NLUs, IGNOU have launched law degrees, courses in animal rights and protection

New Law Degree: Study of animal law is at a very nascent stage with only a handful of law colleges launching courses in the last 3 years.

Laws on animal rights and protection (Image credit : Shutterstock)Laws on animal rights and protection (Image credit : Shutterstock)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | January 23, 2023 | 11:14 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Since 2020, three universities have launched courses and centres dedicated to laws on animal rights and protection.

“Law schools and other colleges need to introduce the subject of animal rights in their curriculum and it should be made a compulsory subject,” declared Vedant Vaishali Mainkar, student coordinator, PG diploma programme 2022, Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU), Mumbai.

Mainkar, a student and an animal rights activist, is pursuing a five-year integrated BA-LLB honours degree at MNLU but has also opted for the diploma which he will complete in March 2023. The university launched the one-year diploma programme in “animal laws, rights and protection” in 2021 and a graduate in any discipline is eligible to apply.

“Anybody who is a graduate and feels deeply for animals can study this course,” said Mahvish Kazmi, faculty coordinator, MNLU, Mumbai. However, a small group of students like Mainkar who were yet to complete their third year at the MNLU were also allowed to join.

maharashtra national law university, national law university odisha, nalsar, ignou, animal rights, animal lawMahvish Kazmi

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New law degree: PG in animal law

Animal law as a discipline of study is still at a very nascent state in the country with only a handful of institutions offering programmes in it at any level. In most, the subject was introduced as a stream of study in or after 2020.

The National Academy for Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University was the first to offer a master’s degree and one-year advanced diploma programmes in animal protection laws in 2019.

NALSAR is still the only university offering a full-fledged postgraduate degree programme which has been taught in distance mode so far. Its Animal Law Centre was set up in collaboration with Humane Society International India in 2016.

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) launched a postgraduate diploma in animal welfare (PGDAW) in 2020; MNLU Mumbai launched its diploma programme in August 2021.

NLU Odisha doesn’t have a diploma or degree programme but offers a certificate course in animal law and protection from time to time.

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Hybrid teaching, research, cases

Since most of the programmes in animal welfare were launched during the lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, they were first offered online. NALSAR’s was a distance and online course from the start with study materials both posted and uploaded online but from 2022, students have had to go to campus to write the exams.

From 2022-2023, all programmes are gradually moving to a hybrid mode with more time spent on campus.

NALSAR’s Animal Law Centre has been working on research and policy regarding animal laws. “This is the first college which started work on research and policy for animal welfare,” said Prerna Sharma, a research associate at the centre.

The master’s programme covers the prevention of cruelty to animals, criminal laws, and how they need to go about litigations. The students are also made aware of major case updates. “We have just completed our first semester classes,” she added.

Students of NALSAR are also involved with the teachers in research or project work or litigation which the Animal Law Centre undertakes. For example, the students were involved in the fresh litigation filed against Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport played as part of the Pongal festival of Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court had banned the sport several times but with protest from people against the ban, a new ordinance was passed in 2017 to continue the sport. Animal rights activists continue the fight against it.

MNLU is offering the programme in hybrid mode. Any graduate from any stream can join the programme online but will have to come to campus to attend 15 days of offline classes. The university will provide accommodation to all candidates coming for offline classes. “Working professionals who join the one-year postgraduate diploma programme can also complete the practical classes at their end wherever they are working,” said Anil G Variath, course director, MNLU, Mumbai.

But from 2023, most of the classes will be offline in MNLU. For offline classes, the students will attend seminars in the context of environment and animal rights. “We are holding an international conference and we are holding other workshops,” said Kazmi.

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Why an animal law course?

“The link between animal cruelty and human violence is proximately established, as is the link between animal health, environmental health and public health,” said Faizan Mustafa, former vice-chancellor of NALSAR in his message after the launch of the master’s degree programme.

Students studying law call for more such programmes. School students should be made aware about animal rights and the laws associated with the welfare of animals, said Mainkar. “I was fortunate enough that I got selected for this course and I got to learn all these things. If the law schools and other colleges can inculcate the subject of animal rights, the legislators will be more concerned and sensitive about animal rights.”

maharashtra national law university, national law university odisha, nalsar, ignou, animal rights, animal lawVedant Vaishali Mainkar

India’s “white revolution” was applauded has another side. Cows and buffaloes are injected with medicine to increase milk production. Then machines are used to extract that milk. In normal circumstances a cow which can produce eight to ten litres of milk can now produce 17 litres of milk in a day. Students need to study animal welfare law to understand these issues.

Mainkar added that fuss over “gau raksha” – and the violence perpetrated in its name – masks the pathetic state of shelters in which cattle are kept and that a large chunk of tax-exempt funds raised for cow protection is not actually utilised for
that purpose.

NALSAR’s master’s programme has a section on prevention of cruelty to animals laws; use of laws in experiments, animal sacrifice and more.

Mainkar suggests that law schools and colleges offer credit courses on animal rights. “If not a complete 60-hour programme, they can have it as 30 hours, that is a two-credit or a three-credit course so that every person is aware about animal rights.” The NALSAR centre’s work includes the study of aquaculture, wildlife, gaushala, slaughterhouses, battery cages and more.

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