By Ms. Bhavya Pande

Cattle and poultry fall under the broader umbrella of farmed animals (animals which are specifically raised for food and clothing). The suffering of the farmed animals is largely invisible as they are known mainly for their economic value and by their end product i.e. milk, meat and eggs.  The inherent value is often overlooked and the instrumental and commercial value of these animals is given importance. This article focuses on the law with respect to milch cattle and chickens raised for eggs (layers) and meat (broilers). It aims to give an overview of laws touching upon animal welfare both directly and indirectly, such as laws related to animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection, transportation and municipal affairs.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)[1], animal welfare means[2]the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which it lives and dies”. It further goes on to state that “an animal experiences good welfare if the animals is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress, and is able to express behaviours that are important for its physical and mental state.”The only animal welfare centric piece of legislation in India which extends to all living creatures other than human beings[3], is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The aim of this Act is to prevent “unnecessary” pain and suffering in animals, thus subjecting animal protection to human needs. Though the scope of this Act is quite broad as it prohibits any treatment inter alia specific acts listed down in Section 11 towards animals that causes unnecessary pain and suffering to such animals, the Act has failed to meet its purpose due to the paltry penalties it imposes. Unfortunately, the punishment for cruelty has not been amended since the commencement of this Act and hence, they are not commensurate with the present-day economy or standards.


These are internationally recognised standards of basic animal welfare needs which are used as guiding principles for animal welfare.[5]

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  • Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  • Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

The Five Freedoms have also been recognised by the Supreme Court of India in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja (2014)[6] and the Court has noticed that these freedoms find place in Section 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and “they are for animals like the rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country under Part III of the Constitution of India.”

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (now known as Animal Welfare Committee) of the United Kingdom, in its 2009 report[7], recommended that the current focus of policy should move beyond the absence of cruelty and unnecessary suffering and a duty to provide for an animal’s needs, to ensuring an acceptable quality of life over an animal’s lifetime. It recognised the need to move beyond the Five Freedoms and ensure animals have a life worth living.


Common Malpractices in the Dairy Industry

A shift in animal husbandry practices from traditional, small scale and extensive farming to commercial scale, intensive farming based on high yielding crossbreed cows and improved breeds of buffaloes, in a bid to meet the increasing demand of dairy products through cheapest means, has led to serious compromise on the welfare of these animals and possibly on food safety and human health as well.

Investigation of dairies conducted by various NGOs such as Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), PETA India and Animal Equality highlight that dairy animals are subjected to extreme mental and physiological stress right from birth till death.[8] Some of the major animal welfare compromises with respect to dairy animals highlighted by these investigations are:-

  • Inability to express natural behaviour like socialisation and resting.
  • Overcrowding: Bovines have a behavioural need to rest and spend most of their time resting. Unfortunately, it is common for dairies to confine multiple animals to a small area leading to a lack of comfortable space for resting of animals.
  • Tethering on extremely short tether to accommodate maximum number of cattle on a small area.
  • Hard flooring: Hard floors, generally made up of concrete, cause injuries or bruises to cattle as they slip on such surfaces especially in their own excreta. Moreover, it makes them prone to lameness.
  • Rampant use of oxytocin,often procured illegally, to increase milk let-down.
  • Lack of veterinary/health care.
  • Separation of calf from mother right at birth.
  • Colostrum[9] is not fed to calves.
  • Improper waste disposal which leads to poor hygiene and environmental pollution.
  • Milking of ill/sick animals.
  • Repeated impregnation of cows through artificial insemination.
  • Abandonment of “unwanted animals”[10] like male calves, low milk producing animals, infertile animals and chronically ill animals.
  • Illegal killing of male calves due to no economic value.
  • Mutilations like branding, dehorning, tail docking and castration done without administering anaesthesia. Moreover, such procedures are not performed by a qualified veterinarian.

