In a controversial move that is set to have far-reaching effects, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has announced a nationwide ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The announcement was made by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Hindus, who constitute almost the whole of the BJP do not eat cows, believing that the animal is sacred and should be deeply respected. But India has a sizable religious minority made up of Muslims and Christians, whose daily meal almost always include beef from cows.
The announcement by Ministry of Environment and Forests would mean that the bovine animals will only be sold to agriculturalists, who will have to provide authentic documents in order to buy them. These agriculturalists also have to submit a written declaration to the Animal Market Committee that they will not resell the animals for the purpose of slaughter.
There are certainly benefits to this move. A study in the United States has suggested that cutting down on beef and replacing it with beans would be hugely beneficial for the environment, as it would reduce carbon footprint.
However, a move as drastic as this could have a significant impact. The country has seen a large number of attacks by the so-called ‘gau rakshaks’ in recent times, with the Dadri lynching of 2015 being the most prominent. The Government’s latest announcement is set to anger many, including minorities and meat traders. India being the largest exporter of beef in the world.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is himself understandably against the new rule, and has vowed to go to the court to contest the decision, arguing that citizens should have the right to decide what they will and will not eat.
In a scathing indictment, he opined that consumption of beef should not be based on religion. He also suggested that the centre should focus more on preventing attacks on those who transport cattle rather than banning the slaughter of cattle.
This means that ordinary people’s eating habits as well as livelihood are going to be affected, mainly those of minorities such as Muslims and dalits, as beef is such an integral part of their lives.