Animals in India just earned some new rights and protections thanks to a milestone victory in court. The win comes in Uttarakhand, where the state’s highest court decided that animals “have distinct personas with the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”
Although the lawsuit in front of the court pertained to horses pulling carts, the judges Lokpal Singh and Rajiv Sharma extended these rights to the “entire animal kingdom,” giving all birds, fish and mammals protections within Uttarakhand.
Indian law already establishes two classes of personhood: the first is for adult humans, and the second is for children, people with intellectual impairments and companies (not unlike America’s corporate personhood rule.) Per the ruling, animals will fit into the second category and, as a result, benefit from similar personhood rights.
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While some hoped this ruling would prevent humans from using horses to pull carriages altogether, the judges didn’t go that far. They did, however, demand nicer care for the horses and extra safety equipment. There are also new weight limits on the amount of people/cargo horses can be made to pull. Furthermore, the horses are not permitted to work when the temperature gets too hot or cold.
As for wild and/or stray animals, they will be guaranteed free veterinary care and decent shelter as needed.
The court’s ruling also came with an imperative to the human population: humans are now stewards of the animals and are compelled to protect them from threats. Of course, there’s no guarantee that all people in the state will take that call seriously, but at the very least, animal welfare advocates will have legal backing when they try to intervene in situations on an animal’s behalf.
For now, the ruling applies only to Uttarakhand, though it’s an important first step toward earning similar protections throughout the country of India. Other parts of the world such as Quebec, New Zealand and France have extended similar personhood rights to animals.
As for the United States, granting personhood to pets and animals is a debate that’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. There’s no doubt from the rise in anti-animal cruelty legislation that Americans are caring more about protecting animals, but some humans just have trouble dealing with the idea of putting animals anywhere near their own level.
Whether we call them “people” or not, animals throughout the world are vulnerable due to a lack of respect and rights. You can help to fight to make a change by signing some of Care2’s ongoing animal rights petitions.
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