KhelAdhikar

Play it Even

The need to ban animal sports: Dog Racing and Cock-Fights (Part III)

Image result for greyhound racing

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By Sakshi Pawar (Co-founder and Managing Editor at KhelAdhikar)

 

Today’s article discusses the perils faced by greyhounds and cocks in dog racing and cock fighting events respectively. In some countries such as Spain (Canary Islands and Andalusia) and Thailand, cock fighting has been protected as cultural heritage. However, this article will only be discussing the aspect of cock-fighting and dog racing which is purely commercial and pertains to pari-mutuel betting.

Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing involves betting on greyhounds which race to catch a mechanical rabbit made to move around the race track. It originated in England, as a common man’s response to the more expensive and elite horse racing which they could not take part in (therefore it is continued in most Commonwealth countries). However, it has quickly spread to all parts of the world (Grey2K provides all data pertaining to the treatment of greyhounds and the locations where they are played) and found its way into India. In India, the concentration of these greyhound races is in Punjab where 1000 such greyhound races are held each year. In fact, Punjab is one such specific state in India which included dog racing as an exception to the term “gambling” in its  (gambling being illegal in India, Punjab tried to find a method to legalise dog-racing). Lastly, in February 2018, a petition has been filed to legalise greyhound racing in Punjab with the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The High Court is yet to deliver its judgement on the matter.

Across the world, in countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, United States (only 4 states), this game is legal and regulated, regardless of multiple reports that speak to the terrible cruelty that is inflicted on the greyhounds. The greyhounds are confined in tiny cells where they don’t even have enough space to move and are let out of their cells only once a day. They are constantly beaten and electrocuted and are provided with 4-D meat which is the meat from dead or diseased animals and is considered unfit for humans to eat. Moreover, they are injected with drugs to make them stronger and faster. Lastly and most importantly, around 3000 greyhounds are euthanized each year because they weren’t fit or were no longer fit to take part in these races.

It is a matter of great concern that several developed countries still take part in such activities despite the cruelty that is regularly reported. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and U.S.A have Greyhound Associations whose responsibility it is to ensure that such cruelty is not committed. However, the rules pertaining to greyhound safety and their authority is often flouted and the same has been observed in all the countries which have established such bodies.

In Australia, each state has such a greyhound association which monitors the conditions of the greyhounds. Additionally, they are also required to have oversight over the purchasing and selling of greyhounds. However, in 2015 it was reported that greyhound trainers had been using live bait such as rabbits and piglets for practice and therefore there was a call to ban greyhounds or to place more stringent measures to regulate the sport. The state of New South Wales (NSW) decided to consider banning the sport and constituted a committee under former Justice of the High Court Michael McHugh. The report by the committee finally stated that there were many race animals that were euthanized and live baiting was a common practice. In 2016, this led to a ban in NSW on greyhound racing which was unfortunately repealed in 2017 due to great agitation by the industry against this ban.

Cockfighting

Image result for cockfighting
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Cockfighting is a popular sport in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where two cocks that are extremely aggressive (cocks are territorial in nature and fight to assert domination) are made to fight till one kills the other. These game cocks are bred on “game farms” designed to find the more aggressive and bloody animals. During the fight they have gaffes and cockspurs attached to their legs to cause greater damage to the other animal. Additionally, they are injected with drugs to increase their performance. In India, the most popular time for this sport to be played is during the festival of Sakranti. In 2012, the Bhartiya Janta Party prevented the police from interfering in kozhi kettu (cockfighting in Tamil Nadu) as they stated that it was religious, being part of the Sun God festival. The police thereafter did not interfere with any cock fights held in temples during this festival. Despite court orders which mention that it violates the A. Nagaraj judgement, the practice continues. (in fact in 2015, the Supreme Court had placed an interim ban on cock fighting in the State of Andhra Pradesh. On challenge by one of the ministers in Andhra Pradesh, the court finally held that cockfighting would be allowed in a traditional way without attaching knives to the legs and without gambling or betting. That was a clever way by the Supreme Court to effectively reduce all interest in the sport).

Indian Laws which pertain to this

Section 2(h) of the Performing Animal Rules, 2001 state that a “Performing animal” means any animal which is used at, or for any entertainment to which the public are admitted through sale of tickets. Additionally, the court in A. Nagaraj has stated that the word “sale of tickets” should not be construed narrowly, it broadly covers events of entertainment with animals where some form of betting or payment is provided (para 36). Therefore sections 21 and 24 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) will apply to these present games:

Section 21: ““Exhibit” and “train” defined — In this Chapter, “exhibit” means exhibit at any entertainment, to which the public are admitted through sale of tickets and “train” means train for any such exhibition, and the expressions “exhibitor” and “trainer” have respectively the corresponding meanings.

