Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where is the Beef? - Analyzing logics behind Anti-Cow-Slaughter Bill

Karnataka government proposed the Anti Cow Slaughter bill trying to ape many other state governments (February 2010). As is with all other issues, controversies cropped up along with people protesting in favor of it and people protesting against it. Political entities coloring and contrasting the issues in their own hues depending on which side of the fence they lay eggs. Keeping all that apart, let us try to analyze what logics hold here. The objective here is not to hurt feelings but just a rational analysis of reasons behind government policies. But first, my stand on this issue.

WHAT THE GOD SAYS: Hindus in general and Hindu fanatics in particular oppose slaughter of cows stating that since we consume cow's milk, it is equivalent to our mother. The religious texts teaches that we must worship mothers and cows alike. Hence, one should not kill her for the above reasons. Often at times, for the sake of preserving the idea of cow's holiness and stop its slaughter, people go on to slaughter each other. However, the question that needs to be asked is that if cow is so holy, mother equivalent, object of worship and respect, then why it should be kept bondage with a painful string through the nose, why it should be tortured not only with traditional means of beating, limiting its freedom, not allowing it feed all its milk to the calf, but also with modern technologies of injecting painful medicines to produce more and more milk. It is hard to believe that we treat a god-like figure with that kind of respect. Does our religious texts have any answer for this anomaly? Neither the Hindu religious fanatics nor animal lovers seems to be in favor of a ban on milk products, the primary reason for exploitation of their so called mother.

Second point, we drink buffalo milk too and in fact, it constitutes the bigger share of total milk consumed. So, does this not make buffalo as respectful and mother like figures as cows? Why doesn't this buffalo milk prevent us from slaughtering buffalo in the temple premises in the name of sacrifice to god? Or it is that the Hindu castist society discriminates between the black buffalo and white or colored cows. Same holds for goats too.

It turns out that we Indians are quite a bit gender biased too, believing males and females should not have the equal rights. Its evident not only in human society, but also the way we treat the bovines. The female of the species, i.e. cow, is revered as holy and object of worship whereas the male, i.e., ox, is the object of slaughter, all in the name of the same set of gods. Its a bad idea to be a male cattle and a female human in the Indian society.

Moreover, the devotees of gowmata have no remorse about wearing leather shoes. Do they ever bother to figure out where from the leather came from? Whether the animal was slaughtered or died a natural death before it was skinned? Had there been a minute desire to wear leather which came from animals died naturally, there would have certainly been a brand advertising as "Om Shoes, skinned only from animals which died naturally" or "Have mercy, wear leather skinned from animals which died naturally."

Not surprisingly, Hindus do not respect other animals of religious significance too. For example, rats which are considered lord Ganesh's transport system are often subjected to death by poisoning. Those Hindus who sell rat poison and those Hindus who poison the rats seems to have no regard for lord Ganesh's disability to roam around the world without rats.

The case of peacock is no different. It is regularly killed in central India for meat and feathers. Our religious leaders show no interest in protection of a bird which servers as vehicle for lord Kartik in North Indian tradition and lord Murugan in South India. Also, our religiopolitical leaders too seem very unpatriotic in protecting a bird which is symbol of nation's pride.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Some from the media shouted that the ban on cow slaughter is in Indian Constitution. Lets examine that.

Article 48: The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
The article 48 comes under The Directive Principles of State Policy, Part IV of the Indian Constitution.
What are Directive Principles of State Policy: The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines to the central and state governments of India, to be kept in mind while framing laws and policies. These provisions, contained in Part IV of the Constitution of India, are not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid down therein are considered fundamental in the governance of the country, making it the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws to establish a just society in the country. The principles have been inspired by the Directive Principles given in the Constitution of Ireland and also by the principles of Gandhism; and relate to social justice, economic welfare, foreign policy, and legal and administrative matters.
Basically, article 48 is not a law but an guidelines which the law makers should keep in mind while framing laws. There are so many other things which should be kept in mind while framing laws but never show up even remotely in the minds of bureaucrats. For example, ban on alcohol, free education, minimum wage, etc. Now, whats so special in this guideline (article 48) that we should surpass all the other guidelines and seek to attain this seemingly irrational and illogical paragraph of Constitution.

With the passage of time, many parts of constitution become redundant, irrelevant to the present social norms, and often impediment to the society. Also, it being written by humans, there are more than fair chances of error, misrepresentation, and misinterpretation. Hence, it needs fixing from time to time by means of amendments. There had been 94 amendments in Indian constitution so far. Section 377 was one such redundant pieces of text which badly needed repair and it was fixed. Well, there were people protesting, but its in their nature and things cool down in the pipeline of time. So, why not an amendment for article 48?

Given the importance of the issue and its ability to cause huge bandhs and bloodshedding in future, I believe that article 48 requires an immediate amendment with removal of the illogical phrase "...prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle."

Here the point worth noting is that, those who keep mentioning article 48 to bolster their case in favor of a ban on cow slaughter often forget to mention that article 48 refers to prohibiting slaughter of other milch and draught cattle too. Other milch and draught cattle include buffalo, goat, ox, bull, camel, horse, donkey, etc. Have you ever heard of any Indian state banning slaughter of all the above mentioned animals? So, it can be concluded that state laws banning slaughter of caw are unconstitutional and inconsistent with article 48 as they do not ban slaughter of all milch and draught cattle.

