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Cockfights illegal, unethical

Cockfights illegal, unethical
Highlights

The Supreme Court verdict on Jallikattu says, “Every species has an inherent right to live and shall be protected by law, subject to the exception provided out of necessity.

The Supreme Court verdict on Jallikattu says, “Every species has an inherent right to live and shall be protected by law, subject to the exception provided out of necessity. Animal has also honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks.” Cockfights by any stretch of imagination cannot be construed as human necessity

The cocks of Andhra Pradesh are now engaged in bitter fight in the highest judicial bodies. Interestingly, myriad interpretations are given on judicial observations and orders. The section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (PCA) bans animal fighting of any kind. The Supreme Court judgement in Animal Welfare Board versus A Nagaraja of May, 7, 2014, banned Jallikattu (bull fights). The Supreme Court in this judgement has reiterated that animal fight certainly comes under the definition of cruelty. “Being dumb and helpless, they suffer in silence,” the court observed.

This observation in regard to bull fight obviously applies to cock fights too. Cruelty towards animals cannot be defended in the name of culture or tradition. In fact, in any society based on rule of law, if one comes into conflict between law and tradition, it is the law and the law alone that prevails. The apex court in its judgement on jallikattu has clearly stated, “PCA Act, a welfare legislation, in our view, overshadows or overrides the socalled tradition and culture.”

A person will be punished under the Section 11 of the said act if he or she beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated. The same section also treats any of the following acts as crime:

1. wilfully and unreasonably administers any injurious drug or injurious substance to any animal or wilfully and unreasonably causes or attempts to cause any such drug or substance to be taken by any animal.

2. conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering.

3. organises, keeps uses or acts in the management or, any place for animal fighting or for the purpose of baiting any animal or permits or offers any place to be so used or receives money for the admission of any other person to any place kept or used for any such purposes.

Reports suggest that drugs are administered to energise cocks to fight ferociously. Even knives are tied to them during the fights. Such acts come under cruelty towards animal and the law unequivocally prohibits them. The Section 11 (N) clearly states that animal fights are tantamount to cruelty and thus outlawed. The cockfights are justified on the ground of history, culture, tradition etc. Someone would even argue what is wrong with cockfights when we kill them for meat. But, the following observation made by the Supreme Court judgement of May, 7, 2014, in Animal Welfare Board versus A Nagaraja case answers such questions raised by the supporters of cockfights.

We have to examine the various issues raised in these cases, primarily keeping in mind the welfare and the well-being of the animals and not from the stand point of the Organizers, Bull tamers, Bull Racers, spectators, participants or the respective States or the Central Government, since we are dealing with a welfare legislation of a sentientbeing, over which human-beings have domination and the standard we have to apply in deciding the issue on hand is the “Species Best Interest”, subject to just exceptions, out of human necessity. The prevention of cruelty to animals act is welfare legislation.

The judiciary has to adjudicate on the legality of cock fights based on this law. The Supreme Court in the A Nagaraja case itself states the manner in which the courts should approach such welfare legislation. The apex court in its judgement of May, 7, 2014 said: “PCA Act is a welfare legislation which has to be construed bearing in mind the purpose and object of the Act and the Directive Principles of State Policy. It is trite law that, in the matters of welfare legislation, the provisions of law should be liberally construed in favour of the weak and infirm. Court also should be vigilant to see that benefits conferred by such remedial and welfare legislation are not defeated by subtle devices.

Court has got the duty that, in every case, where ingenuity is expanded to avoid welfare legislations, to get behind the smoke-screen and discover the true state of affairs. Court can go behind the form and see the substance of the devise for which it has to pierce the veil and examine whether the guidelines or the regulations are framed so as to achieve some other purpose than the welfare of the animals.” Given this observation of the apex court, any judicial interpretation on cock fights can not be based on the views of the owners, spectators or the organisers of such fights and their interests in continuing such fights in the name of so-called culture or tradition. The welfare of the animals or birds should be the basis for any legal scrutiny of such practices involving these creatures which cannot defend themselves in any court of law.

Court has also a duty under the doctrine of parents patriae to take care of the rights of animals, since they are unable to take care of themselves as against human beings. Section 11(1)(m) of PCA reads as follows: 11. Treating animals cruelty.- (1) If any person xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx (m) solely with a view to providing entertainment-

(i) confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object of prey for any other animal; or

(ii) incites any animal to fight or bait any other animal;

The cocks are deliberately incited to fight solely for the purpose of entertainment by the organisers of cockfights. Thus, cockfights are illegal as per the PCA act and the Supreme Court judgement on Jallikattu which would be the basis for any future adjudication of cockfights. Not just the constitution, law and the jurisprudence, cockfights are unacceptable even as per Indian philosophical thought. As early as 1500- 600 BC in Isha-Upanishads, it is professed as follows: “The universe along with its creatures belongs to the land. No creature is superior to any other.

Human beings should not be above nature. Let no one species encroach over the rights and privileges of other species.” The Supreme Court verdict on Jallikattu further said, “Every species has an inherent right to live and shall be protected by law, subject to the exception provided out of necessity. Animal has also honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks. “ Cockfights by any stretch of imagination cannot be construed as human necessity.

Article 51A(g) of the Constitution enjoins that it was a fundamental duty of every citizen “to have compassion for living creatures”, which means concern for suffering, sympathy, kindliness etc., which has to be read along with Sections 3, 11(1)(a) & (m), 22 etc. of PCA Act. Every species in nature has a right to life. No species even human beings are not superior as per law or philosophical doctrines. Except in the case of human necessity as prescribed in the law, no animal can be subjected to any pain. Entertainment cannot be the reason to inflict unnecessasary pain or injury to any species in nature. Nothing of this sort can be justified in the name of culture, tradition or historical practice. Thus, cockfights in the manner in which they are now incited are illegal, unethical.

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