Strengthening Animal Protection: The Evolution of Animal Abuse Laws in India

Strengthening Animal Protection: The Evolution of Animal Abuse Laws in India


India, a country renowned for its rich biodiversity and reverence for life, has recognized the need for comprehensive laws to protect its animal population from abuse and cruelty. Over the years, the Indian government has made significant strides in addressing animal welfare concerns, promoting compassion towards animals, and ensuring that perpetrators of animal abuse face appropriate legal consequences. This article explores the evolution of animal abuse laws in India, highlighting key legislation and recent advancements in the field.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960:

The cornerstone of animal protection in India is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act). This legislation was enacted to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering inflicted upon animals and to provide a framework for their welfare. The PCA Act outlines various forms of cruelty and prescribes penalties for offenders, including fines and imprisonment. It covers both domesticated and wild animals, and it emphasizes the duty of humans to care for animals and protect them from harm.

Expanding the Scope: Amendments and Enhancements

Recognizing the evolving societal attitudes towards animals, the Indian government made several significant amendments to the existing legislation to strengthen animal welfare laws and extend their scope. The most notable amendment came in 1982, which introduced a ban on the use of performing animals in certain types of entertainment, ensuring they were not subjected to cruelty or exploitation.

Further amendments in 1994 and 2001 broadened the definition of animal cruelty and increased penalties for offenders. The amendments also introduced regulations regarding the transportation of animals, including guidelines for humane transportation conditions. These changes marked a crucial shift towards a more comprehensive approach to animal welfare.

Expansion of Animal Protection Laws:

To address emerging concerns and enhance animal welfare further, India has taken progressive steps by enacting new legislation and amending existing laws. In 2017, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, which aim to regulate the operation of pet shops and ensure the well-being of animals sold there. These rules prescribe guidelines on housing conditions, health records, and responsible breeding practices.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:

India’s commitment to protecting its wildlife is reflected in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This legislation safeguards endangered species, prevents the hunting and poaching of wildlife, and regulates trade in wildlife and their products. The Act recognizes the importance of preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance, making it illegal to harm or disturb protected species or their habitats. Violations under this Act can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and heavy fines.

Advancements and Landmark Judgments:

In general, Indian courts have taken pragmatic and welfare-oriented approaches to such issues.

State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig 

1989 AIR, 1 1988 SCR Supl. (3) 45

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 is involved in this case. It addressed the question of whether elephant hunting is permitted in accordance with the Indian Penal Code’s guidelines and the essential requirements of the Wildlife Protection Act. In accordance with Section 2(16) of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the term “hunting” has been defined. According to the Supreme Court, it is safe to presume that hunting elephants is forbidden because they fall  within the purview and list of animals included in Schedule I.

N.R. Nair v. Union of India

Appeal (civil)  3609-3620 of 2001

In 2000, the Kerala High Court considered the issue of extending basic rights to animals and emphasised that legal rights should not be “the exclusive preservation of humans, which must be extended beyond humans, thereby dismantling the dense legal wall with humans on one side and all non-human animals on the other.” The Supreme Court, in Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja further established this view

Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2001)

W.P. (C) No. 47 of 1998 with S.L.P. (C) No. 1474 of 1998

The incident involved the skinning of a tiger in an Andhra Pradesh zoo. When the Supreme Court heard the case’s facts, they were in total shock.  In order to clarify what procedures and measures were being done to maintain and conserve the tiger population in zoos and reserved forests, the SC ruled that it was urgently required to summon the chairman of the Central Zoo Authority to court. The Central Zoo Authority was therefore required to take cognizance of this matter and proceed in the proper manner when the Supreme Court issued the requisite orders regarding the aforementioned issue.

In recent years, India has witnessed several landmark judgments that have strengthened animal abuse laws and raised awareness about animal rights. The Supreme Court of India has played a pivotal role in advancing animal welfare through its rulings. In 2014, the Court declared that animals have legal rights, and they should be treated with compassion and dignity. It banned the use of bulls in events like Jallikattu and bullock cart races, considering them to be cruel practices. This ruling not only protected animals but also highlighted the need for a shift in cultural practices that harm them.

Case Law Discussion

Animal welfare board of India v. A. Nagaraja

Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 2007

The bull-taming sport known as “jallikattu” in Tamil Nadu and the bullock-car racing custom in Maharashtra were expressly addressed in the verdict as “animal rights under the Indian Constitution as well as with Indian laws, history, tradition, religion, and ethology.” The case was primarily analysed with comparison to the 1960 PCA Act. The AWBI, legally established under the PCA Act to promote animal welfare, called for the abolition of the activities referred to above on the ground that it had violated various provisions of the PCA Act. It further asserted that none of the two practises had any significance in terms of history, culture, or religion in the two states where they were practised.

