This article is written by Arushi Chopra, from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article deals with a major issue of Beef Ban.
Table of Contents
Beef ban has been a topic of debate amongst many scholars for a long period of time now. Some scholars are in favour of this decision while some are against it. The views of the people differ variably in this context which makes it one of the most controversial topics in debate prevalent today.
Those who are in favour of the banning of beef argue that non-violence is the greatest principle of humanity according to various religious texts and all people should adhere to this principle to the best of their capabilities. According to them, slaughtering of cows, buffaloes or other animals is considered to be a violent and cruel act and thus should be banned.
Those against the banning of beef argue that eating beef is healthy for human beings and according to the laws of nature, human beings can eat the flesh of other animals. They argue that plants are also living organisms and the act of eating those plants by human beings is not considered as being violent and acting against the principles of humanity. Likewise eating the flesh of animals should also not considered to be a violent Act.
Views of The Religious Texts
According to various authors, Hindu religious texts supports the act of animal sacrifice and eating beef should also be considered to be a part of this sacrifice and hence should not be banned. The counter-argument given for this statement is that Hindu religious texts support sacrificing the animals and not the killing of animals as these texts are strictly against killing any living being.
The reality, however, is that the Hindu religious texts are contradicting each other and there were mentions of both consuming beef as a good and a bad deed.
However, the slaughtering and consumption of cows, in particular, were considered immoral and unethical in the Hindu religion as cows are worshipped as idols in the Hindu religion even today.
The Hindu religion believes in the principle of Ahimsa or non-violence and killing animals for consumption is against this principle.
The Jaina Sutras tell us that Jainism was against violence and the people were of the view that as all the living creatures living on this earth are fond of life, none of the creatures should engage in killing other creatures as this very act results in ecological imbalance and destruction of life forms.
According to the Jain tradition, eating plants give the right amount of nutrition to human beings and they should not make the animals suffer pain due to their own selfish motives.
According to the Buddhist texts, cattle is one of the forms of reborn human beings and killing of cattle for consumption is considered to be bad karma. In order to secure a good rebirth, one should protect animals and not engage in their killing according to Buddhism.
However, Richard Gombrich believes that there is a difference between what the Buddhists practice and what they preach. There are some Buddhists who engage in killing these animals on a regular basis defying the principles given in their own religious texts.
Most Hindus generally avoid consuming beef as it is considered to be unethical and immoral. This is because a cow is a sacred animal in the Hindu religion and is worshipped by the people. However, Muslims and Christians engage in the consumption of beef very often. It is also ironic that though a large population of our country consists of Hindus who are against cattle slaughtering and consumption, India is the second-largest exporter of beef in the world only after Brazil which is the largest beef exporter in the world.
There is a constant demand from the people to ban consumption and selling of beef in India but this has not been implemented in many states till now due to the secular nature of our country.
However, a number of states have successfully banned the consumption of beef in the state. There are some states wherein slaughtering, consumption and killing of cows are banned but there is no mention about the consumption of other forms of cattle. This means that in these states slaughtering of buffaloes and all other forms of cattle except cows is allowed. Also, some states allow the slaughtering of old and diseased cows but have banned the slaughtering of the young and healthy cows. Some states require the slaughtering houses to obtain a certificate of fit for slaughtering before carrying on their operations. The Northeastern part of India has not put up any such conditions and people do not require any certificate or permissions before carrying out the activities like the killing of cattle for consumption. Thus, the north-Eastern part of the country is the highest consumer of beef in India.
Incidents and protests related to the consumption of beef
The Dadri Lynching Incident
A Muslim family was attacked and a person was murdered by a mob on 28 September 2015 in Dadri because it was suspected that the family was consuming beef. This was accompanied by a storm of protests and anger displayed on social media. It was, later on, found that the meat that they were eating was not beef.
The Maharashtra Controversy
A legislature was passed by Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in the state, banning the possession and import of beef in the state. This decision took away the livelihood of many of the Muslims who were engaged in the trade of beef. According to some people, this decision was taken by the BJP due to the pressure created by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to ban beef trade. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was a Hindu group that was strictly against killing cattle and consumption and trade of beef in the state.
The Prevalent Issues in India
Does the banning of beef consumption take away the food rights of people?
Every human being has the right to eat any kind of food that he wants and he should not be objected if he is exercising this right. If the government bans the consumption of beef, it would according to me, infringe on the rights of the people who consume beef. Beef is also cheaper as compared to the other food products and it thus becomes a source of survival for the poor people who cannot afford to buy other expensive products to eat.