Oxytocin – Legal Development

At present, oxytocin is a Schedule H1[11] drug and on 27th April 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a notification under Section 26A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 which directed that for domestic use, Oxytocin shall be manufactured only by public sector undertakings or companies. However, for the purpose of export, manufacturing of oxytocin formulations would be open to both public and private sector companies. While considering the rampant misuse of this drug due to unregulated and clandestine manufacture of the drug, which is harmful to animals and humans, the government felt the necessity to restrict the manufacturing, sale and distribution of this drug. Accordingly, manufacture of this drug was confined to one public sector undertaking, namely Karnataka Antibiotic and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. This notification was challenged[12] in the Delhi High Court by various private sector companies who were inter alia manufacturing the drug Oxytocin. The High Court vide its final judgment and order dated 14th December 2018 quashed the impugned notification as being arbitrary and unreasonable and held that there was no scientific basis and the data was insufficient to support the conclusion that the existing availability and distribution of oxytocin posed a risk to human and animal life. Moreover, the High Court noted that the Central Government failed to consider the dangers of restricting the supply of the life-saving drug.[13]Thereafter, the matter was brought by the Union of India before the Supreme Court challenging[14] the Delhi High Court judgment. On 22nd August 2019 the Supreme Court referred the matter to be decided authoritatively by a larger Constitution bench as serious issues having far reaching implications were raised in the batch of appeals. The major issue is that at one hand there is rampant misuse of the drug especially in milch animals and on the other hand it is an essential life saving drug for pregnant women and young mothers. Constitution bench is yet to be constituted for considering the seven questions referred in this matter.

Cattle Slaughter and Ban on Slaughter of Cow and its Progeny

In accordance with Article 48 of the Constitution of India, every state has its own law[15] with respect to restrictions on slaughter of cattle.  Most states absolutely prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves of cows as well as she-buffaloes. Many even prohibit slaughter of bulls and bullocks. However, slaughter of buffaloes, male as well as female, is generally allowed subject to some exceptions. This is so because she-buffaloes yield a large quantity of milk as compared to cows and hence, are well looked after.[16] He-buffaloes are not very useful for draught and agricultural purposes as compared to bulls/bullocks.[17] States like Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal permit slaughter of all bovines. It must be noted that wherever the law permits slaughter of these animals, it is usually subject to obtainment of a certificate from the relevant authority to ensure that the cattle (even buffaloes) has indeed become “useless” and is thus fit for slaughter.

Such laws[18] were first challenged in Mohd. Hanif Qureshi and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors. (1958)[19] as being violative of Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 25 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court (Constitution Bench) declared such laws as void to the extent they totally prohibit slaughter of breeding bulls, bullocks and buffaloes without prescribing any test or requirement as to their age or usefulness. The Court categorically stated that the useless cattle deprive the useful cattle of a good part of cattle food and a blanket ban on slaughter of cattle is not reasonable. However, it did recognise that cows and calves (male and female) of cows and of she-buffaloes are not adequately protected as compared to other cattle and a blanket ban on their slaughter is reasonable and valid.

This position changed in State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat and Ors.[20] wherein the Bombay Animal Preservation (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 1994 was challenged by butchers as violative of Article 19(1)(g).The said Act provided for a total ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks irrespective of the age of such animals. Prior to this amendment, bulls and bullocks above the age of 16 years could be slaughtered on the pretext of being useless as laid down in the 1958 Hanif Qureshi case. However, this amendment removed the age restriction and was first challenged before the Gujarat High Court which held the amendment as ultra vires. A 7-judge (6:1) Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court over-turned the High Court’s decision and declared the amendment to be intra vires. The Supreme Court held that since Hanif Qureshi’s case there has been a material change in the ground realities warranting reversal of the earlier decisions of the Court. Apart from Article 48, the Court also considered Article 48-A and 51A(g) of the Constitution of India, which were added to the Constitution in 1976, while determining the reasonability of the restrictions under Article 19(6).

The apex Court also made remarks encompassing a more compassionate view towards animals such as the following :-

  • A cattle which has served human beings is entitled to compassion in its old age when it has ceased to be milch or draught and becomes so-called ’useless’.”
  • It will be an act of reprehensible ingratitude to condemn a cattle in its old age as useless and send it to a slaughter house taking away the little time from its natural life that it would have lived, forgetting its service for the major part of its life, for which it had remained milch or draught. We have to remember: the weak and meek need more of protection and compassion.”

However, the Court ultimately held that bulls and bullocks continue to remain “useful” for their entire lives as they provide dung and urine which is used as manure and bio-gas and thus important for the country’s economy. It also held that the restrictions are in the interest of the general public and hence reasonable as per Article 19(6). Moreover, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties play a significant role in determining whether such restrictions on fundamental rights are reasonable and in public interest.

