A bench comprising CJ Prakash Srivastava and CJ Rajarshi Bhardwaj ordered that the Committee constituted as per the Hon’ble High Court’s earlier order dated 22 August 2022 shall take all steps to provide care and treatment to the suffering horses who are used to haul tourist carriages. The Hon’ble High Court also acknowledged that steps need to be taken for better identification and maintenance of records for each horse.
In response to the order of Hon’ble Calcutta High Court dated 22 August 2022, the committee consisting of a representative from the Animal Resources Development Department, West Bengal (ARDD), the Animal Welfare Board of India, Petitioners- PETA India and CAPE Foundation, and horse owners, carried out a scheduled assessment of horses on 12 September 2022 in and around Victoria Memorial, Maidan Adjacent and Hastings.
The detailed report submitted by the committee members establishes that out of the 50 horses observed over about 5 hours, 92% of the horses are extremely thin and of poor body condition, that 100% had swelling on one or both hind limbs, and 66% had swelling on one or both fore limbs, and that a vast majority of them had various foot problems from poor housing conditions and spending their lives doing gruelling work on concrete. The report, which includes photographs and records of each horse observed, states these conditions “would deem these horses unfit for hauling tourist rides or to be made to work”. The report also establishes many horses are being used to haul carriages illegally, i.e. without required licenses.
Following this, ARDD called an unscheduled visit on short notice on 13 September 2022 and hurriedly created a separate two-page report falsely certifying 24 horses of Victoria Memorial and Maidan area and 40 horses of Hastings as in “good” condition. Yet, during this visit, which lasted only fifty minutes, no actual inspection or medical assessment of any horses was carried out!
The petitioner’s representative, equine veterinarian Dr Naresh Upreti, made a hand note on this report stating that “I am not agreeing to this report”. He also submitted a dissent note to ARDD explaining that the second report is bogus. Strong objections to this report were raised by PETA India before the Hon’ble Court today, including that the two reports in some instances record contradictory findings with respect to the same horses indicating that the 13 September 2022 report is a deliberate cover-up. It was also submitted that ARDD’s own representative has signed the 12 September 2022 report and the findings in that report cannot be superseded by the 13 September 2022 report.
“The official and detailed report submitted by the court appointed committee members clearly advises that unfit and unlicensed horses should not be allowed to ply,” says PETA India Senior Legal Counsel Arunima Kedia. “The findings once again demonstrate the need to replace deteriorating horses with a non-animal alternative such as a classical, environmentally sound, e-carriage. Animal Resources Development Department’s attempts at a cover-up only further emphasise their dereliction of duty and that the only way to bring these horses relief is to remove them from the streets right now.”
Numerous previous assessment reports by PETA India veterinary inspectors have established that more than 100 horses used for rides in the city are anaemic, malnourished, and chronically starved; some have suffered from severe injuries, including bone fractures; and many are forced to live amid their own waste on filthy, decrepit, and illegally occupied premises in the city, including an encroachment area under a flyover.
PETA India has compiled a factsheet of numerous road accidents in Kolkata involving these benighted horses, illustrating the dangers of using them to haul tourists. Such accidents cause the animals pain and suffering and pose safety risks to the passengers in the carriages and commuters. PETA India notes that using injured and malnourished horses for carriage rides violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.