Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How animal cruelty harms humans

Close to 4 billion animals in different sectors face extreme cruelty, and has direct impact on public health, labour welfare and climate resilience, says report

Samidha Jain
Published: Jun 25, 2024 03:40:52 PM IST
Updated: Jun 25, 2024 03:51:15 PM IST

Despite India's historical empathy towards animals, modern animal husbandry practices are in stark contrast to this tradition, and includes intensive and exploitative systems. 
Image: ShutterstockDespite India's historical empathy towards animals, modern animal husbandry practices are in stark contrast to this tradition, and includes intensive and exploitative systems. Image: Shutterstock
 
The India Animal Fund and Dasra released a report on Tuesday titled ‘Our shared future: Securing animal welfare, human wellbeing, and sustainability in India’, which highlights the crucial role of animal welfare within India's socio-economic and ecological systems. The report demonstrates how animal welfare is closely linked with public health, labour welfare, and climate resilience.

The report looks at animals in different sectors, such as farm animals in the agriculture and allied sectors, working animals such as bovines, equids, camels and elephants, animals used in experimentation (about 1.2 million), and homeless animals including cats, dogs, horses, donkeys, and cows, most of which are abandoned and inhabit public places.

Let’s take a look at some numbers:

  • India has more than 3.8 billion animals in its agricultural and allied industries
  • There are 70 million bovines, 500,000 equids and camels used in the cultural and tourism sectors
  • There are 1,579 registered facilities for animal experimentation and over 80 million homeless   community animals
Despite India's historical empathy towards animals, modern animal husbandry practices are in stark contrast to this tradition, and includes intensive and exploitative systems. These practices cause significant animal suffering and have severe consequences for human health, environmental sustainability, and labour welfare. To mitigate the poor effects of such practices, the report has identified significant gaps in welfare attempts on the ground and the challenges faced by communities to implement effective welfare measures.

With regards to environmental impact, the report highlights that livestock farming accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and significantly contributes to habitat destruction and pollution. Industrialised farming demands extensive land and fodder, leading to deforestation and ecological imbalances. For instance, intensive fishing practices have disrupted the ecological balance of aquatic environments. Additionally, increased pollution from runoffs associated with animal farms, slaughterhouses, and related facilities, along with improper waste management, contaminates water, soil, and air. This pollution negatively impacts nearby communities and the natural resources they depend on.

Impact on labour welfare

The report also examines the connection between animal welfare and labour welfare; workers who frequently interact with animals often face occupational hazards and job insecurity, worsened by unsafe and inequitable working conditions. Child labour is also a critical issue in this sector, with cattle products frequently produced under exploitative conditions.

According to the report, there are not just physical impacts, but the mental health impacts of working in this sector are significant as well. Individuals exposed to animal cruelty, including children and slaughterhouse workers, are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders, experiencing trauma, and exhibiting antisocial behaviour, the report says.

Also read: Animal Rights Advocate Pamela Anderson Will Now Host A Plant-based Cooking Show


Way forward

The report proposes a path to significantly improve animal welfare, focusing on four foundational pillars: Awareness, capital, talent, and policy. It stresses on the importance of developing a thorough, contextual understanding of animal welfare, emphasising the vital role that individual and community awareness plays in transforming practices. By increasing knowledge about the integration of animals into intensive systems and fostering greater empathy for animals as sentient beings, the report advocates for embedding animal welfare into everyday thinking and consumption practices.

More specifically, regarding capital and talent, the report highlights the significance of advocating for increased strategic financial support and investment in organised, intersectoral animal welfare initiatives. This involves enhancing the capacities of on-ground practitioners and promoting collaborations among academia, industry, and government to accelerate the adoption of cruelty-free practices and innovations.