From the very inception of human culture, cattle breeding has been one of the foremost important task performed by humans. With the transformation of societies from hunting to agriculture mode of production, cattle gained importance in human life. The history of India reverbs with importance of cattle for household. Cow in Vedic period was called 'Aghanya'- one which should not be killed.
When Brahmanical system started advocating indiscriminate slaughter of cattle in the name of rituals, it caused birth of Buddhism and Jainism as new religions with pacifist approach towards animals.
The importance of cattle in Indian agro-economy has been carried from Vedic to modern time. This fact was recognized during the framing of our constitution and article 68 was introduced where protection of cows and cattle was made a directive principle.Framing of the legislation
After Independence, India was divided into two parts in recognizing this directive. Beef had been a matter more of religious sentiments than ones dietary choice, some states legislated against cow slaughter while others advocated freedom of individual in the matter. This led to popping up of inconsistencies varying from state to state.
Recognizing the magnitude of situation, Ministry of Environment passed a resolution for regulating the sale and purchase of cattle in animal market. It may be noted that cattle here includes Cow, Buffalo, Bulls and Camels.
This has been openly opposed by some states including Kerela and West Bengal saying that it would not only affect meat and poultry industry, but would be a restriction on an individual's dietary options. However the legislation must be viewed in the light of intention of the move.Effects of the legislation
It may very well be true that such a move may adversely affect the meat export market. India is largest exporter of buffalo meat in the world. However this must also be noted that the thriving meat export industry led to mushrooming of illegal slaughter houses.Such regulation would definitely curb such illegal market, apart from enhancing government's revenue. Cattle has always been a subsidiary of agriculture. For a country like India, where more than half of the population is dependent on agriculture, such indiscriminate killing may not be a sustainable option. Also in time of draught, it is this cattle which provides alternative livelihood of farmers. Thus there is a definite need of control over illegal meat market.
Another point to note here is that the legislation has been brought by ministry of Environment as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 2017. This is definitely a noteworthy step which would not only regulate unnecessary killing of animals, but would also curb cruelty towards them, as it includes provisions for abolition of hot and cold branding of animals, use of chemicals for glowing their skin, ear cutting, castration and similar atrocities hurled on them.
A noteworthy reason that could be deduced here in favor of the legislation could be that since time immemorial, cows have been attached to faith of Hindus, and even worshipped as mother. Such regulation also lays down parameters, where healthy cattle, especially cows will not be sold in animal market for meat, thereby preventing any ideological conflict with the majority population.Precautions
In moving forward with the regulation, a few negative aspects must also be considered. While dealing with cattle in open market, the rule provides for identity of seller and purchaser with written undertaking that the cattle would be used only for agricultural purpose.
However at times, owing to religious sentiments attached with it, crowd gets involved in the restriction. Such moral policing and 'Cow- Vigilantism', often makes it difficult for even legal buyers, as it is very difficult to make the mob understand the sanctity. Recent cases in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other areas of cow vigilantism are live examples of such scenario.
Moreover a big question is the grounds on which slaughtering of animals can be restricted under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, as it explicitly recognizes that animals can be food to humans. Such legal infirmities are bound to be challenged in courts.Conclusion
Thus it may be said that the rules must be seen in light of the attempt of Central government to regulate an illegal market, apart from preventing religious conflicts. At the same time it must be reviewed in a way that its imposition may not become a matter of threat to legal avenues
- Rishabh Srivastava