Animals in Agriculture in India
India is a country located in South Asia that has a close connection to religion. There is a concept adopted within the country called ahimsa, which means non-violence toward all living beings. In Hinduism, for instance, killing an animal is considered a violation of ahimsa and is believed to cause bad karma which led many Hindus to come to vegetarianism. Other religions that are based on the concept of ahimsa are Jainism where they believe in the sanctity of all life and avoid harming even insects and Buddhism where they practice life release in which animals who are destined for slaughter are purchased and released to the wild.
The debates of animal welfare and animal rights activists were mainly focused on the treatment of cattle because cows, unlike other animals, have a certain sacred status in the country, according to the majority of millions of Hindus (79.8%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), and Jains (0.4%). But this does not apply to those from other religions, such as Muslims (14.2%), Christians (2.3%), and non-religious people (0.3%).
Cow slaughter has been avoided for different reasons, mainly because of the cow’s association with the god Krishna in Hinduism and because cattle have always been an integral part of rural communities of the country. Cattle slaughter has been opposed by many Indian religious associations because of the ethical concept of ahimsa (non-violence) and the belief in the unity of all life. In the present day, legislation against cattle slaughter is adopted in most states and territories of India.
In 2005, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws that were enacted by various state governments of India. 20 out of 28 states had various laws that prohibited the slaughter or sale of cows. Bone in meat, carcass and half-carcass of buffalos are also prohibited and are not permitted to export. The boneless meat of buffalos, goats, sheep, and birds is permitted for export.
However, despite all the religious and ethical restrictions in the country concerning cows, in 2012, India became the world’s largest exporter of beef. According to the FAO report, India had the world’s largest population of dairy cows, which was estimated at 43.6 million, and was the second-largest producer of milk (50.3 million tons per year). In 2011, India was the third-largest producer of eggs after China and the United States and the sixth-largest producer of chicken meat.
As the highest legal instrument in the country, the Indian Constitution in its Section 48 provides that the State “shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
The major legal instrument that is aimed at the regulation of animal protection is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 and it also applies to farmed animals in some of its provisions. That said, Section 11 prohibits transporting animals in a way that inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering to animals, confining animals in a way that does not give them a reasonable opportunity for movement, or tethering animals for an unreasonable amount of time on an unreasonably short or heavy chain.
As it was mentioned above, 28 Indian states and Union territories have their internal laws related to cow and calf slaughter, but these laws do not have a uniform application. In some states, there are exclusive cattle preservation laws, in others, animal protection laws extend protection to other categories of animals.
During the period of 2013-2017, World Animal Protection worked with the government, state agencies, farmers, dairy scientists, and corporates to promote new animal welfare standards for dairy animals through the National Dairy Code of Practice for Management of Dairy Animals, which was released in 2014.
The Code defines the following 10 criteria that need to be fulfilled for cows and buffaloes to have a good life:
All dairy animals have 24-hour access to clean water;
All dairy animals receive good-quality feed/fodder;
All animals have access to suitable shade and shelter;
All calves receive milk or an adequate substitute within 24 hours after being born;
All animals have a comfortable and clean resting area;
All animals have access to vet care;
No animals are confined indoors permanently;
No animals are permanently tethered;
All farms have a humane plan in place to manage male calves;
All farms have an animal health and welfare plan that is regularly updated.
Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Transport of Animals Rules are applied to the regulation of farmed animals. The rules, in particular, regulate the transportation of poultry and pigs by rail, road, or air. The Rules in their Section 77 provide that containers must be properly fitted for transportation, provide shelter from sun, heat, rain, or cold, and that poultry and pigs shall be comfortable during the transportation period.
As for the transportation of pigs, the Rules in their Section 93 prohibit fettering and contain provisions on space requirements. The Rules provide that only animals who are “healthy and in good condition” shall be transported and that pregnant and very young animals shall not be mixed with other animals during the transportation period. (Section 98) These Rules also state that attention shall be paid to the mental well-being of animals that are subject to transportation and that stress shall be reduced.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules of 2001 prohibit the slaughter of pregnant animals, animals under the age of 3 months, or those who have offspring less than 3 months old, as well as of those animals who were not certified by a veterinary doctor who shall confirm that the animal is in a fit condition for slaughter. (Section 3)
Section 4 of the Rules provides that the veterinarian has a duty to thoroughly examine not more than 12 animals in an hour and not more than 96 animals within a day. It is not allowed to slaughter an animal in the presence of other animals, in accordance with Section 6. Moreover, all animals shall rest in a lairage area for 24 hours before slaughter and the slaughterhouse must comply with the requirements in terms of slaughtering territory, washing facilities, and others.