This article was written by Bhavangi Agarwal, a student of IMS Unison University.


On 23rd May, 2017 Environment Ministry prohibited the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter to ensure their welfare and also to prevent smuggling by issuing a notice under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, which turned out to be a debatable topic. According to Ministry, these rules are result of two Supreme Court orders from the years 2015 and 2016 wherein Supreme Court had asked the Government to draft for welfare of the animals by preventing them from being smuggled out of the India to Nepal for Gadhimai festival[1] where numerous sacrifices take place. As a result, the rule imposes various sanctions on the slaughter market, farmers, export market and certain religious minorities.


The notice involves detailed rules which protect animal rights and prevent illegal smuggling. Now, the word ‘cattle’ includes bulls, bullock, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels. As per the notification, animal market are defined as a market place or sale yard or any other premise or place to which animals are brought from other places and exposed for sale or auction and includes any lair age adjoining a market or a slaughter house and used in connection with it and any place adjoining a market used as a parking area by visitors to the market for parking vehicles and includes animal fair and cattle pound where animal are offered or displayed for sale or auction. Moreover, both the purchaser and seller have to give an undertaking that the cattle is not sold for slaughter in the market. It is mandatory for the purchaser to provide documentary proof that he is an agriculturist and also has to give an undertaking that he will not sell the animal for at least six months from the date of purchase.


The government justify this move to be assisted towards contracting illegal slaughtering of cattle’s in the country.Their objective is to eliminate all the illegal slaughter houses as such a practice is obtrusive in the nation. For instance, in 2013, the state of Andhra Pradesh estimated that there were 3100 illegal and 6 licensed slaughter houses in the state. The notification will definitely improve this situation.

Moreover, a serious topic of dispute has been the buffaloes. India is one of the greatest buffalo meat exporters in the nation, with export figures around 1.33 million tonnes of buffalo meat worth $4 billion during the previous financial year. Restrictions on sale of cattle will choke the industry’s supply chain, effects of which will be evident once the arbitrators are out of meat to supply into the market.

Apart from meat, India is a noteworthy player in the leather sector, with Indian leather industry representing around 13 per cent of world’s leather production, as indicated by an India Today Report[3]. The cattle slaughter business supply products worth $5-5 billion to the leather unit’s across the country, which is bound to tank after the restriction.

Apart from the leather industry, the hides and bones of slaughtered cattle are used to make surgical stiches, buttons, toothpaste, paintbrushes and more, supply to which are threatened with by the ban. In truth, only a fraction slaughtered cattle are used for meat, whereas the rest goes to number of other production units. These industries will be unable to acquit raw materials to keep production adrift.

The cost of milk would witness an auxiliary move upwards. In case the, a cattle that does not produce milk, can’t be sold off, and farmers have to take care of unproductive cattle till they die of old age, that expenses will have to be built into the cost of producing the milk they sell. As people substitute milk, meat and poultry with other protein nourishments, the cost off all protein substances would tend to rise.

Hence, slaughterhouse community is perplexed as their nosiness might come to a standstill.


The cow in modern India society is potent symbol of religious difference. It is subject to and an object of great controversy and dispute between the largest religious population and the largest religious minority.

For the Hindus, cows are still held to be sacred, worshipped with great devotion and reverence, and beef eating is repugnant. This belief forms a part of a wider central value system, which seeks to establish between man and the divine. It is believed that everything that comes from the cow is sacred, and the mother, i.e. the cow, will lead them to god. Also, the cow’s position as a companion of deities Vishnu and Krishna makes its sanctity even more inviolable.

The Muslim Population however, are traditionally and historically avid beef eaters, and seek to follow the practice of slaughtering cows on Bakr-Id. Moreover, a majority of those involved in the trade of butchers in the country are also Muslim.

Consequently then, there is a fundamental conflicts of interests and values. It seems that to the Hindus, spiritual values are more important than life itself and that they would rather starve to death than eat the cow. However, the Muslims see the cow as a source of employment, nutrition and one to be sacrificed. Laws prohibiting slaughter are seen by them an undesirable imposition of Hindu values and a deprivation of their right to freedom of religion and occupation. This, they believe is in contravention of the very principle of constitutional secularism, on which our country prides itself on.

It is not surprising that the cow in India is a significant political issue too, a tool in the hands of those who base their politics on religious identities. The demands for a ban on cow slaughter and also opposing political views seem to be based not on love for the animal or for gastronomical reason, but on a question of identities: religious identities, majority and minority identities[4].

Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) has often advocated cow protection along with its ideological supporter Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Lately there have been hot debated in the country on ruling government trying to change the eating habits of the country. It is being hyped up as a proxy war between the majority and the minority with the government inclining towards the majority.


As per few specialists, the legal validity of these standards is questionable. The Union has used the phrase ‘cruelty to animals’ to justify the amended rules.However the Act under which these rules have been framed does not treat slaughter as ‘cruelty’. While drafting rules, one cannot override the Act. In addition, the authority of preservation of animals falls under the state list. One can observe the new principles as barring one’s right to trade and profession[5] which is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.


The debate on cow slaughter is deep social, legal, and political issue which involves the interests of a large number of people and stakeholders. At the heart of the issue are diverse cultural practices and contested ethical claim of two great communities in a religiously plural society. The concern therefore is to regulate and balance these opposing claims in the context of the present social set up.

The Hindus at one hand worship and reverse the cow as a holy religious symbol, slaughtering who is a great sin which is bound to offend the gods. The Muslim community on the other hand, not only seek to slaughter the cow on Bakr-Id, but many of them are also historically employed as butchers, leading to a fundamental conflict of belief, value and practices.

Thus, it is vital that the regulations dealing with cow slaughter are re-examined in the context of the present circumstances, and are not followed thoughtlessly. It is also imperative that the judicial decisions be free of majoritarian and social influence, for in the interest of justice and fairness, reasonable interests of both parties need to be balanced.

Also, cattle ban has led to a huge outcry in the country. While the government expresses its religious intentions, many have been calling the rules unreasonable and un-secular. The economic front of the country is ought to be affected negatively because of the ban as the exporters are unable to receive the raw materials.

However the move is praised by the human right activists in view of its defensive approach towards the cattle. The Union has called for proposals and guaranteed to modify the ban if required. Surely, Union need to examine the suggestions of this ban as opposition becomes powerful day by day.


[1]Gadhimai festival was world’s largest animal sacrifice event and took place every five years in southern Nepal.

[2]Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017


[4] M Mukhopadhya, “Politics over Ban on Cow Slaughter and My Beef Eating Days” The Asian Correspondent, January 4, 2012.

[5] Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India

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