While considering a prayer for issuing directions to impose a total ban on slaughter of cow progeny, the Supreme Court in Akhil Bharat Goseva Sangh v. State of A.P. and others (2006) held that it would amount to judicial legislation and moreover, it has not been held in Mirzapur case that permitting slaughter of bovine cattle by itself is unconstitutional. Hence, such relief could not be granted. The Court also noticed the changed position in the meaning of the words “milch and draught cattle” in Article 48. In 1958 Qureshi Case, it was held that protection recommended by Article 48 is confined to such animals that are presently capable of yielding milk or working as draught cattle but not to cattle who cease to be functional for the said purposes. On the contrary, in the Mirzapur case it was held that a “milch or draught cattle” is a description of a classification of species of cattle as distinct from cattle which by their nature are not milch or draught, and on ceasing to be functional of those purposes, they cannot be removed from the category of “milch and draught cattle”.

It must also be noted that according to the Export Policy[21] of our country, only boneless meat of buffaloes can be exported to other countries. Meat of cow and its progeny is prohibited from being exported. [22]


Common Malpractices in the Poultry Industry

Investigation of dairies conducted by various NGOs such as Animal Equality, People for Animals and PETA India highlight the appalling way hens and chickens are kept.[23] Some of the major malpractices as highlighted in these investigations are:-

  • Inability to express natural behaviour:

Dust bathing, spreading wings, freedom of movement, socialisation, perching etc.

  • Overcrowding:

Chickens are not given adequate space to move around freely. 4-5 chickens are stuffed in one cramped cage during transportation as well as at the shop where they are seen stepping and excreting on each other. They are unable to perform basic natural movements and cannot even stand or sit comfortably let alone spreading their wings or moving about.

  • Use of battery cages:

It refers to an arrangement of small, barren wire cagesplaced side by side like a battery and often stacked in multiple tiers. With very little floor space, these cages severely restrict basic movement of hens. Multiple birds are housed in one cage and this leads to aggression and fights among the birds who end up with multiple injuries and wounds.As they are stacked up one on top of the other, birds excrete on each other and stay in unhygienic cages.

A petition[24] was filed in the Delhi High Court seeking prohibition on the use of new battery cages, phasing out of battery cages by 2025 and regulation of the upkeep of egg laying hens. The High Court directed the Union of India to finalise draft rules as recommended by the Law Commission in its 269th Report. Accordingly, Draft Rules for regulating upkeep of egg laying hens were published on 29th April 2019.  The finalised rules are yet to be placed before the Delhi High Court bench for its consideration. Moreover, as per order dated 5th September 2018, the High Court has prohibited new poultry farm or organisation from using battery cages.

  • Misuse of antibiotics: 

Broilers are fed antibiotics in order to fatten them up to reach a specific size at a faster rate. Antibiotics are also used to prevent mass diseases as an alternative to taking efforts to maintain farm hygiene.

  • Forced/induced molting[25]:

Forced/ induced molting involves artificially forcing hens to molt by manipulating their environment and diet to replicate the natural process of molting that occurs seasonally in wild birds. This is done through total feed deprivation and/or severe feed restriction for several days to weeks.

  • Culling of male chicks:

Male chicks either culled in barbaric ways or even dyed and sold as toys.

  • Fate of “spent” hens:

Layer hens stop laying eggs after a couple of years. Spent hen refers to the hen when her egg laying capacity is over. More than often, they are illegally sold and slaughtered. 

  • Repeated impregnation through artificial insemination.
  • Environmental Pollution.
  • Illegal and cruel slaughter:

It is common to see chickens being slaughtered at meat shops in utmost cruel manner. There is no provision for stunning and they die a slow death as a result of a slit made on their throat. To remove feathers, they are put into boiling water while alive.


  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (PCA Act)

Section 3: Duty to take care of animals – It imposes a duty on every person who has charge or care of any animal to ensure the animal’s well-being and prevent infliction of any unnecessary pain or suffering upon that animal.

