ANIR1056 | Introduction To Animal Rights: Law And Politics

Course Information

  • 2020-21
  • ANIR1056
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.)
  • III, IV, V
  • Nov 2020
  • Seminar Course

The Indian Constitution casts a duty on Indians to show ‘compassion to all living creatures’ (Article 51 (A) (g)). This introductory seminar will provide an overview and also review the incremental progress in our law, policy, jurisprudence and political thought on animal rights.

With a particular focus on our colonial legal history, the seminar will illustrate how our love, compassion and concern for animals has always been selective, conditional and premised on our ability to exercise complete control over them, even those we notionally treat as free and wild.

The goal of the seminar is to elevate our understanding of animal rights in India. We will attempt this by acknowledging the caste, class and religious hierarchies in our society. The exploitation of marginalized communities runs parallel to animals thus we cannot selectively speak of one or the other.

The seminar will also engage with the two principal arguments against animal rights: loss of livelihoods (mainly for animal owners and handlers) and the tradition exception i.e. our duty to protect cultural heritage must deprioritize the animal interest, as inadvertent speciesism, if not intentional.

The seminar will encourage the students to imagine an animal-centric approach to rights. It will critically examine the control we exercise over animals in different manners and form (for work, worship, sacrifice, entertainment, experiment and food). The seminar will reframe the classic liberal animal rights argument as follows: Is our claim of ownership over animals consistent with the constitutional duty to show compassion?

The Ambedkarite idea of ‘constitutional morality’ validated the claim of personal liberty and privacy especially in the context of gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination. Can a similar constitutional meaning be attached to the idea of compassion, as ‘constitutional compassion’? ‘Constitutional compassion’ is not a mere sentimental concern, but sees animals as sentient beings, equal to humans with their own inherent value – not as property.

Kindly see below the seminar sequence split into 20 sessions of two hours each, with some indicative reading. A detailed reading list will be provided at a later stage. The seminar will require 8-10 hours of weekly reading. The format of each seminar will be split between a lecture (40 mins), followed by a discussion (80 mins). Each student will be required write a paper at the end of the seminar.


1.      Why is it important to study, discuss and practice Animal Rights? (2 hours)
a.               Henry Salt “Animal Rights Considered in relation to Social Progress” New York: Macmillan & Co, 1894 (Salt was a 19th Century British Philosopher who deeply influenced modern animal rights thought and also inspired Gandhi.)

b. Rukmini Arundale (The first intellectual and political leader of the animal rights movement in India. We will read her speech to the Rajya Sabha in 1952 arguing for a more comprehensive law to punish animal cruelty.)

c.  Peter Singer “Animal Liberation” (1975) (Arguably the most important modern text on Animal Rights.)

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d. JM Coetzee “The Lives of Animals” (1999) (Mrs. Costello is a protagonist in this work of fiction who travels around the world giving passionate speeches on Animal Rights.)

e.  Martha Nussbaum “Frontiers of Justice” (2003). (Nussbaum argues that disability, refugee and animal rights are the new frontiers of justice)

f. Upendra Baxi “Animal Rights as Companion Human Rights” (19th IP Desai Memorial Lecture, Centre for Social Studies, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat (August 12, 2008.))

2.      Animal Welfare Law and Policy in India – Part I (2 hours)

a.In this seminar we will critically examine the regulatory framework created under PCA which only protects animal from a limited injury of “unnecessary suffering” and licenses their use for work, entertainment, experimentation and food.

b. We will review both the 1890 and 1960 PCA, along with the multiple rules, regulations and notifications under PCA that regulate our use of animals.

