In the effort to preserve a certain semblance of order certain laws (don’t steal, don’t kill) have been universal since Hammurabi, although the punishments for disobeying these laws have varied greatly. Laws concerning animal cruelty, however, are unique in that they are not necessarily “required,” to keep the peace. For a society to establish animal cruelty laws it needs to reach a certain level of moral development. These laws, just like the humans who created them, however, aren’t perfect, and those imperfections can give us insights into a particular culture.
These days, India and countries in Europe seem to be the most progressive, while others like China are slowly adding laws to the books. The US is a study in contrasts: while some states are on the progressive side, there are others that are far from it.
Animal Laws in India
Overall, the laws in India are quite humane and conscious of animal welfare. Since Hindus believe in reincarnation, a cow or a pig could in fact be a reincarnated ancestor. India has laws against using animals for research purposes and laws against causing unnecessary suffering while transporting animals. For example cows should not be moved into a truck without a ramp so as to not cause serious injury to the cow’s legs. (PCA Act, Section 11)
There is one odd thing however: There’s a law in place to keep people from maiming or killing innocent animals, but only if the monetary value is above 10 Rupees (About 22 cents). Obviously no one’s going to go to jail for swatting a mosquito, but the standard used to determine which animals were subject to the cruelty laws and which weren’t is interesting to say the least. (Indian Penal Code, Sections 428 and 429).
Animal Laws in Saudi Arabia
The Qur’an explicitly forbids torture of animals or making animals fight each other for sport. The funny thing is that there doesn’t seem to be anything on the official law books about harming animals. One possible reason could be due to a lucrative exotic animal trade out of East Africa.
Animal Laws in China
In China animals or “wildlife resources” are considered to be “Owned by the State.” (China Wildlife Law Article 3) Up until recently, there were no laws on the books on animal cruelty. China’s laws still have a lot of throwbacks to the old communist regime, a time when the state was more important than any individual…or any animal, for that matter.
Animal Laws in Europe
The European Union has taken a most progressive stance on animal treatment. Battery cages for egg laying hens have been banned, as well as veal crates for veal calves. The Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Germany have really taken the lead for setting up regulations regarding the fair treatment of animals. Furthermore, it seems like the rest of the Continent is following their lead.
Animal Laws in the US
It’s incredible to see the number of laws out there on the books concerning animals, there are so many of them and so many of them vary from state to state that it would take forever to list all of them. What seems to be the common thread among many US laws is that they are in place less to prohibit animal cruelty, but more to ensure public safety and prevent potential disturbances. Most of these laws are created in reaction to some unlikely event, and are not very enforceable.
It is illegal, for example to:
- Pretend to abuse animals in front of children in Montana (45-5-627 1(b)) .
- Give alcohol to a moose in Fairbanks Alaska.
- Keep alligators in bathubs in Arkansas.
It is perfectly legal, however, to:
- Own exotic animals of any kind without a permit in Alaska (Illegal to release them in the wild).
- Own five coyotes in Arkansas (Alligators in bathtubs, no). (GFC 18.17 – WILDLIFE PET RESTRICTIONS)
- Eat Roadkill in Tennessee.
As far as animal law goes, the US has a crazy patchwork of DO’s and DON’Ts but there are hardly any common standards. The Animal Welfare act is a start, but it doesn’t seem to keep someone from caging up five coyotes and keeping them as pets in Arkansas if they wanted to. Of course the moment someone does that someone will probably create the “five coyote law” to accompany the “Don’t take a lion to the movies in Baltimore” and the “Donkeys can’t sleep in bathtubs in Arizona” laws that are already on the books.
Of course, these are just a few out of many countries. What do the animal laws in your country say about your culture?
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