Also, India is a secular country and banning the food products consumed by one sect of the society would be both legally and morally incorrect according to me. The Muslim and Christian minorities consume beef very often and banning beef would not be taken by them in a positive manner.
This issue relating to the food rights of the people and banning of beef is taken up as a topic of discussion by the author Kancha Ilaiah in the article published by the Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 31 page 144-145. The author is completely against banning beef in India as it is a source of livelihood for many. The author states that the SCs, STs, and OBCs are the ones who depend on the less expensive beef for their consumption. According to the author, it would be morally incorrect to ban beef which is eaten by the Muslims and the Christian community and also by many other people. It would also be against the fundamental right to equality and would also result in the infringement of the right to food of their choice to the people.
India is a multicultural country wherein the concerns and views of all the communities are taken into consideration and hence banning the consumption of beef would result in injustice to the minority communities consuming meat. This is what is talked about by the author in the article. According to the author, the food rights of the people are their democratic rights and banning a particular religious food product just because consuming that particular food product is immoral in another religion is not a valid argument for banning the product.
Is it ethically correct to propose to ban beef which is a religious food product for the minority communities and take forward the opinions of the majority of the people in order to secure majority votes?
Beef is a religious food product eaten by the Muslim and Christian communities very often. It is bread and butter for various people who are economically weak and cannot afford other expensive food products. Banning beef just to win the elections by taking away the majority of votes may look appealing but it is morally and ethically incorrect. Banning beef would give rise to a lot of protests and violence and would escalate the problems between the different religious groups.
BJP had proposed to ban beef in its manifesto in order to attract the votes of the Hindus who constituted a majority of the population leaving the pleas of the other sections of the society unheard. This step taken by the BJP is strongly opposed by the author Kancha Ilaiah in his article that was published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 31 page 144-145. The author is completely against this act done by the BJP. The author elaborates on this issue by saying that BJP thinks that the very act of killing cows, buffalo or cattle is non-Indian and thus should be banned. The author strongly opposes this statement by saying that in the earlier times, the Brahmins also consumed beef and thus calling consumption of beef a non-Indian act is out of the question.
According to me, the act done by the BJP was not ethically correct as this act brought a lot of protests and bloodshed in the country. It is also ironic to note that whenever the government has made an effort to ban the killing of cattle for consumption, it has resulted in violence and bloodshed of the human race.
Is it correct for the Indian government to take sides in the matters regarding the beef ban and give out different judgements in a similar case rather than promoting the coexistence of all citizens?
Beef ban has been very controversial topics and the cases relating to beef when comes to the hands of the court, it is very difficult to arrive at a solution. This is because there are logical and clear sets of arguments for both sides of this situation, i.e. one opposing beef consumption and one supporting beef consumption.
It becomes all the more difficult to arrive at a decision because the constitution of India defines India as a secular country which respects all religions and believes in equality to all its citizens despite the religion that they belong to. Also, there are no set laws and principles governing the matters relating to beef consumption and sale which often leads to a bad decision by the court and hence this results in injustice to one party.
The above situation has been taken up by the author Imtiaz Ahmad in his article published in the Economic and Political Weekly Vol. 40 Page: 1989-1991. The author first takes up the two cases which were dealt with differently by the same high court. He focuses on the point that India is a secular country and this principle sometimes creates problems like the laws relating to beef consumption and its sale in the Indian markets.
Secularism poses problems for the judicial bodies to give judgements on these cases and as a result serves injustice to one party. There is a difference in views of the Hindu community and the Muslim and Christian communities in matters relating to beef consumptions and trading. While the Hindu religion opposes the killing of cattle, beef is a religious food in the Muslim and Christianity community which is eaten on various festivals. Though there is a difference in the opinions, all these communities live together in India and hence should be treated equally and fairly and the government should take into account the concerns of all the communities and provide a solution to their problems.
Beef ban is a controversial subject with many viewpoints and ideologies. It is taken up differently by the different sections of the society and one wrong decision by the government regarding this subject elevates this problem to a great extent.
Consumption of beef is not considered to be good practice in the Hindu religion while Muslims and Christian minorities are often seen eating beef on festivals and special occasions.
Though there is a ban on beef consumption and trading in some states of India, there are some states which have still not considered banning beef as a viable option. The government has not been able to make this law regarding beef ban applicable centrally in the country due to the secular nature of the country. India is a multi-cultural community and thus one of the beliefs and practices of one religion cannot be just kept aside and forgotten. This is a major factor due to which beef consumption has still not been banned entirely.
Different religious texts have different perspectives related to this issue and hence this has been a hot topic for debate amongst many scholars. The government cannot take out any baseless rule against any particular section of the society relating to this issue as it would result in bloodshed and violence.