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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

‘Average penalty for cruelty to animals just ₹50’

mumbai Updated: Apr 27, 2017 10:34 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Industrial cruelty to animals is being promoted for profit, says Gauri Maulekhi, director and trustee of the animal rights group, People For Animals (PFA).
Industrial cruelty to animals is being promoted for profit, says Gauri Maulekhi, director and trustee of the animal rights group, People For Animals (PFA).(HT Photo)

Do we really want to be the sort of society that condones cruelty to animals, asks Gauri Maulekhi, the director and trustee of the animal rights group, People For Animals (PFA), in an interview with Hindustan Times. Maulekhi, who is also a consultant for the Humane Society International, the world’s largest animal protection group and who has campaigned fiercely against animal sacrifice in Uttarakhand and sensitised the country about the issue, talks about animal healthcare, the pet market and measures to prevent animal cruelty. Excerpts:

Have you witnessed a specific upward/downward trend in acts of violence against animals? What according to you is the major cause behind such acts?

There are various laws for the protection of animals, but their implementation is negligible because most offences are non-cognisable, with an average penalty of Rs 50. The district SPCAs that are supposed to take action against cruelty are only constituted on paper, and have no personnel or budget. They don’t induct trained people who can assist with law implementation. Besides random acts of cruelty, now industrial cruelty, which is against the constitutional and cultural values of our country, is also being promoted for profit. There are more mechanised slaughterhouses, battery cage poultry farms and use of non-therapeutic antibiotics and hormones in the dairy industry. Animals are transported in deplorable ways — and these are just a few problems.

Mumbai has few government-run veterinary medical facilities. Are there any new facilities being planned in Mumbai or Maharashtra?

The Tata Trusts and People for Animals are setting up a veterinary care facility in Mumbai. But what we need even more is for the department of animal husbandry to strengthen their clinics across the state. Currently, these clinics are either poorly staffed or have been abandoned. The veterinarians are in such short supply that treatment is freely offered by quacks. Clinics that are functional lack basic facilities for surgeries and diagnoses. Even the mandatory birth control programme for dogs has not been launched across the state.

Is there a separate budget allocated by the Central government for animal healthcare? If so, what is the budget and how are funds spent?

Animal husbandry is a state subject, so budget from the Centre is confined to few schemes. The state needs to invest more on treatment and birth control, rather than expanding facilities for artificial insemination of animals by non-vets, which is currently the single largest focus of the department in all states.

What are your views on the booming pet industry? Do you think activities like breeding, importing foreign species are cruel? Have there been government advisories against this?

The Centre has banned the import of foreign dogs owing to the unregulated breeding, abandonment and the threat of diseases. The pet industry has exploited animals for decades, without any accountability or regulation. Breeders are selling sick, underage pups from abused mothers.

The fact that dog breeders actually use a device called a “Rape Stand” says it all. The real question has to be whether we want to be the sort of society that actually condones such activities? The government is working on regulating breeding and the trade of pets, and hopefully this will soon be in place. Their implementation will reduce unnecessary suffering of animals, the victims of this trade.

Do you think penalties for those in the illegal pet trade should equal those in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972?

In 1960, when the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted, the penalty was Rs50. It needs to be corrected for inflation, to have the same effect as was then intended by the lawmakers. The pet trade needs to be restricted and regulated, in conformity with various court directions.

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 10:34 IST