In the Name of Pilgrimage: The Unseen Suffering of Himalayan Equines

July 30, 2023
1 min read

In a recent development, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed before the Uttarakhand High Court, drawing attention to the inhumane treatment of equines deployed on pilgrimage routes to Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gaumukh, and Hemkund Sahib.

As per a Times of India report, since the pilgrimage season to the four Himalayan shrines began on April 22 this year, there has been a tragic death toll of approximately 115 mules and horses working on the Char Dham and Hemkund Sahib routes.

The PIL highlighted the fact that each year, hundreds of equines suffer and often succumb to death due to negligent and insensitive treatment from their handlers who, it is alleged, view these animals merely as sources of income. The authorities have been accused of indifference, with the PIL asserting that they routinely turn a blind eye to the evident animal suffering.

Furthermore, the plea criticises the lack of comprehensive regulation and monitoring from the authorities to ensure animal welfare, with the current Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) formulated by the State Animal Welfare Board deemed inadequate and ineffectively implemented.

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In response to the petitioner drawing attention to a communication sent by their organization in June 2022 – which outlined urgent measures required for equine welfare – the High Court directed the state to respond appropriately.

Labeling this as a “very serious issue of public interest,” the bench, led by Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal, issued orders for the Secretary of Animal Husbandry, the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the State Animal Welfare Board, and the relevant District Magistrates to be present in court on August 10, the date of the next hearing.

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