By - King Stubb & Kasiva on June 23, 2023
The Karnataka cabinet’s determination to review the controversial anti-cow slaughter law has rekindled a fierce discussion over farmer rights and cattle preservation. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called for a re-evaluation of the stringent provisions of the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, to ameliorate the challenges faced by farmers burdened with the obligation of caring for unproductive cattle.
The previous government’s enforcement of the law, which restricts the slaughter of cows and extends the prohibition to oxen and ox meat, has been attacked for imposing an additional burden on farmers. The Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act of 1964 allowed for the slaughter of unproductive cattle above the age of 12, providing some relief to farmers who struggled to keep non-productive livestock. The new law, however, broadened the definition of “cow” to encompass all cattle (excluding bison) and increased the maximum penalty for offenders of the prohibition to seven years in prison.
This article aims to trace the development of anti-cow slaughter laws and the recent unrest these laws are causing in the following manner:
The consumption and use of animal products are integral to our daily lives, prompting concerns about animal welfare both in India and worldwide. Recognizing the significance of animal preservation, the Indian government has implemented various measures to enhance animal protection. Initially, there was even consideration of declaring cow protection as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. However, after extensive deliberation, cow slaughter was included as a Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) in Article 48 of the Constitution. These DPSPs also encompass the protection and compassion for all living beings, among other principles.
The Indian Penal Code of 1860 includes measures to combat animal cruelty. Sections 428 and 429 penalize those who murder, maim, poison or render animals ineffective. The Central Government has also passed animal-protection legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. These Acts ensure the welfare and protection of livestock, wild animals, and other species. The prohibition on cow slaughter, notably the legislation enacted in 2017 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017, has received a great deal of attention.
However, conflicts between state and federal legislation are not uncommon. While item 14 of the State List grants states the authority to enact legislation for the preservation and protection of livestock, ensuring their health and well-being, items 17 and 17B of the Concurrent List empower both the state and federal governments to enact legislation for the protection of wild animals and birds and to prevent animal cruelty.
A majority of the Indian states have enacted anti-cow slaughter laws. For instance, the Bihar Preservation and Improvement of Animals Act, 1955, the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, 1994, the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 (amended in 1995), the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 (Amended in 1979 and subsequently in 2002), and so on. Some of these laws provide for exceptions such as when a Fit for Slaughter Certificate is issued or slaughter is authorized, for example, the Maharashtra Act. However, others prohibit cow slaughter, such as laws in Uttar Pradesh.
Except for Pondicherry, most southern Indian states generally permit animal slaughter and transportation of cows and bullocks with fewer limitations and fines for illegal slaughter. Their regulations also encompass buffaloes and do not impose prohibitions on the selling of cattle.
In contrast, northern states have stricter legislation and are more focused on livestock protection. The economic viability of cow protection is also questioned as the rules prioritize more productive buffaloes over other cattle types. Additionally, despite claims of care for cows, instances of cruelty and exploitation in the dairy industry, including separating calves from their mothers and keeping cows in inadequate conditions, continue to be observed.
Striking a balance between addressing farmer hardships and protecting livestock is of utmost importance. The implementation of anti-cow slaughter laws has wide-ranging implications, impacting not only farmers but also animal rights, cultural traditions, and the socioeconomic well-being of agricultural communities.
On the one hand, it is crucial to acknowledge the challenges faced by farmers in caring for unproductive cattle, as mandated by the 2020 Karnataka Act. These laws further compound the existing difficulties that farmers encounter in sustaining their livelihoods. Moreover, cultural sentiments and traditional practices associated with cattle hold significant weight in the argument, particularly in rural communities. These considerations underscore the importance of addressing the socioeconomic prosperity and cultural fabric of agricultural communities.
On the other hand, preserving cattle is essential for environmental, agronomic, and ethical reasons. Cattle play a crucial role in agricultural practices and hold a revered status in many communities. Additionally, the conservation of diverse cow genetic resources is vital for safeguarding biodiversity and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
Both sides of the debate require careful examination. While alleviating farmer hardships is significant, livestock conservation cannot be disregarded. Striking a balance necessitates a comprehensive approach that takes into account the macroeconomic impact, cultural sensitivities, and environmental sustainability.
The anti-cow slaughter laws in Karnataka and across the nation are multifaceted and diverse. Animal protection, including cow protection, is essential for every community, and measures that promote welfare are necessary. However, the implementation of such legislation must take into account the challenges faced by farmers and the social implications for farming communities.
The prohibition on slaughtering unproductive animals has added further burden to struggling farmers. It is imperative for the government, policymakers, and stakeholders to engage in a comprehensive dialogue and explore alternative options that address the concerns of all parties involved. Balancing animal conservation, preservation of cultural traditions, and the socioeconomic well-being of producers is a challenging but necessary endeavor for a healthy and sustainable society.
The objective is to safeguard cattle and prohibit their slaughter, with the aim of ensuring animal welfare and conservation.
Farmers, particularly those already facing difficulties in maintaining unproductive cattle, are now restricted from slaughtering even-aged and unproductive oxen due to the anti-cow slaughter laws. This presents financial and logistical challenges in caring for these animals.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, along with various state-level laws, prohibits or restricts the slaughter of cows and other cattle, aiming to prevent animal cruelty. Furthermore, as a Directive Principle of State Policy, Article 48 of the Indian Constitution emphasizes the protection of cows and their calves. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 also includes provisions for the protection of wild animals, including certain species of cattle.