Animal Law in South Asia

November 18, 2020Zihao Yu


South Asia or Southern Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethnocultural terms. This region consists of eight countries which are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The population of South Asia is about 1.891 billion or about one-fourth of the world's population as the most populous and the most densely populated area in the world. South Asia is dominated by the Indian Plate and defined largely by the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Pamir mountains on the north.

South Asian countries have 15% of world biodiversity, including tiger, elephant, snow leopard and other big cats, one-horn rhino, pangolin, brown bear, deer, reptiles, seahorse, star tortoise, butterflies, peacocks, birds, red sander, orchids, shells, coral, etc. Those iconic animals are seriously endangered or even on the brink of extinction with the impact of “rampant poaching and unscrupulous illegal trade of wildlife for the sale of hides, trophies, ornamental plants, music instruments and for traditional medicine, often in outside markets.” (UNODC)

According to status, there are 265.31 million cattle, 148.04 million buffalo, 110.21 million sheep, 241.4 million goats, and 1377.54 million poultry in the SAARC Region. (Source: SAARC, 2014). The 765.5 million dairy animals consist of 21% of the population of the world. (Source: SAARC, 2015) Livestock in the SAARC region is facing the challenges of low productivity, low genetic potential, and other influencing factors.


There is the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920 (repealed on the official website) to prevent cruelty to animals in Bangladesh. Section 4-12 penalizes the activities of cruelty to animals and for sale of animals killed with unnecessary cruelty, overloading, practicing phuka (cow blowing), killing an animal with unnecessary cruelty, etc. In this Act, the "animal" is referred to as "any domestic or captured animal." (Section 3)


There is the Livestock Act of Bhutan 2001, within which Chapter X is the welfare of animals with the standards and the inspection regulation. The “Animal” is defined as “all ruminants and monogastric animals except man; any kind of mammals except man; any kind of four-footed beast which is not a mammal; fish, reptiles, crustacean or other cold-blooded creatures of any species.” (Art 3.1) According to Art 22, livestock shall not be subjected to any unnecessary suffering or injury and must be provided with adequate feed, water, and shelter, and shall be kept, cared for, and transported with due attention paid to their health and welfare.

The Maldives

According to the Penal Code of the Maldives (2014), Section 625 is the Cruelty to Animals. Cruelly mistreating an animal or neglecting an animal in custody are considered as the offense of a Class 3 misdemeanor, with the exception of accepted veterinary practices or accepted procedures for carrying on scientific research. Section 412 prohibits the act of unlawful sexual contact with animals.

The Maldives have policies and action plans regarding the management and integration of protected areas, such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), National Environment Action Plan (NEAP), and National Development Plans (NDPs). The Maldives does not have any specific legislation for protected areas but is currently formulating a new regulation on protected areas.


Nepal has the following laws and regulations with regards to animals, which are the Animal Health and Livestock Service Act, 2055 (1998), the Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, 2055 (1999),  the Animal Welfare Directive 2073 (2016), the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017, and the Aquatic Animal Protection Act, 2017 (1960).

In the National Penal (Code) Act, 2017, the Art. 116 prohibits reckless conduct with respect to animals and birds, Art. 227 prohibits bestiality, and Chapter 27 prohibits the ‘Offences Relating To Animals And Birds’.

Do’s and Don’ts for animals in Nepal from

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has the Animal Act 1958, which is designed for slaughter and removal of animals, branding of cattle, trespass by animals, and castration and breeding. In 2020, Sri Lanka bans cow slaughter.

Sri Lanka has the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 573, Cruelty to Animals), which was adopted in 1907 and consolidated in 1955. In this Ordinance, the “animal” is referred to as “any domestic or captured animals and includes any bird, fish, or reptile in captivity”. (Art 14) Any person who (a) cruelly beat, ill-treat, override, abuse or torture, or cause or procure to be cruelly beaten, ill-treated, overridden, abused or tortured; (b) by any act or omission cause unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal; or (c) convey or carry, or cause to be conveyed or carried, in any ship, boat, canoe, or in any vehicle, basket, box or cage or otherwise, any animal in such manner or position as to subject such animal to unnecessary pain or suffering shall be guilty of an offense and be punished with a fine (maximum to 100 rupees, less than $1) or with imprisonment to at most 3 months or with both. (Art 2) if an animal found in any place suffering pain by reason of starvation, mutilation, or other ill-treatment, the owner will be guilty of an offense. (Art 3) There is a penalty for killing animals with unnecessary cruelty (Art 4), a penalty for using animals unfit for labor (Art 5), and a penalty for permitting diseased animals to die in any street (Art 7). This ordinance is criticized as “an inadequate deterrent against animal cruelty”.

Up to now, there is no Animal Welfare law in Sri Lanka. A draft Animal Welfare Bill was prepared by Law Commission in 2006 and a draft Animal Welfare Bill was prepared in 2009. Animal rights activists point out that there are no animal welfare laws in the country, and a bill to enact an Animal Welfare Act has been blocked in parliament since 2006. 


There is the Animal Health & Veterinary Public Health Act (2012) in Afghanistan which is designed for the protection and regulation of animal health, animal welfare, food safety and public health. This Act is for the protection of animal health and public health; the prevention and control of animal diseases, including zoonoses; the regulation of veterinary diagnostic laboratory services; the import and export of animals, animal products, and biological materials; the safety and quality of products of animal origin destined for human or animal consumption and commercial purposes; and Animal Welfare. (Art 2.) In this Act, the “animal” is referred to “(a) any mammal, bird, fish, reptile or amphibian which is a member of the phylum vertebrates, other than humans; (b) any invertebrate which is prescribed as an animal for the purpose of this Act.” (Art 3. (1)(ii)) “Animal welfare” is referred to as “how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if, as indicated by scientific evidence, it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress”. (Art 3.(1)(vi)).


Please see our blog post on Animal Law in India here.


The article is coming soon.

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