A court in the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand has ruled that animals will be given the same rights as humans.
On July 4th, the high court in Uttarakhand, northern India, declared every animal a ‘legal entity’ with the ‘rights, duties and liabilities of a living person’.
This decision was the result of a petition against the cruelty of animal-drawn transport, filed in 2014 by activist Narayan Dutt Bhatt. He believed that action should be taken against the use of sharp objects as spurs and the overly heavy cartloads of weight animals were forced to pull along. Over the years since the petition reached court, the public interest litigation expanded to include the protection of all animals.
The guidelines now being enforced hold people responsible for the animals they own. They have become ‘guardians’ to their animals, and must act towards them ‘in loco parentis’ (in place of parents), ensuring their welfare and protection. Animals are now categorized as ‘juristic persons’ alongside minors, wards of court and trusts, among others.
In order to back up the ruling, judges Sharma and Singh cited a Supreme Court judgement, which held that every animal has honour, dignity, rights and privacy that it should not be deprived of. The court directed that societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, enforcing this judgement, should be set up in each district.
As well as protecting wildlife and discouraging the mistreatment of animals by owners, poachers and companies alike, this ruling bans the use of sharp implements on farm animals and demands that animal-drawn vehicles display high-visibility markings.
Speaking to Down To Earth, animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi said: ‘It is offensive and illogical to treat sentient beings like inanimate objects and the time has come to change our outlook. This order will go a long way in building a compassionate society.’