruelty is also prohibited, according to the Act, and penalized with a fine for up to BDT 200 (~ USD 2.33), or imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both. Section 7 provides that a person shall not kill an animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner. However, this Section has an exception in terms of religious practices, bona fide scientific purposes, or the preparation of any medicinal drugs.

Baiting or inciting animals to fight is regulated within the Act and is not allowed. According to Section 11, if any person “incites any animal to fight, or baits any animal, or aids or abets anyone in such incitement or baiting,” the person should be penalized with a fine for up to BDT 50 (~ USD 0.58).

"Smiley Goat" by Martin Cathrae is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

New Animal Welfare Act

In 2019, the Parliament of Bangladesh adopted the new Animal Welfare Act, which replaced the old source. This Act was enacted to ensure proper treatment and responsible rearing of animals, as well as to prevent abusive treatment of animals. The Act is specifically focused on domesticated animals, in particular, farmed animals


The Act lists a number of activities that “fall within cruelty to animals but does not restrict the list to the included activities only - in section 6(2), it creates an avenue of further additions through official gazettes. The existing provision lists activities such as overfeeding, underfeeding, long and unnecessary restrictions, failure to provide medical treatment, unpermitted use of animals for recreational purposes, using unfit animals for reproduction, etc. An important addition to the list is the prohibition of injecting or feeding harmful and unnecessary medicines - this is particularly relevant as there is a widespread practice of medicating farm animals with excessive antibiotics. It is also worth mentioning that the High Court issued orders during Eid-Al-Adha this year, directing the sellers to refrain from serving unprescribed antibiotics to the cattle.


The activities defined in Section 6, subject to the exceptions under sub-section (4), are punishable with imprisonment of up to 6 months and/or a fine up to BDT 10 000 (~ USD 116). The allowable exceptions, among others, include the use of animals for research and academic purposes and sacrificing animals for religious purposes.”


The new Act also refers to the standards of the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) in terms of identifying the humane ways in which a diseased animal may be put to rest. Moreover, the Act contains the provisions on the death of a diseased animal without suffering using euthanasia under the guidance of and with the written permission of a veterinary surgeon.

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