Moreover, the nomenclature of the bill says it all about the intentions of the legislators. If they were to respect the constitution, they would have named the bill as "Anti Cattle Slaughter Bill" but instead it is named as "Anti Cow Slaughter Bill." So, the important thing here is the word "cow" and not the protection of cattle mentioned in the India's political bible.

If religion is consulted to decide what can be eaten on this land, then we have a very serious food crisis coming up. Every religion prohibits some or other edible from being consumed. Now, if the state bans cow slaughter keeping Hindu sentiments in mind, but do not ban slaughter of all animals as suggested by Jainism, then we can safely conclude that the State of India treats Jain as lesser citizen compared to Hindus.

WE LOVE ANIMALS: The animal lovers say that they simply cannot tolerate the cruelty against animals. They support the ban citing the pain and sufferings of the cows the undergo slaughter. But why just cows? I understand they love other kind of animals such as stray dogs and often have risen their voice against culling of dogs though they are not yet in favor of ban on killing all other types of animals including goats, pigs, chicken, fish, and so on. Probably, they aren't sure enough about the ramification and feasibility of the ideology. Their love affair seems to be restricted to only a few species. Never seen an animal lover in love with cockroaches. To me, the concept of harmonious relationship between species, existence without killing another life, is nothing but an utopia, fairy tale. Here is my previous post on this issue of animal welfare.

WHATS OUR FOOD CULTURE: There is another breed of Indians, the less aggressive ones who pretend to look rational and scientific. These are the people who are not courageous enough to wear their religion on their sleeves. They use science and culture to hide the irrationality of their believes. Their claim, Indian food and culture does not include beef consumption. Now, what all the things are not part of Indian food culture? Shall we not ban Coco Cola, pizza, burger, noodles, chocolate, cake, sauce, tea, coffee, or even bottled drinking water too given that these were imported in our food habit and were not originally part of Indian foods.

Second claim is that beef causes variety of health problems. Everything edible has its pluses and minuses on human health and that varies significantly with variance of environmental factors and individuals. There aren't substantial evidence of health hazards of beef. Even if evidence is found, then it should be left on the individual to decide whether or not to consume it. If the concern is too high to be ignored, then may be a warning like "Eating beef is injurious to health" can be put on it as is done with alcohol and tobacco. Citizen should have the freedom to decide what to eat and what not to. By the why, our overly health-conscious citizens seem to have no insight about the perils of soft drinks and fast foods that is fast gripping the whole nation.

WHERE ARE THE JOBS: Beef and cowhide constitute significant portion of the meat industry (both local and export) and leather industry. I do not have the exact numbers as to the size of both the industries and how many families are dependent on it for their food and shelter (poor kids don't get education, so no dependence for that). A wild guesstimate would be some 10 million workers and if each workers supports a family of 4 (often its more than that), then at least 40 million people will go hungry if the Anti Cow Slaughter bill is implemented. Labor unions and the well-wishers of the poor in the country do not turn up to check the future of cattle herders, butchers, leather skinners, shoe makers, and so on. Probably, the religious sentiments of the political and religious leaders are more important than the lives and livelihoods of masses.

Note: If you know the size of beef and leather industry in India, what percentage of total leather comes from cowhides, how many people are employed here, and other figures, please do scribble that in comment box for a clearer picture.

WHERE THE BLOOD CAME FROM: So why all the fuss about caw slaughter? In my opinion, it is just because this issue can create more political snowballing whereas buffalo, peacock, and rats don't display ability to become huge political ruckus. And why it is so? Most likely reason is that the cow has been branded as the symbol of Hindu pride. Part of responsibility for brandanization of cow as such goes to our right wing political entities and Hindu religious leaders, who needed some brand ambassador to showcase at launch of their religious and political products. But the major part of the responsibility is owed by the new-age Hindus who never bother to read what is actually written in the religious text and are solely dependent on the new avatar of television for their daily dose of spirituality.

It was like a ready-made bomb for the right-wing religiopolitical leaders. They just needed to add the switch, the spark, and press the button. Who will not like to capitalize on such a thing? However, after so many decades have passed, it is kind of difficult to figure out now whether it is the politics that took advantage of mass sentiments or the politics itself got influenced by it.

In the end, this whole holy cow thing is nothing but religiously motivated politics. This is how religion poisons every aspect of our rational behavior be it individual or the so called intellectual bureaucracy, enacting laws prohibiting cow slaughter and feeding their own beliefs.

MY STAND: Being a vegan, I'm not in favor of caw slaughter. But I'm not against caw slaughter either just as I'm not against slaughter of other animals or slaughter of crops for food. It is an individual's choice, not something religious, not something political. But I'm strongly against those who cry foul on this issue while carrying out all other acts of cruelty against caw and other animals. These people never walk their talk and are just interested in gleaning benefits from fooling the masses.

SOLUTION: Create numerous national parks exclusively for cows and adopt it as our national animal instead of tiger. Oh! Did I offend your feelings by calling her an animal?

DISCLAIMER: All the crap written above is plain fiction, has no connection with any live or dead cow or any religious or political entity. If the characters in this fiction resemble real cow or country, then it purely by chance. The author has no knowledge whatsoever of politics or religion and everything written is purely imaginary and baseless.

Related Post: General Theory of Cruelty and Disgust.
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