Animals Have Rights Just Like People Do, India Court Rules

A judge in India has ruled that animals, like people, deserve decent treatment and have rights of their own. He held that animals must receive the “corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”

Justice Rajiv Sharma wrote the decision for the Punjab and Haryana High Court. You might recognize his name. He’s the same judge who, in 2018 as a justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, issued a ruling that animals have “distinct personas with corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person.”

Plus, remember the 2017 Indian case that decided the Ganges and Yamuna rivers plus their tributaries and streams were living entities? Sharma was one of the members of the court that issued that decision. But the decision was later overturned by India’s Supreme Court.

donkeys pulling a cart

Photo credit: Goddard_Photography/Getty Images

Clearly, Sharma is deeply moved by the plight of animals in his country. He understands — as many of us do — that animals are sentient individuals just as deserving of respect and legal personhood as any human. Luckily, he’s in a position to do something about that.

The opinion in this case is filled with lovely language about animals and what they deserve from humans. The opinion’s reach includes the “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic” animals.

“We have to show compassion towards all living creatures,” Sharma wrote. “Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals also causes psychological pain to them.”

Not only do animals have the right to live without pain, fear or discomfort, but humans in the Indian state of Haryana are to serve “in loco parentis” to the animals. This means humans must take on the status of an adult responsible for the animals’ welfare, as a parent would be responsible for a child.

Of course, this ruling doesn’t mean animals can’t be owned or used for work. But it does provide some sensible rules to keep people from mistreating their animals. Some of those rules include:

  • No newborn animals or those who are diseased, blind, emaciated, lame, fatigued, have given birth during the preceding 72 hours or are likely to give birth during transport may be transported on foot.
  • Animals can’t be transported by foot over hard cement, bitumen-coated or metaled roads, steep gradients or hilly and rocky terrain. The government is directed to ensure animal owners comply with this directive.
  • When transporting animals by foot, there must be arrangements for watering along the way, as wells as for sufficient food.
  • Animals being transported cannot be tied by their noses, legs or any part of the body except the neck. If tied at all, the rope must be suitably cushioned.
  • No one can require an animal to pull a vehicle or carry a load for more than nine hours total in one day, for more than five hours continuously without a break and anywhere at which the temperature exceeds 99 degrees Fahrenheit between noon and 3 p.m.

Animals have lives which they value, just as we cherish our own. Sharma understands that. He made it clear in this opinion that animals must be able to live decent lives, not just eke out a passable existence before they die.

“‘Life’ means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour or dignity,” he wrote. “All the animals have honour and dignity. Every [species] has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by law.”

farmer using a plow with oxen

Photo credit: pixelfusion3d/Getty Images

The court decision concluded:

“The Corporations, Hindu idols, holy scriptures, rivers have been declared legal entities and thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/legal person. The animals should be healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior without pain, fear and distress. They are entitled to justice. The animals cannot be treated as objects or property.”

Someday perhaps all courts around the world will conclude that animals deserve more than they get from us now. We share this planet with them. They’re not objects put here to serve us. They have a purpose of their own to fulfill.

Animals, we hear your distress. More and more of us are trying to change minds about what you deserve out of life. Your day is coming.

Photo credit: Mlenny/Getty Images


Wendy Karagöz
Wendy Karagöz9 hours ago

Thank you 😘

Shirley S
Shirley S10 hours ago

A great humane ruling.

jennifer t
jennifer t2 days ago

Well done civilised animal supporting India.We need more countries with these excellent animal welfare views!

Moira H
Moira H2 days ago

Thank you Justice Sharma. Lets hope this kind of thinking and action quickly spreads throughout the world!

Ash S
Ash S2 days ago

India has the right idea.

Steven W
Steven W3 days ago

Thank you.

Barbara S
Barbara S3 days ago

that's very good

Peggy B
Peggy B3 days ago

Well done.

Muriel S
Muriel Servaege3 days ago

Thank you so much, judge!

Hui S
Hui S3 days ago

kudos to this ruling. how well will it be enforced ultimately remains to be seen. we are animals, too.

if we (continue to) fail to act with responsibility for the entities and resources of our world, the path to our own demise is assured.