A humane proposal | Daily News


A humane proposal

The move by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to ban cattle slaughter is going to win for him much accolades from the Maha Sangha and Buddhists in general. The Premier has proposed to implement new laws to prevent cattle slaughter and the decision has been endorsed by most MPs at the Government Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday. This ban on cattle slaughter has been mooted prior to this on several occasions, but a final decision was left in abeyance.

The other day, much opposition was registered by many at the auctioning of police dogs who were past their prime. No doubt, they felt it was wrong, nay inhuman, to dispose of these animals after serving their masters for long years, when they become old and feeble. The Defence Secretary has now rightly ordered the Armed Forces and Police not to auction service animals in the future.

Most people, particularly Buddhists and Hindus, attach even more sentiment and compassion to cattle. They are victims of exploitation as beasts of burden where they are made to endure back-breaking chores and mind-boggling suffering while inflicted with untold physical pain, yoked to their carts with heavy loads and beaten along their journeys by their heartless task masters. The cow is also a vital source of nourishment to the young and old alike with their ready supply of milk and has also proved to be a rich source of income to many households, not to mention the local dairy industry. To, therefore, consign these voiceless animals to the slaughterhouse when no more could be squeezed out of their labour and udders are milked dry is a heartless act. Television is full of the torture inflicted on these hapless beasts while being transported for illegal slaughter, with their limbs and mouths tightly roped in and dozens lying in heaps over each other unable to breathe in lorries that could barely hold half the number being transported. But what must be most abhorrent is the manner of slaughter of the animal subjecting it to torturous ordeal before the final mortal delivery of the heavy axe on the skull or neck of the hapless beast.

One is accustomed to see cattle being saved from slaughter often with the intervention of members of the Maha Sangha, particularly on Poya days which is another indication of the love and compassion shown to this animal and the opposition to cattle slaughter in this country. Thus there is no doubt that the Premier is fully justified in coming to this decision. Besides, we are a Buddhist country and one of the core teachings of Buddhism is compassion (Karuna) to all living beings. The killing of all animals therefore is strictly taboo under Buddhism.

In India, cattle slaughter is banned in many States and there have often been acts of violence over the killing of cattle. While no such incidents have taken place here protests had been staged against the opening of beef stalls in the vicinity of Buddhist temples and there was one occasion where a member of the Buddhist clergy even purchased a beef stall premises to prevent the sale of beef in that area.

Hence, Premier Rajapaksa will certainly receive the support of the vast majority in this country in his move to halt cattle slaughter. It is however likely that beef would be imported to cater to the needs of those who wish to eat beef if the ban is implemented. No doubt beef has its value when leaving out the inhuman aspect of its procurement. It is a rich source of protein which is largely consumed by sportsmen and is a regular dish in homes of mostly the Catholic and Muslim communities.

It will be difficult for these segments to go without an item to which they have got all too accustomed, all at once. Hence, any ban should be introduced in stages so that they could gradually shift to other substitutes. One must also not forget that hotels, restaurants, pubs too have beef as a main item in their menus. How they are going to manage is also a question.

Also, the local beef industry is a sizable one and is a livelihood for thousands, particularly in the Western province. Hence, any ban on cattle slaughter should also factor in this aspect. The large demand for beef could be gauged from the frequent police raids on illegal slaughter houses and the many detections of illegal cattle transport. While the proposed ban may be welcomed by the vast majority of people in this country who are followers of the Buddha Dhamma, there could be others belonging to other religions who may not welcome the idea, particularly the Muslim community, to whom the sacrifice of cattle during certain religious festivals is a chief ritual. Hence, the proposed ban, welcome as it is, should be implemented with much care and circumspection without hurting the sentiments of any community or religious groups.


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