THE NEED FOR LEGISLATION ON THE MAINTENANCE AND REARING OF FARMED PIGS IN INDIA
The famous jurist Jeremy Bentham once said that a day will come when animals might acquire the rights which would have never been withheld from them but in cases only of Tyranny.[i] Bentham belonged to an era in which as per him the society is mostly if not only cares for the rights of man where expanding rights to any creature other than human was quite a far-fetched idea. An important instance in this regard can be found in the British Parliament. When one of the members named Richard Martin in 1821 introduced a bill which talked about the welfare of animals, the house erupted in laughter. However, this gradually changed, and today, the 19th century is known for some of the earliest legislative attempts on animal welfare throughout the world. In India, which was ruled by British then, the first such attempt was the Prevention of Cruelty Act in the year 1890, which is the parent legislation for the current law that is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. This is the animal welfare legislation for India and sets out regulations for the treatment of animals along with dealing with the suffering of animals and animal cruelty. However, in this article, I will be discussing Pig rearing in particular, which is an upcoming area in the commercial farming of animals sector.
The pig rearing sector has seen a boom recently. As per the 20th Livestock census, conducted by the Department of Animal Husbandry, the total number of pigs was 9.06 million which would have increased by now. Pigs show a fast growth rate, and hence are ideal for farming, as they have a wide potential and they do not require much space either. There is a varied use of pigs, however, amongst other things, the most important and common use is that of meat consumption. In the first half of 2019, the pork consumption of India was 295 thousand metric tons. Because of this, commercial farming is on the rise in India, where they use very primitive techniques for breeding and also provide unhygienic living conditions for pigs. Two-thirds of all farming is under the unregulated sector which is a traditional sector and does not pay much heed to the regulations hence bringing about more exploitation towards the animals. The sector is mostly unchecked hence driving away from the goals of animal welfare.
The Indian Constitution and the Indian Legal Scenario
Article 51(A) (g) of the Constitution emphasizes the fundamental duty of citizens to have compassion for living creatures. Article 51(A) (h) on the other hand talks about developing scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and freedom. In pig industries, pigs suffer from anti-humanism from the moment they are born till the time of their death. Pigs have a life span of 15-20 years. This growth rate of pigs makes them suitable for amassing industrial profits but the greed- oriented minds of readers tend to achieve more profits and serve the young piglets with growth drugs like colistin and ractopamine. Colistin sulphate is an antibiotic used as a growth promoter, easily available in Indian markets despite a recent ban.
The ill-effects of Ractopamine are not limited to pigs but end users also. The Sichuan Pork Trade Chamber of Commerce in China estimated that between 1997 and 2010, 1,700 people were poisoned from eating pork containing ractopamine. The European Food Safety Authority research indicates that ractopamine causes elevated heart rates, nervous disorder and heart-pounding sensations. It is a banned drug in over 160 countries but continues to be widely used in Indian pork industries. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued guidelines to limit the use of antibiotics in meat products; however, these are still under the process of implementation. This is not in line with Article 48 which states that the State should organize animal husbandry on modern scientific lines. Article 48 A, on the other hand, places a duty on the state to endeavor to protect and improve the environment. The wastes released from these industries carry disastrous effects on the environment.
A sizeable percentage of pigs’ upbringing takes place in filthy, cramped warehouses. Many farms are so cramped that they only provide as little as one-meter space to each pig. The condition of a sow is even more heart-breaking, where she is confined to gestation or farrowing crates for most of her pregnancy period. It is a metal-barred cage that is too small for a pig even to turn around in. These crates prevent sows from behaving naturally and unnecessarily limit their freedom of movement. The young piglets are also restricted to such a small space. Despite being banned by many countries, the use of these crates is prevalent in India. Sows are often artificially impregnated at repeated intervals, making them weaker and are sent to slaughter. The pigs are usually transported from one place to another in cramped transports during which many of them die due to exhausting journey. In many instances, the to-be-slaughtered pigs are not given proper painkillers, and when their hair is removed and skin softened in hot water, they remain alive.
In Animal Welfare Board v. A Nagaraj, the Supreme Court recognized the animals’ right to have honor and dignity. It interpreted Article 21 to include all forms of life in the environment, including animal life, which is necessary for human life. “Life” was given an expanded meaning that something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but with some intrinsic worth, honor or dignity. The court in Francis Coralie Mullins v. Union Territory of Delhi stated that the right to live with dignity forms an intrinsic part of Article 21, and if animals are treated with cruelty, then human beings could not be termed as dignified.
Immanuel Kant advocated that we as human beings have an indirect moral obligation towards animals because we have obligations towards humanity.[ii] The conditions of farm pigs are deteriorating despite general legislation like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Their ill-treatment demands urgent action. The courts have from time to time looked into the aspect of animal welfare and recently an important breakthrough came when Uttarakhand High Court declared that the animal kingdom should be considered a living entity. But despite some of these steps in the right direction, a majority of the rules and regulations regarding pig welfare remain vague. Specific rules for the pig industry are the need of the hour and would serve the interests of pigs’ welfare in general.
[i] Jeremy Bentham, "Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation", Chapter XVII(1781) [ii] Potter, Nelson T. Jr., "Kant on Duties to Animals" (2005). Faculty Publications - Department of Philosophy.
Raja Reeshav Roy
About the Author:
The Author is a 5th year B.A. LL.B. (Hons. in IPR) student from National Law University, Jodhpur.