  • Punishable acts of cruelty –

Section 11 1(a) and (l): beating, kicking, torturing, causing pain/suffering and killing in cruel manner, mutilating any animal in a cruel manner

Section 11 1(b): Employing an infirm, wounded, unfit animal in any work/labour

Section 11 1(c): Administration of injurious drug or substance

Section 11 1(d): Causing pain/suffering while carrying/conveying

Section 11 1(e): Inadequate space

Section 11 1(f): Tethering an animal for an unreasonably long time/tethering on an unreasonably short cord

Section 11 1(h): Insufficient food, water and shelter

Section 11 1(i): Abandonment of animals

Section 11 1(k): Overcrowding, mutilation,starvation, ill treatment

Section 12 – ban on “phooka”, “doom dev”, use of injurious substance (oxytocin) to improve lactation

  • Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960

There exists an exhaustive framework of rules under the PCA Act. The following rules are important in the present issue –

  1. Draught and Pack Animals Rules 1965
  2. Transport of Animal Rules 1978
  3. Registration of Cattle Premises Rules 1978
  4. Transport of Animals on Foot Rules 2001
  5. Establishment and Regulation of Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules 2001
  6. Slaughter House Rules 2001

Some of the rules are:-  

a.) Animals can be slaughtered only at a slaughterhouse licensed/recognised by local authority.[26]

b.) Following animals cannot be slaughtered[27] :-

  1. Pregnant animals
  2. Has offspring under 3 months of age
  3. under 3 months of age
  4. Not certified by veterinary doctor that it is fit for slaughter

c.) Animals cannot be slaughtered in sight of other animals.[28]

  • Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations 2011      

Part IV of Schedule 4 lays down specific conditions to be followed by food business operators (that require to be licensed as opposed to mere registration)[29] engaged in manufacturing, processing, storing and selling meat and meat products. It deals with inter alia the structure, location, construction of a slaughterhouse; pre-slaughter handling of animals; transport of animals; animal welfare; method of slaughter of animals and poultry welfare. To list down a few conditions – a) animals cannot be slaughtered in sight of other animals; b) No live animal/bird is allowed inside or adjacent a meat shop; c) Animals cannot be slaughtered in the meat shop premises; d) Stunning is mandatory before slaughtering.

  • Rule 125E of Central Motor Vehicles Rules inserted by the Eleventh Amendment of 2015

Lays down that the body of the vehicle carrying animals must have permanent partitions and only one animal can be carried in each partition.

  • Licensing of dairies under state Municipal laws
  • 269th Report of the Law Commission of India

It examined issues related to transportation and housing of layer hens and broiler chickens among other welfare issues concerning chickens. It noted that there is an intricate link between animal welfare and food safety. Some of the recommendations included the issuance of cage free certification; strict compliance of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001 and the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration) Regulations, 2011; and stricter punishment of cruelty by means of amendment to the existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The biggest take-away from this report are theDraft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules and the Draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Broiler Chicken) Rules proposed by the Commission.

  • Draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2019[30]

These rules are a watered-down version of the Rules proposed by the Law Commission of India in its above-mentioned report. With the objective of clarifying space requirements of layers kept in battery cages, it prescribes a minimum floor space of 550 sq mt. per bird and makes registration of poultry farms with the respective state animal husbandry department. It prohibits withdrawal of feed to induce molt and non-therapeutic use of anti-biotics. It does not specifically lay down any procedure for euthanasia of male chicks but provides that such euthanasia should be carried out according to guidelines prescribed by OIE.

  • Constitution of India

Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of Indiaimposes a fundamental duty on citizens to have compassion towards all living creatures.

Animal Welfare Board of India v. ANagaraja[31],

  1. In this landmark judgment,while expanding the scope of the word “life” in Article 21to include animal life,the Supreme Court recognized the inherent value of all animals by declaring that animals have an inherent right to “lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity.
  2. In para 51 of the judgment, the Court observed that “Animal has also honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks.
  • Environment Pollution

Nuggehalli Jayasimha v. Government of NCT of Delhi[32]

The National Green Tribunal dealt with the issue of environmental pollution and health hazards caused by the dairies operating in Delhi. The NGT directed closing down of polluting dairies and ordered the Central Pollution Control Board to formulate guidelines for management and monitoring of environmental norms by dairies throughout India.


At present, there is no law which regulates the upkeep of farmed animals by laying down specific conditions relevant to these animals and to the common industry practices. Upkeep of dairy animals and poultry birds is not just an animal welfare concern but also a concern for human health, environment, food safety and civic order[33]. Moreover, the first and foremost struggle with animal welfare laws is the paltry punishment imposed for all cruel acts with no concern for the variation in the degree of cruelty meted out.

