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Constitutional Protection for all Animals: a need of the hour


10 March 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



National Constitutions are a valuable instrument for protecting animals, providing strong legal clout to the existing Animal Welfare Bills and Ordinances. The principle of welfare balance in the area of animal protection when in conflict with fundamental laws, such as scientific and educational freedom, artistic or religious freedom could only function when animal protection has a constitutional ranking.

In Sri Lanka, the majority start the day by chanting, ‘May all living beings be well,’ but thereafter some indulge in cruel practices causing hideous suffering to animals in the name of culture, religion, conservation, farming and dairy industry, food (meat, fish, eggs) and milk, science and education, entertainment, and pet industry to name a few.

None of these cruel practices against animals can be combated legally for lack of Constitutional Protection for animals.

The Importance of Respect and Protection for Animals as an Indicator of Moral Standards of a Nation

In many societies, including the Sri Lankan society, there is an ever-growing understanding that Animal Protection is an important Ethical and Political issue reflecting a society’s moral standards. This also commands global interest and is now covered by a growing body of international standards (under the aegis of the World Organization for Animal Health, or the OIE) which has been agreed by governments.  

Despite this reality, many countries have still not secured even the basic foundations for humane treatment of animals in their constitutions, leave alone protection, and many others have only outdated and inadequate provisions.

Animal Protection Must be Incorporated into Constitutions for both Ethical and Practical Reasons.
Ethical Reasons: The status of animals and the importance of animal protection objectives must be recognized by the State. These are already internationally recognized by consensus and morality, and should be reflected in the fundamental governing principles of nations.

Practical Reasons: Practical problems arise when other constitutional objectives take precedence over animal ethics and protection because these are not included in the constitution. 

For example, until 2002 animal protection was not included in the German constitution, despite Germany being a strong supporter of animal protection, but freedom of research was. So in 1994,a researcher filed suit after he was denied permission to perform a particularly cruel research on primates, and the court ruled in his favour.

Furthermore, a German Constitutional Court ruling in July 1999 stated that the principle of welfare balance in the area of animal protection (e.g. when in conflict with fundamental laws, such as scientific and educational freedom, artistic or religious freedom) could only function when animal protection had a constitutional ranking.

Social Movements Against Animal Cruelty Result in the Inclusion of Animal Protection in National Constitutions 

As a result of social movements against animal cruelty, two countries that have included animal protection provisions in their constitutions are Germany and Switzerland.
Germany: In 2002 added a provision to its constitution that is interpreted as enshrining the protection of animals as a major state objective, binding on all state actors as follows:
“Mindful also of its responsibility towards future generations, the state shall protect the natural foundations of life and animals by legislation. . . .”

Switzerland: Animal protection has been included in the Swiss Constitution (Article 80), establishing a mandate for federal legislation on animal welfare.

Other Countries: In India, animal protection objectives were included in the Indian constitution from its adoption in 1950. In particular, Article 48, which dealt with agriculture, included a prohibition on the slaughter of cows, calves and other milk and draught animals. In 1974, further provisions were introduced including Article 51A, which made it a duty of every citizen of India “(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures”.

Apart from India, other countries that obligate the State and the citizens to take a role in protecting animals are Cuba, Hungary, Kyrz Republic, and Serbia. 
Global Movement on the Need for Animal Protection to be in International, National and Regional Constitutions.  

Since the need to take proper account of animal protection in international, national and regional constitutions is long overdue, World Animal Net (WAN), the most widely connected animal protection organization in the world with over 1,500 affiliated societies, has launched an international movement to acknowledge the legal status of animals, who are sentient creatures with an intrinsic value, and get them recognized in and protected by constitutions. In this campaign, among other things, WAN is calling for:

  • All national governments to introduce animal protection into their constitutions (if they have not already done so). 
  • The United Nations to specifically include animal welfare within the scope of its activities, and to bring forth, without delay, a draft convention or declaration, for the protection of animals, and to arrange an international conference on this issue of worldwide concern. 
  • Individual nations to support a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare.

Sri Lanka’s Social Movement Against Animal Abuse and Cruelty
There is a hugely growing social movement in Sri Lanka against cruelty to companion animals, animals in captivity, farm animals, wild animals, and this is getting stronger, especially via social media, as of late.

In Sri Lanka Animals are openly subjected to cruelty in conservation parks like Pinnawela and the Dehiwela zoo, in pageants, farms, pet shops, religious places, homes. We have no legal clout to combat these cruel practices against animals. This is why it is necessary to grant the highest level of legal protection to animals by ensuring CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION, strengthening all Bills and Ordinances related to Animal Welfare. .   


In the light of the above, KACPAW made a request to the Public Representation Committee on Constitutional Reforms that CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION FOR ALL ANIMALS be incorporated in the National Constitution of Sri Lanka placing ANIMAL WELFARE on the same footing as other key principles, as follows: 

  • A requirement that the government and the citizens at all times consider animals with respect, and treat them with compassion. 
  • A requirement that the government to develops laws and enforcement structures so as to afford animals the highest level of protection.
  • A requirement that the government develops and supports humane education programs to encourage respect and compassion for people, animals and the environment, and recognition of the interdependence of all living things.

Without Constitutional Protection neither the State nor the citizens can take action against barbarities on animals, despite the existence of various bills and ordinances on animal welfare. 
While thanking the government for providing an opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka to submit their suggestions and proposals to be included in the National Constitution of Sri Lanka  KACPAW hope that its request to grant Constitutional Protection For Animals would be included in the new constitution.

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