Culture, tradition and animal welfare: the evolution of animal welfare in India

Abstract

Religion and culture have played an integral role in the local knowledge base and perceptions of animal welfare issues in India. India is home to an ancient civilisation that includes several world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Her unique mix of religion and culture has resulted in each region carving out its own cultural niche. The involvement of animals in most of our traditional religious and cultural practices and the richness of our biodiversity motivated the government to enact the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960 and to create the Animal Welfare Board of India. However, due to burgeoning human population, the ethnic diversity and the climatic and geographic variations across the country, it has been a huge task to monitor animal welfare laws through regularised implementation and management. This has led to poor coordination between animal facilities, poor maintenance of the basic animal welfare standards of confined animals and to poor transmission of knowledge, experience and training across the country. Animal welfare education with practical training would be, and is an excellent method to improve the knowledge base of the target audience. Surprisingly, there are only a few animal science or animal welfare courses available at the undergraduate or postgraduate level in India and these are synonymous with veterinary schools. Even today there is no clear demarcation between animal health and animal welfare in the country which has led to a considerable proportion of the science and research conducted in the field of animal welfare to be animal health related. Optimal health care is paramount to improving an individual animal’s welfare. However, several other equally important areas such as the assessment of the biological and psychological needs of confined animals, implementation of welfare research and welfare education remain untouched. Today, the situation of animals in confinement in India is largely unknown and there is a dearth of information on whether their biological and psychological needs have been met. Collecting vital information on the biology, behaviour and welfare of these animals through periodic research would prove highly beneficial to creating a sound platform for long-term behavioural and welfare monitoring of confined animals local, regional or national level.

Keywords: Animal welfare, research, religion, culture, animal management, stress, India