As an advocate and as an Author of an incredible book on the relationship between Animals and Law, What draws you to this unique field of Law?
From childhood, I have been interested in the world around me and the ecosystem that forms our universe and having lived on the campus of Maharaja Sayajirao University ( as my grandfather was the Second Vice Chancellor and his sister was the First Vice Chancellor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University and our library is named after her and lastly my mother was the Dean of Home Science College )I used to visit Kamati garden daily. It used to be our playground and as a child, I spent a major part of my day during vacations in the zoo and Kamati Garden. I have always had pets at home and have always felt empathy for the flora and fauna that we have as part of our ecosystem. I thereafter studied in a school that was a 700 acres Valley in between the mountains and the entire area was full of wildlife including snakes, scorpions, and birds (it’s a declared bird sanctuary) hence I have grown up feeling at home amidst animals.
What changes to the current Animal Laws in India could, in your opinion, be made to better serve the needs of animals and society at large?
The main change that can be brought about is the quantum of punishment. Currently, the quantum is not a deterrent and hence enforcement of the law becomes lax and people do not fear breaking the laws. There are so many cases of cruelty that are going unpunished because the laws do not provide for a quick trial, huge fines and long jail sentences.
What is ideal is that there should be greater dissemination of knowledge about the rights of animals and the curriculum of the various education boards like CBSE, ICSE, State Boards, etc. should have a compulsory course in Animal Rights and Laws. In my opinion, I would make the subject compulsory, strengthen the sentencing and punishment aspect of the laws and have better and stricter enforcement of the laws.
In recent times the country has been experiencing a huge conundrum when it comes to the management of stray animals, what are your thoughts on that?
The management of strays is a problem because of the fact that the laws about spay and neutering are not properly implemented. Every Municipal corporation is mandated to appoint veterinary agencies who employ veterinary doctors to carry out the Spay and Neuter operations in sterile conditions.
Alongside, this and the lack of knowledge that animals cannot be relocated out of their original territory contribute to the animals getting aggressive because they are in an alien territory thus, leading to a conflict between man and animals. Strays should be fed at timely intervals and hence this would reduce the aggression considerably and would prevent man-animal conflicts can be managed by keeping the population under control and that is a model that has worked in most countries. There should be designated feeding sites to ensure that all strays get a proper nutritional diet.
In India, time and time again petitions have been made to create separate crematoriums for animals in the country but they have not been able to achieve their goal, what are your thoughts on this matter?
Crematoriums are now coming up in various cities. There used to be some resistance to the same previously because the people around objected to the smoke but now there are crematoriums and, in fact, there is a government facility though it is not very well maintained it is available. Burial is also a good idea as it is less polluting than cremation.
The first step to change is awareness, looking at the future, what are some of the most effective ways to educate and encourage the next generation of law students to be active and involved in effective change for Animal Rights Law?
A compulsory subject on animal awareness and sensitisation are what is required at the beginning of school. Taking away the fear of animals from the minds of small children and making them comfortable with animals is a must and this will lead to positive changes and law students will understand the need of being sensitive to the rights of animals.
What advice would you like to give us students who are also passionate about the field of Animal Rights Law, to help us contribute to the cause?
My advice to you all is to take up animal rights at your level, as a personal campaign and ensure that you are able to teach the people around you the various laws that provide a protection framework for stray animals. Please go out of your way to use your knowledge of the law to help people who are working in the fields of rescue and rehabilitation of animals.
There are many people who feed, foster, and rescue stray animals and sometimes they get into conflicts with residents. In such a situation, a person like you with deep knowledge of the law would be a great help to them in ensuring that the good work being done by them does not stop.
I would suggest that you do internships at some NGO that deals with animal issues at least once during your college time as it will help you understand the nitty-gritty of the various issues involved.
Advocate Jaideep Verma is a practicing lawyer with a professional experience of over 30 years in the field of law. He is passionate about Animal Welfare, and nature and is the Author of a fascinating book “Animals and the Law”. This book dwells deeper into the unique relationship between animals and the law.