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Animal Welfare Fortnight is celebrated across India from Jan 14 to 31 to generate awareness about animal protection laws. The first Animal Welfare Fortnight was started in 1964 by Late Mrs.Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder and chairperson of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).

Animal Laws in India are comprehensive and contain details governing the use and treatment of domestic and wild animals. We need to understand these laws and help create awareness. The Indian Constitution asks us to show compassion towards animals. “It shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the Natural Environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.”

India has animal laws built into our culture. People do respect animals. A vast majority of the ill-treatment mostly stems from poverty, and not necessarily a lack of respect for the animal. Cattle owners for example, do respect their cattle, but subject it to harsh conditions for the monetary factor. From their perspective the entire existence and economic survival of the family revolves around the cattle.

However, this alone does not justify all the cruelty inflicted on our animals. While poverty plays an important role, the horrific acts of cruelty done by poachers, and people involved in illegal animal trade cannot be justified.

Often, animals are in the news during conservation efforts and not much attention is paid to their welfare issues. A glimpse at the animal welfare scenario in India gives rise to numerous questions.

While various NGOs and environment groups remain at the core of the animal welfare campaign, why isn’t the government enforcing the existing laws?

Nearly 70% of Indians are dependent on agriculture and animals for their livelihood and yet why does our country not practice the most basic veterinary care?

Wildlife population in India is dwindling today due to various reasons including lack of well trained forest officers, and wildlife veterinarians. Why is the government being lax?

Beyond ‘flagging the animal-welfare awareness fortnight’ we need in-depth involvement and responsibility from our government at all levels.

In a hugely populated, predominantly poor country such as India, many would argue that complying with animal laws is a choice. When we have so many other pressing issues such as poverty, illiteracy, and poor health care for humans, why care about animals?  It is important to realize that the way we treat animals is directly connected to our livelihoods and creating a sustainable environment.

Given the changing nature of the world around us, if we intend to create a sustainable environment (which is critical to our survival), showing compassion, and treating animals fairly becomes a priority.