Section 24: “Where it is proved to the satisfaction of any magistrate on a complaint made by a police officer or an officer authorised in writing by the prescribed authority referred to in section 23, that the training or exhibition of any performing animals has been accompanied by unnecessary pain or suffering and should be prohibited or allowed only subject to conditions, the court may make an order against the person in respect of whom the complaint is made, prohibiting the training or exhibition or imposing such conditions in relation thereto, as may be specified by the order.”

This implies that performing animals in this case greyhounds or cocks cannot be subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering. Moreover, Rule 8 of Performing Animal Rules 2001 state that unnecessary pain and suffering cannot be caused to the performing animals.

Chapter III of the PCA prescribes what is animal cruelty:

  1. The wrongful confinement of the dogs: Being the owner, neglects to exercise or cause to be exercised reasonably any dog habitually chained up or kept in close confinement (section 11(1)(g))
  2. Wrongful confinement of cocks: keeps or confines any animal in any -cage or other receptacles which do not measure sufficiently in height, length and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement (Section 11(1)(e))
  3. 4-D meat provided to greyhound dogs: being the owner of (any animal) fails to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter (Section 11(1)(h))
  4. Injection of drugs: willfully and unreasonably administers any injurious drug or injurious substance to (any animal) or wilfully and unreasonably causes or attempts to cause any such drug or substance to be taken by (any animal) (Section 11(1)(c)
  5. Pitting of cocks against each other in a fight to death: solely with a view to providing entertainment (i) confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object or prey for any other animal (Section 11 (1)(m))

Conclusion

This brings us to an end on the discussion of animal sports. There are two factors to remember while debating the legality of animal sports which is not dependent on cultural factors. First, these sports are associated with the aspect of gambling, therefore, it is up to the respective state legislatures to be able to decide whether or not they would be legal. If for example, particular states decide to make the animal sport an exception under their Acts as has been done with horse racing, then they would be legalised and allowed to be played. However, statutory amendments and laws can be challenged on the principles of fundamental rights and this has been discussed in the A Nagaraj judgement, which declared such animal sports as violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. There is one important thing to note here, that while in the other constitutions of the world where such animal sports have been contested, there is an article which places the responsibility on the states to ensure the well-being and protection of the animals. This would be similar to Article 51A (g) of our constitution which does the same. However, it is not this article or this duty on the state that the A Nagaraj judgement relied solely upon. It employed Article 21 of the Constitution, an article applicable to human beings to prevent cruelty to animals. This is a speciality of the Indian jurisprudence on animal rights and this novel idea of the judgement is still used by lower courts to continuously prevent such games from being played. Moreover, Article 51A(g) was only added to the Indian constitution on the recommendation of the Dattar Singh Committee which had been created more for the purpose of the protection of milch breeds (cows and their progeny) than the protection of animals in general. Luckily, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Article 51A(g) do not merely focus on the protection of cows but is relevant for all animals. Article 51A (g) reads that it is our duty “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.” It is only Article 48 of the Indian Constitution which shows emphasis on the prevention of slaughter of cows by stating that “the State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” Therefore, the Supreme Court in A Nagaraj judgement did not refer to the Dattar Singh Committee report and framed its decision on the lines of Article 21 and Article 51A (g).

The second point to consider is that such games regardless of courts orders continue to be played because the government and the police do not believe in enforcing it. Therefore, India can follow a model similar to Ireland, Australia and England where there can be Greyhound Associations or Associations for each such game which monitor the situation of the animals and how they have been taken care of. However, the Animal Welfare Board of India is already such an authority and it has been unable to prevent the atrocities that take place in such events.

To conclude, it is the government and the judiciary together that will be able to combat the issue of animal sports in India. While the judiciary has laid down near perfect animal rights jurisprudence the government has left no stone unturned to flout it. However, they only do so to appease their constituency. If the AWBI ensures that children are educated about the perils of animal sports, we can hope that eventually, things will change.

Lastly, the fines and the punishments in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are minimal, thereby flouting of the rules is also very economical. It is important to ensure that the fines are increased to a much greater extent to create some form of deterrence.

Categories: Ethics and Governance

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