Apart from the need of legislative reforms, there is a glaring need for strict implementation of the existing laws and proper functioning of various authorities and bodies as mandated by law – such as the SPCA[34] and the State Animal Welfare Boards. Legislative reforms, strengthening of the institutional framework and capacity building for setting up a robust, decentralised law enforcement system is the need of the hour to ensure humans are held accountable for their wrongs towards animals and also ensure animals live a quality/dignified life as envisaged in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja (2014).  It would also encourage people to have greater faith in the animal protection laws of our country. 

About the Author

*Ms. Bhavya Pande is currently pursuing Masters of Law from Christ University. She has had a keen interest in animal laws since her college days and was the co-founder of the Animal Law Cell at ILS Law College, Pune. She has previously worked as the legal coordinator at the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and practiced at the Pune District Court.

[1] The intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It is recognised as a reference organisation by WTO and India is one of the 182 member countries.

[2] Article 7.1.1 of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code,

[3] Section 2(a) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

[4] Formalised by Farm Animal Welfare Council of the UK Government

[5] Article 7.1.2 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code

[6] (2014) 7 SCC 547

[7] Farm Animal Welfare Council. (2009) Farm Animal Welfare in Great Britain: Past, Present and Future.

[8]a) FIAPO –, b) PETA India – and c) Animal Equality –

[9] Colostrum is the first milk produced by the cow after calving and contains special nutrients and antibodies which are essential to protect the calf from disease. (Section 5.2.1 of the National Code of Practices for Management of Dairy Animals 2014 developed by ICAR-NDRI,

[10] Section 7 of the National Code of Practices for Management of Dairy Animals 2014 developed by ICAR-NDRI

[11] Drugs listed in Schedule H1 of Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 are subjected to strict control and additional precautions such as – they cannot be sold by retail except uponprescription by a registered medical practitioner; records of the details of the seller, buyer, quantity etc. have to be maintained.

[12]By a group of writ petitions – WP (C) 6084/2018, WP (C) 8555/2018, WP (C) 8666/2018 and WP (C) 9601/2018

[13] Listed in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), 2011 and notified as an essential medicine by WHO. Used as first line drug for prevention and treatment of post-partum haemorrhage at the time of child birth.

[14] Vide Civil Appeal Nos. 6588-6591 of 2019, arising out of SLP (C) 3296-3299 of 2019

[15] Entry 15 in List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution

[16]Constitutional Assembly Debates dated 24th November 1948 (vol. 7) and 14th November 1949 (vol. 11)

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bihar Preservation and Improvement of Animals Act, 1955; U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955; C.P. and Berar Animal Preservation Act, 1949

[19] 1959 SCR 629

[20] 2005 (8) SCC 534

[21] Schedule 2 of ITC (HS) Export Policy,

[22] Ibid.

[23]a) Animal Equality –,; b) People for Animals,; and c) PETA India,

[24] Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) v. Union of India [WP (C) 9056/2016]

[25]Molting in birds is a natural physiological process that involves periodic shedding and replacement of feathers, as well as the stop of egg laying and resetting the birds’ reproductive system to prepare for the next laying cycle. It is a non-laying and oviduct rejuvenation period.

[26]Rule 3 (1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001

[27]Rule 3(2) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001

[28]Rule 6(1) the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001

[29]Regulation 2.1.1 and 2.1.2 of Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations 2011. The regulations provide for compulsory registration for petty food manufactures and licensing of other food businesses. According to Regulation 1.2.1 (4) (b) (iii), a food business operator whose slaughtering capacity is 2 large animals/10 small animals/50 poultry birds per day or less, is a petty food manufacturer.  The conditions laid down in Part IV of Schedule 4 of the Regulations which inter alia lay down exhaustive animal welfare conditions do not apply to petty food manufacturers.

[30]Draft Rules published on 29th April 2019 by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. This department is now an independent Ministry (since May 2019). The charge of animal welfare has been transferred from Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to this newly formed Ministry.

[31] (2014) 7 SCC 547

[32] Original Application No. 46/2018 before the National Green Tribunal (Principal Bench), order dated 8/07/2019

[33] Stray cattle in urban areas has been a great concern for various municipal authorities.

[34] Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – District level body mandated to be formed in every district by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001

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