By MANEKA GANDHI
Some of our judges are now beginning to understand what animal cruelty does to a nation, and are acting on it. Acting Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Rajiv Sharma, has written some of the finest judgements on animal cruelty. These should be taught to all judges that come for training, in specific subjects, to Bhopal. Justice Sharma is known for expeditious disposal of cases and his concerns for nature and environment. Justice Sharma has delivered landmark judgments, such as granting living entity status to the Ganga and the animal kingdom. And, when the mind deepens and expands, it understands injustice and suffering for all, so I am not surprised that Justice Sharma has also delivered important judgments such as deletion of caste from FIRs, directives for preventing suicides by farmers, abolishing age-old system of solitary confinement for death penalty convicts, and a series of other reformist orders in the realm of education, health and mental health. Now comes the judgement from the Chief Justice, Sanjoy Karol, and Justice Arindham Lodha, banning animal sacrifice in the temples of Tripura. The public interest litigation was filed by a former judicial service officer, Subhas Bhattacharjee, last year. This is a welcome judgement, because it clearly understands the greed of priests and the economic roots of inventing such a ritual. It also understands that barbaric rites have no place in a civilised society – not even when they go under the banner of “culture”. For the first time in 525 years, there will be no sacrifices at the Durga Bari temple in Agartala. And that is wonderful. All over the world the judiciary is taking note of animal cruelty, and intervening in areas where the executive is too lazy, indifferent, or too vote conscious to intervene. On 19 August, 2019, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) released a resolution regarding animal cruelty, and its link to other forms of violence. This is what the resolution says: “Empirical research demonstrates a direct link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, including partner abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse. In homes where serious animal abuse has occurred, there is an increased probability that some other type of family violence is also happening. The NCJFCJ is committed to upholding the rights of all parties and victims, the safety of all family members, and the safety of the community. Animal cruelty is a crime of violence and may be indicative of past or future violent acts.” Researchers have found that 43 percent of US school shooters, between 1988 and 2012, had histories of animal abuse. The NCJFCJ recognises that in the context of juvenile and family court cases, including cases of domestic violence, the court should consider the welfare of abused animals in reaching its decisions. There is a demonstrated link to the safety of human beings at the hands of the animal abuser, when animals are subjected to cruelty. Abuse of a companion animal is one of the four most significant risk factors for someone becoming a domestic abuser, and is an indicator of the use of controlling violent behaviours. Eighty-nine percent of women, who had companion animals during an abusive relationship, reported that their animals were threatened, harmed or killed, by their abuser. Children who exhibit cruelty towards animals are more than twice as likely to exhibit violent behaviours. “As judicial officers, it is our responsibility to consider the importance of animals as family members in juvenile and family law decisions,” said Judge John J Romero, Jr, NCJFCJ President. “The NCJFCJ is calling for judges to consider the time and resources necessary to address animal cruelty allegations associated with cases that come before their bench to achieve just results and prevent future violence against both humans and animals.” The NCJFCJ will collaborate with animal welfare organisations and experts to develop, and make available, educational resources and trainings to assist judges in better understanding the issues and implications of juvenile and family court cases involving animal cruelty. Earlier this year, the NCJFCJ and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) held the first-ever judicial convening on animal cruelty. The meeting resulted in the resolution and the creation of the new technical assistance bulletin, Animal Abuse Issues: What Juvenile and Family Court Judges Need to Know, providing guidance for judicial officers regarding the link between animal cruelty and family, and interpersonal violence; animal cruelty in relation to family violence, child abuse and neglect, juvenile offender, and elder abuse cases. Judges all over the world are in a unique leadership position to spearhead an understanding of the link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. Their judgements can lead to sustainable solutions to build safer communities for both, humans and animals alike. Are they the only law enforcement people that think that animal crime and crime in general are related? No. From 1 January, 2019, acts of cruelty against animals are now counted alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault, and homicide in the FBI’s criminal database. The Bureau’s National Incident- Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is now collecting detailed data from law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organised abuse, and sexual abuse, from 18,000 city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their studies show that cruelty to animals is a precursor to larger crime. In the United States, a sheriff is an official in a county, or independent city, responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the law. Many sheriffs have the role of a police chief. The National Sheriffs’ Association has been a leading advocate for adding animal cruelty as a data set in the Bureau’s collection of crime statistics. The association for years has cited studies linking animal abuse and other types of crimes—most famously, murders committed by serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz. The organization also points out the overlap animal abuse has with domestic violence and child abuse. “If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human,” said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “Identifying and analyzing animal cruelty crimes will provide an important tool for law enforcement. People need to shed the mindset that animal cruelty is a crime only against animals. It’s a crime against society. By paying attention to these crimes, we benefit all of society.” If you know any judges, please cut this article out and send it to them.
(To join the animal welfare movement contact email@example.com, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)