The debate on animal sacrifices should not be used to create more hatred
In the weeks leading up to the Id-ul-Adha (or Bakri-Id) festival, “everyone is an animal activist”, tweeted the writer Rana Safvi. And as expected on July 2, PETA-India, one of India’s leading animal rights organizations, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an amendment to the law to ban animal sacrifices in all religions.
He specifically called on the government to remove the exception from section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, which adds that no provision in the legislation “shall make killing an animal of in a manner required by the religion of any community an offense. ”.
Days earlier, one of India’s leading animal activists, Gauri Maulekhi, also tweeted to shame prominent Hyderabad-based politician Asaduddin Owaisi for his letter to the Director General of Police calling for transport flexibility. animals and veterinary certificate requirements for animals that will be brought in for the sacrifice of Bakri Id in Telangana state.
Although religious animal sacrifice is contrary to animal rights principles, there is no uniform central law prohibiting it. The fate of several progressive High Court ordinances prohibiting Hindu animal sacrifices as non-essential to Hinduism (Himachal, Tripura, Kerala and Orissa) is suspended before Indian Supreme Court, what seems will not to decide the issue.
We need a national discussion on animal sacrifices. Many animal sacrifice rituals are based on “substitution,” using animals as human proxies to fulfill a sacred duty of loss. We have to ask ourselves why an act of publicly killing an animal (often with brutal and painful methods) is needed in 2021 to appease the gods. We must also ask ourselves whether animal sacrifice should be replaced entirely by other forms of non-violent worship, whether or not this is an essential practice.
However, Safvi is not entirely wrong. What is worrying is that this discussion only takes place once a year before Bakri-Id, although religious animal sacrifices in India occur in both Hindu and Muslim communities. It is only before Bakri-Id that we see a wave of debates about animal sacrifice and the need to ban it or protect the rights of those who want to practice ritual slaughter. Most of these discussions often turn into hateful social media threads, without sincere and respectful engagement with the complicated issue at hand.
We both belong to a political collective called Animaleft, where we believe that the act of sacrificing animals to appease the gods undermines their intrinsic worth as sentient beings. At the same time, we are also against the selective condemnation of animal sacrifices. In a political landscape that barely stands up across searing religious fault lines, to hold Muslims alone accountable for a common practice in Hindu and Muslim communities, animals are being armed to create more hatred and division.
Owaisi’s complaint to the Telangana DGP raised fears of harassment of traders and livestock transporters by so-called gaurakshaks or cow protectors, a very valid concern in a climate of murderous lynching of Muslim men under the guise of animal protection. Indian animal activists must heed this concern, not avoid it.
To be truly effective, animal rights groups must stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters against Hindutva violence and disown the polarized debates that prevent us from having conversations that can lead to justice for all humans and animals. On the other hand, if Owaisi is convinced that all of the animals brought in for sacrifice are in fact healthy, he must follow animal welfare laws and encourage every one of his constituents to do the same.
Regarding animal sacrifice itself, pious people – across religions – must reconsider whether their community is to be gathered on the bodies of animals that have known only suffering. Religious institutions hold immense influence over the supply chains that produce animals for sacrifice and are therefore morally obligated to ensure that they have been raised and slaughtered in a manner consistent with the principle of compassion inherent in all religions.
A firm stand on animal rights recognizes that animal sacrifice is only one branch of industrial animal agriculture. Only a capitalist breeding system can meet the demand for lakhs of animals all year round. This in turn forms a vicious cycle of mass production of animals, their excess availability for slaughter, the normalization of animal sacrifices and the generation of additional demand. A stance against animal sacrifice must also work to dismantle factory farming to achieve the vision of freeing animals from being mere instruments for human ends.
The way forward for animal rights does not lie in sensationalizing animal sacrifices and stigmatizing minorities, but in building a constructive and long-term dialogue between all groups to bring about change. We quote the timeless words of the 1957 Parliamentary Committee for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which recommended a nationwide ban on animal sacrifices but opposed a call for dialogue:
“Any legislation aimed at ending animal sacrifices can only succeed in achieving its goal if a strong public opinion, created by measures such as education and propaganda, is behind it. In building public opinion, humanitarian, religious and other organizations working on animal welfare can play an important role.
The need for this dialogue has never been greater. Jump that is detrimental to animal and human communities.
Alok Hisarwala and Krishnaunni Hari are animal rights activists and researchers with a Animaleft Bend.