In response to these allegations, a group of bull race promoters said that these games had been “played” for three centuries and were therefore an essential component of the culture’s practises and religious practise. In their pleas, they emphasised that great caution and safety were frequently observed to ensure that the animals taking part in the event suffered no distress or harm. A desire in the nation was also sparked by the claim that this activity was a good source of income for the government because it attracted lots of viewers who were willing to pay to watch. Tamil Nadu State also put forward arguments in this case and argued that all attempts would be made to ensure that the bulls chosen for jallikattu were not subjected to cruelty. The government of Maharashtra did not submit any arguments, and the court read this to suggest that it supported the prohibition of such practises.


  • whether bullock-car racing and jallikattu are damaging to and infringe upon the bulls.
  • Whether the action was logical, cultural, or historical
  • Whether the bulls were entitled to life in accordance with Article 21.


As regards tp the question of the historical importance of these practises, the Court held that the PCA Act overrules this culture or tradition. Finally, the Court systematically explored the “rights” of animals under Article 21. Correspondingly, the Court argued that it was necessary to protect animal dignity and hence declared the practice illegal. It also stressed the absence of an organisational convention for the prevention of animal rights and argued that it is necessary to ban practises that harm animals.

The legal capacity to possess rights

In the above case, the Court conferred rights on animals. The Court explored this topic in a variety of aspects and held that just because animals lack the level of mental maturity that people regard to be necessary for life, it may be unfair to say that animals have no value at all. Many creatures, especially mammals, demonstrate some concern in maintaining their fundamental welfare by making sure they have food and sleep. When attempting to expand animal rights, it’s critical to consider if the traits that all living things share are also consistent with society’s support of individual rights.

The relation between legal personhood and rights

The main issue that emerges with giving non-human animals moral or civil rights is whether or not they should be treated as legal persons. The idea of connecting animals to individuals remained essentially unaltered; some even discounted the necessity of pairing animals with the concept of a human for the preservation of their welfare. However, this viewpoint is debatable since it ignores a crucial point in the veganism and welfare argument: whether or not animals have rights on a morally grounded level.

Animal abuse laws-Position in other countries
United States:

The United States has a comprehensive set of animal welfare laws at both the federal and state levels. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) provides broad protection for animals used in research, exhibition, and commercial purposes. State-level legislation allows for flexibility in addressing specific regional concerns and tailoring laws accordingly. Many states have enhanced penalties for animal cruelty offenses and have made efforts to tackle animal fighting.

United Kingdom:

The United Kingdom has a strong legal framework for animal welfare, including the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which consolidates and strengthens previous legislation.The UK has established clear guidelines for courts to ensure consistent sentencing for animal cruelty offenses. Specific acts like the Protection of Wild Animals (Scotland) Act 2002 address the protection of wildlife and their habitats. The UK has also made efforts to ban certain practices, such as fox hunting and wild animals in circuses.

It is very difficult to come to a conclusion of which country has the best laws with regard to animal welfare and protection. The effectiveness of animal abuse laws depends not only on their existence but also on their enforcement, public awareness, and cultural attitudes towards animals.

Additionaly, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also taken proactive measures to combat animal abuse. In 2018, it issued an advisory to all states and union territories, urging them to treat animal cruelty cases with seriousness and prosecute offenders under the PCA Act. This advisory emphasized the importance of establishing animal welfare committees at the district level and conducting regular inspections of slaughterhouses, animal markets, and other establishments dealing with animals.


India has made significant progress in strengthening animal abuse laws, reflecting its commitment to animal welfare and ethical treatment of all living beings. The evolution of legislation and the enforcement of landmark judgments have played a crucial role in curbing animal cruelty, protecting endangered species, and promoting a more compassionate society. However, continuous efforts are required to raise awareness, improve enforcement mechanisms, and ensure that animal abuse cases are dealt with swiftly and effectively. By collectively advocating for stronger animal protection laws, we can create a society where humans and animals coexist harmoniously and with empathy.



Case Laws

  • State of A.P. v. Challa Ramakrishna Reddy, (2000) 5 SCC 712
  • Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 1 SCC 248 : AIR 1978 SC 597
  • Abdul Hakim Qureshi vs. State of Bihar (1961) AIR 448 (1961) SCR (2) 610
  • R Nair and Ors vs. Union of India. (2001) 6 SCC 84
  • Karnail Singh and others vs. State of Haryana. CRR-533-2013

Article by Amit Aravind

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

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