The History Of Animal Rights In India
Traditional Indian religions value animals. The earliest Hindu texts support the concept of ahisma (non-killing/injury). The Vedic religion gave up animal sacrifices. Many Hindu texts consider vegetarianism essential for moksha (liberation of the soul), and Brahmins, the priestly class, are traditionally vegetarian. Hindus believe that many animals are friends or vehicles of the gods, and therefore are sacred. Jainism and Buddhism also emphasized compassion and non-killing.
Cows are particularly sacred to Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. Most Indian states ban cow slaughter. Killing cows sometimes results in riots. Jains and Hindus care for cows who can no longer produce milk in retirement homes called pinjrapoles.
According to the author of this paper, Islamic rule in North India changed the situation somewhat. Muslims ate meat, and Islamic rulers hunted regularly and killed many wild animals. However, Islamic rulers sometimes also emphasized kindness to animals: for example, many later Islamic rulers banned cow slaughter.
British colonialism worsened the position of animals in India. British people built the first slaughterhouse in India in 1760, and by 1910, there were 350 slaughterhouses. The British didn’t respect traditional Hindu beliefs about cows. According to the author of this paper, in 1857, they forced Hindus and Muslims to lick cartridges spread with pig and cow fat. They also promoted beef-eating among Muslims and encouraged people to hunt predators, sometimes even paying people for each animal killed. The British disliked Indian dogs because they competed with British dogs, and they killed them en masse.
The British Raj passed its first animal rights legislation in 1860. The law banned certain kinds of cruelty to animals, but didn’t fund refuge for abused animals. The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in India was founded in 1861.
After decolonization, the Indian Parliament passed its first animal rights legislation in 1962. The legislation created the Animal Welfare Board of India, which created laws and rules about animal welfare. Over the next fifty years, the Board and Parliament passed many rules protecting animals. Laws in India regulate slaughterhouses, animal performances, transport of animals, and experiments on animals. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 protected tigers, which are an endangered species because of the demand for tiger skins and tiger bones for medicine. In 2001, after sustained activism for forty years, India transitioned to using catch-and-neuter programs and rabies vaccination instead of killing to control stray dog populations.
In 1976, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi amended the Constitution of India to require the Indian government and its citizens to protect the environment and wild animals. The amendments help people advocate against animal cruelty. Unfortunately, India still has progress to make. India produces about six million metric tons of meat and 75 billion eggs annually. It is the fifth largest egg producer and the fifteenth largest broiler producer in the world. Even cows are mistreated. Intensive milk farming, which involves cruel practices such as separating calves from their mothers, is common in India. India produced four million metric tons of beef in 2001. The author concludes by pointing out that factory farming doesn’t reflect traditional Indian values of ahisma.