Notification defines how to carry out painful procedures on animals; rearers say cattle at mercy of veterinarian
Sixty-three years after the implementation of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1960, the central government on March 27, 2023 laid down the procedures for dehorning cattle and castration, branding or nose-roping of any animal.
The procedures were earlier undefined under Sections 11 and subsection 3 of the Act, which made it difficult to prevent cruelty against animals.
“Section 11 defined the acts that amount to treating animals with cruelty. But subsection 3 allowed exceptions for animal husbandry procedures, which involve dehorning cattle and castration, branding and nose roping of animals in a prescribed manner,” said Harshil Maheshwari, deputy director of animal rights nonprofit Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (PETA), India in a press statement.
Section 3(c) of the law also offered exceptions in “the extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law for the time being in force,” which is painful, Maheshwari said.
The new law was announced through a notification and defined how painful procedures such as castration of bulls, horses and other animals are to be carried out.
All procedures are to be carried out with the involvement of a registered veterinary practitioner, along with the mandatory use of general and local anaesthetics, according to the notification.
The existing methods involve pushing a bull to the ground to use a castrator sans painkillers. The castration method involves crushing the blood vessels, nerves and vas deferns to cause the testicles to become defunct.
The rules also demand the breeding of naturally hornless cattle over dehorning and using face halters and other humane procedures for nose roping and preventing cold and hot branding on live tissues.
“The rules prescribe a methodology for euthanasia for ill animals to avoid a painful death,” Maheshwari said, adding the rules also require using pain-reducing methods for dehorning and nose roping.
The rules also demand animals be blindfolded to reduce stress levels, laid on soft ground, and given post-surgical care. Tagging, branding and radio-telemetry devices should be placed on dead tissues, the law has suggested.
However, cow rearers are sceptical about the effective implementation of these rules. Rajesh Dogra, a cow-rearer based in Delhi, said such procedures often remain to be followed on paper but difficult to implement in reality.
“Dehorning is always done by a veterinary doctor as an individual farmer cannot conduct such medical procedures. The same follows for castration. However, the cattle are entirely at the mercy of the veterinary,” Dogra told Down To Earth.
Farmers are often unaware of the concept of painkillers or anaesthesia. “The doctors follow these procedures regarding medication if available from the government,” he said.
The cow rearer said anaesthesia is sometimes unavailable, or the doctor does not procure it. “What can a farmer do in such a situation? Also, for remote areas like the Himalayas, it is not possible to acquire medicines on time,” he said.
The issue is concerning as most dairy owners and farmers abandon their bulls on roads as it incurs extra cost or effort to sustain them, said organic cow-rearer Aseem Rawat, who is also chief executive for Ghaziabad-based Hetha organics.
Given the reality, it is a far-fetched idea that farmers would be willing to call for a veterinary doctor or take the cattle to conduct the procedures to reduce animal pain, he said.
“Though a step towards ethical practices and reducing pain for animals, its implementation lies entirely to the chief veterinary officer of the area on its effectivity,” he said.
Moreover, farmers in remote rural areas should be made aware of such humane practices and agree to take extra efforts for well being for their cattle, Rawat added.
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