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

c.David Bilchitz, “When is Animal Suffering ‘Necessary’?” (27) Southern African Public Law pp. 3-27 (2012), available at

d. Dinesh Wadivel “(2009) The War Against Animals, Griffith Law Review, 18:2, 283-297”

3.      Animal Welfare Law and Policy in India – Part II (PCA) (2 hours)We will continue the discussion on Animal welfare laws with to see how the colonial policy of animal welfare and management created deep fatal rifts in our understanding of animals as useful and stray? (2 hours)

a.               The fatal distinction between useful and stray animals was instituted through the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890 and multiple municipal laws that – as a policy – licensed catching and killing of stray (street) dogs.

b.  Krithika Srinivasan “The biopolitics of animal being and welfare: Dog control and care in the UK and India” 2013, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (Srinivasan is an animal rights scholar who has written extensively on the right of street dogs to co-exist with humans on the streets.)

c. We will read and discuss the Goa, Bombay High Court and Supreme Court judgements and orders in the “Dog Matter” People for the Elimination of Stray Troubles (Pending SLP 691/2009).

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d. Hiranmay Karlekar “Savage Humans and Stray Dogs: A Study in Aggression” (2008) (A non-fiction account of debates, battles and policy changes over reforming the dog killing policy in Bangalore.)
4.      Animal Welfare Law and Policy in India – Part III (Wildlife Protection Act) (2 hours)1.      Through a series of readings, we will see the limitation of a conservation based ethic in protecting animals in the wild.

2.      Are animals in the wild free, or controlled as properties by an administrative forest department?

3.      We will contrast the penultimate protection in Section 9 of the Act that prohibits hunting, with the category of vermin at the opposite end of that protection.

4.      We will attempt an Article 14 scrutiny over the vermin exception, to ask whether all animals have a right to life or not?

5.      As a case study we will discuss the Himachal Pradesh’s decision to declare rhesus macaques (monkeys) as vermin.


5.      Animal Welfare Law and Policy in India – Part IV (Constitution) (2 hours)

1.        The focus of the discussion here is the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution that gave us Article 48A (duty to protect the wild) and 51A(g) (duty to show compassion to all living creatures).
2.        Eco-centricity: Bridging environment, climate change and animal rights (T N Godavarman)

3.        Giles Tarabout “Compassion for Living Creatures in Indian Law Courts”

Religions 2019, 10, 383

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

4.        Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Towards a Natural World: The Rights of Nature, Animal Citizens and Other Essays. Delhi: Hope India, 2004.

6.      Pain, Suffering and Sentience (2 hours)

a.               Does a scientific bases that animals have cognitive abilities and sentence, change our perception of them as bearers of inherent dignity?

b.              We will discuss a range of scientific studies that use different tools to establish a sense of self-worth in animals, arguing for extension of rights beyond humans to non-human animals.


(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

c.               Jeffery Moussaieff Masson “When Elephants Weep” (1995)

7.      ANIMAL Rights in Jurisprudence (2 Hours)a.               The Supreme Court of India in Nair and Nagraja recognized animal suffering as a legitimate interest to supersede the defence of livelihood and tradition. The Court – in arguably the two most progressive decisions on animal rights – recognized that animals have an inherent value, akin to the right to life.

b.              N R Nair (ban of wild animals in circuses) Art 19

c.               Nagaraja (ban on using bulls in Jallikattu) Art 21

d.              We will read David Bilchitz and Suhrith Parthasarthy’s commentary on Nair

and Nagaraja, respectively.

8.      ANIMAL as Legal Persons (2 hours)
a.       Do trees, nature, rivers and animals have rights as “legal persons”?

b.      Christopher D. Stone “Should Trees Have Standing? Towards Legal Rights for Natural Objects” (1972)

c.       Justice Rajiv Sharma decisions declaring the animal kingdom as “natural legal persons” in Karnail Singh (2019) Punjab & Haryana High Court

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d.      Rita Brara “Courting Nature: Advances in Indian Jurisprudence” (2017)

e.       Kothari, Ashish, and Shrishtee Bajpai. “We Are the River, the River is Us.”

Economic and Political Weekly 52, no. 37 (September 2017).

