Know the fundamental rights for animals
We live in a country where we have Fundamental Rights which are considered sacrosanct granted to us by the Constitution. These are considered to be fundamental because these rights are the base for all individual rights and these are vital for the development of human beings. They are essential and natural. But, have we ever thought of fundamental rights for animals? Yes, the rights which are fundamental to the development and welfare of animals do exist and most of us are still unaware of this.
“What we really need is a change in the attitude of people. We now see animals, especially farm animals, as things or commodities. This has to change. What we really need is a mind which can accept that the animals serve their own purpose in this world and it’s much larger than just serving human beings. Their services to the ecosystem are to be acknowledged. We can talk about freedom only after accepting them as our fellow living beings. And only after allowing them to enjoy these freedoms can we talk about their welfare,” says Sally Varma, Outreach Coordinator (Kerala) of Humane Society International- India (HIS-India).
Talking about the fundamental rights of animals, or rather it can be called as the five freedoms granted to them, they were formalised in 1979 press statement by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council and are being used by the animal welfare activists to help win animals the conditions favourable for a healthy life and dignity.
It was also mentioned by the Hon. Supreme Court in its order concerning the issue of Jallikattu- CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5387 OF 2014,(@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 2007) (Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors.). In its landmark judgement, it is stated that “World Health Organization of Animal Health (OIE), of which India is a member, acts as the international reference organization for animal health and animal welfare. OIE has been recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and, in the year 2013, it has a total of 178 member countries. On animal welfare, OIE says that an animal is in good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress.
The five freedoms granted are
(i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
(ii) freedom from fear and distress;
(iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;
(iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
(v) freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
These five freedoms are treated as the fundamental rights of animals internationally and serve as the basis for further legal activities globally. Similar to how we see our Fundamental Duties (Article 51 A of the Constitution), these five freedoms are considered to be the base for all other animal welfare laws and rules globally. It is to be kept in our mind that to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures is also a part of our Fundamental Duty.
These freedoms which are emphasized time and again by the judicial systems around the world decide on the question of violation of animal rights and freedoms. Each one of these five includes in itself a wider meaning and interpretations to it can take many angles.
Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
It is necessary for us to ensure the freedom of animals from hunger and thirst by ready access to freshwater and diet to maintain health and vigour. Our pets and farm animals can easily win the right because there is an owner or a caretaker for these animals and it is on him to make sure that the animal is given food and water on time. When it comes to wild animals there are gazillion initiatives which are taken up around the world. Many of these have governmental support and many others are run by animal welfare organizations without the help of the government.
It is also important to notice that in India when a patch of forest is reserved as protected the staff and authority of the area take appropriate measures to ensure the availability of food and water for the wildlife inside the forest. The man-made water tanks, which can compensate for dry lakes and pools in summer, of Chulannur sanctuary, are one such measure. Also, planting trees and plants which are endemic to the area and those which suits the climate, soil and topography of the land is also an important step towards this. Once there is a scarcity of food or water, then cases of man-animal conflict arise which would lead the incident to angles which are unpredictable.
Freedom from Discomfort
This can be ensured by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area. Animals, especially stray animals suffer such discomfort mainly when there are extremities of weather and also when there are natural disasters. We see numerous animals on the streets, shivering in the rain and fog or panting in the scorching sun. The humans who try to save themselves during natural disasters completely forget about their fellow beings and sometimes this leads to loss of lives. Each flood we hear about or see on the television and the internet comes with photographs of animals dead and rotten. Most of the times these are animals tied down or caged, unable to escape. Also, an animal trying to find a shelter in our private property are often chased away. “Providing shelter for all animals on the street is not practical and is impossible. But adopting them instead of buying from pet shops or breeders can provide at least a few of them with a loving family. What we have to aim for is a world where no more rescue is needed, a world where animals are safe and comfortable even on roads,” says Sally Varma.
Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
This is a freedom which allows healthy living or death of dignity. Euthanasia of animals is allowed under rare conditions which are performed by following a stringent protocol and under the guidance and supervision of an expert team. The Madras High Court also recently upheld this in its order W.P.No 9035 of 2018. But this does not give anyone the freedom to indiscriminate killing or slaughtering those animals which are vermins or with an incurable disease and mortally wounded in someone’s personal opinion. “When it comes to food, slaughtering of Ovines, Caprines, Suillines, Bovines, and fish and poultry are only allowed, that too in a licensed slaughter-house,” says M. N. Jayachandran, Member, Kerala State Animal Welfare Board. The recent case of an elephant death in Palakkad district of Kerala questions this freedom and raise a question if the animal deserved a faster and less painful death. Same is the case of all animals. We see them wandering in pain with wounds and it is the duty of a citizen to inform the concerned authority to make sure a healthy life.
Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
We often hear complaints about residents associations and neighbours not letting people live with their pet animals like dogs because of the fact that the animals tend to express their normal behaviour. The commonest of this is the dogs which turn out to be a disturbance to the neighbours. But law stresses the importance of expression of the normal behaviour of animals in order to provide them with a healthy life. Also, social animals and birds which are trapped and caged or chained are exposed to a higher risk of depression and trauma and such other conditions of poor mental health. This is also a problem to be addressed. This is to be guaranteed by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
Freedom from Fear and Distress
Animals which are beaten not only suffer physical injuries but also are pushed to a state of mental infirmity through such acts. Barbaric practices like unscientific training and taming, yelling and even expecting them to behave like a human being are versions of this in different grades. Through this freedom, the fundamental right to stay mentally active is also enforced. This can be achieved by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
As rightly said, the Five Freedoms outline five aspects of animal welfare under human control. These freedoms not only guarantee the welfare of animals, but also the reduction in the number of cases of man-animal conflict and animal attacks. Such rights of animals when violated force them to behave and act in ways which would, in turn, hurt the humans in one way or the other. So these legal measures can be seen as a step towards the welfare and safety of us, humans. It can also be considered as a measure trying to uplift the concept of living in harmony with nature.