The Rights of Animals in Pakistan

Worldwide campaigners are waging a constant struggle for the protection of animal rights. Are our lawmakers aware that the law of jungle also gives protection to the rights of the animals?

There has been much talk about human rights, which is a very vast subject. This week, The Express Tribune takes a look at the existing legislation designed to protect the rights of animals.

What the Constitution says

All 22 Articles in the Constitution’s chapter of fundamental rights speak of human rights. Unfortunately, there is no mention of animal rights.

Like other countries, animals are used for labour in Pakistan, such as the mule, horse, donkey, and camel. Article 11, interestingly or ironically, prohibits slavery and forced labour of human beings. There seems to be ‘Constitutional silence’ when it comes to forced labour or slavery of animals.

Endangered species

The North-west Frontier Province Wild-life (protection, preservation, conservation and management) Act, 1975 is the only law dealing with the protection and welfare of wildlife. But this law looks to regulate hunting, trading meat and trophies, as well as the maintenance and regulation of reserves and national parks. It elaborates on the related offences and penalties and subsequent appeals.

Friends of human

There are animals that are considered to be ‘loyal friends of human beings’, who not only protect their masters—such as dogs and cats—but also help them earn their livelihood; the likes of donkeys, horses and camels.

There is a century-old law known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 introduced by the British to save the walking, flying or crawling species from human brutality.

Animal rights advocates say they have never seen the law being implemented. Rather, state-sponsored brutalities against animals continue in the form of inaction against violators of the law as well as the killing of stray animals by local authorities. For example, Karachi municipal officials killed 850 stray dogs within a week in December 2012. Separately, the Lahore municipal workers had also killed around 27,000 stray dogs during 2010, according to media reports.

Animal rights day

Sometimes, newspapers publish pictures showing donkeys hanging in the air from their cart laden with hundreds of kilogrammes of goods. Unfortunately, these pictures appear only on and around December 10 every year to mark International Day of Animal Rights.

Unnatural offences

Pakistani books of law have at least one section for animal welfare. This may be because we live in an Islamic republic which regulates all sexual relationships, including any form of zoophilia. Section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code relates to these “unnatural offences”.

It reads: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or ‘animal’ shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than 10 years, and shall also be liable to a fine.”

Animal rights protection society

Mahera Omar of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society recalls Karachi has a 100-year history of having a body known as the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, comprising representatives of the government and civil society to stop violations of animal rights.

“The laws are there but they are never implemented. The authorities have not even amended or improved the existing laws which were made back in 1890,” said Omar, questioning the performance of the lawmakers and the houses of legislation.

According to Omar, the last president of the society was Ardeshir Cowasjee, whose literary services for the betterment of the environment as well as animals were widely acclaimed. “When we talk about animal rights, people just reject them on the pretext that even human are being brutally killed. That’s not the way society should think,” she added.

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