9.      Animal Right v/s Animal Left – the political debate Part I & II (4 Hours)

a.      Rohit De on the Historic Qureshi Brother decisions.

b.      Tarunabh Khaitan on the egg and beef ban decisions. (Freedom-Choice- Livelihood: How do we define a right to eat meat?)

c.       Gau Rakshaks, Lynching, The Hindu Right and Animal Rights, The dichotomy of dairy and slaughter in Article 48. (Reading Yamini Narayanan)

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d.      Kavita Krishnan, Naisargi Dave (dalit politics, feminism, queer politics and Animal Rights)

e.      Rajesh Kasturirangan ( – (Environment, Climate Change and Animal Rights)

10.  Farm Animals and Animal Agriculture I: (2 Hours)

a.               Article 14 and different classification of Animals: How can we love one species of animal and eat another?

b.              Melanie Joy: Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows? (2009)

c.               We will watch some short Documentaries.

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d.              Jonathan Saffran Foer “Eating Animals” (2009)

e.               Dinesh Wadivel “The War Against Animals” (2009)

11.  Farm Animals and Animal Agriculture II: (2 Hours)

a.               Follow the work of an American group called Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) (and their Animal Bill of Rights)

b.              Mahatma Gandhi 1932 lecture to the Oxford Vegetarian Society.

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

c.               Tobias Leenart “How to create a Vegan World: A Pragmatic Approach” 2017

12.  Working Animals as Animal Labour (2 hours)

a.      “Brick by Brick”, Environment, Human Labour & Animal Welfare, Report by Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, and ILO, (2017). Review the annual Livestock Census

b.      Review of the Livestock Census 2019
c.       Decisions from Bombay, Delhi, Chennai High Court on working Animals (especially horse carriages, tongas and camel rides)

13.  Religious Use of Animals (Animal Sacrifice) (2 hours)
a.              We will discuss four modern Indian High Court decisions banning animal sacrifice in Hindu Temples. Each decisions takes a unique approach focusing on whether sacrifice of animals is an essential practice in Hinduism? The issue is now pending in appeal before the Supreme Court. The discussion will focus on how to create a legal and policy roadmap to eliminate animal sacrifice from worship, and whether the Courts are in fact the best place to do this?

b.              Gauri Maulekhi v State of Uttarakhand 2011

c.               Ramesh Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh & ors

d.              Subhas Bhattacharjee vs The State Of Tripura (2019)

e.               Muraleedharan T. v State of Kerala 2020

14.  Captive Elephant Exception in the Wildlife Act (2 hours)
a.       We will discuss the anomaly in the Wildlife Act that permits ownership of an elephant as a captive animal.

b.      Elephant is the only wild animal allowed to be owned, and after Myanmar, India has the highest population of Captive Elephants at 2800.

c.       We will discuss a range of case law from Kerala, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi and Tamil Nadu for captive elephant rescue and rehabilitation – also an example of animal protection in legal activist practice.

d.      The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations “White Paper on the rights of Captive Elephants” 2020 (

e.       We will review a few of the over 60 reports conducted by the Bangalore based Wildlife Rescue And Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) on captive elephants in India that can be accessed at

15.  Concluding Seminars I:

a.      What is the way forward for Animal Rights? (2 hours)

b.      Gary Francione and Robert Garner, “The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?”, New York: Columbia University Press, (2010).

c.       David     Bilchitz      “Does    Transformative      Constitutionalism       Require     the Recognition of Animal Rights?” (2011)

(Additional recommended but non-essential reading.)

d.      Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson “Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights” (2011)


16.  Concluding Seminars II: (2 hours)

a.              How do we create a unique constitutional and political language of animal rights in India?

b.              Can there be an Ambedkarite idea of animal Rights?

c.               Defining “Constitutional Compassion” along the lines of an objective constitutional morality.

17.  Presentation and Discussion on the final papers in class by students: Batch I (Seven Students) Each presentation for 15 mins. (2 hours)
18.  Presentation and Discussion on the final papers in class by students: Batch II (Seven Students) Each presentation for 15 mins. (2 hours) 19.  Presentation and Discussion on the final papers in class by students: Batch III (Six Students) Each presentation for 15 mins. (2 hours)


Introduction To Animal Rights: Law And Politics
Alok Gupta

Visiting Faculty