President Pranab Mukherjee recently gave his nod to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995; nearly two decades after the Maharashtra Assembly passed it during the BJP-Shiv Sena rule in 1995. Though, cow slaughter was already banned in the state since 1976, the new act will prohibit the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, which was previously allowed based on a fit-for-slaughter certificate. Only slaughter of water buffaloes, which provides an inferior quality of meat, will be allowed now. The punishment for the crime of slaughtering or eating beef will be imprisonment for five years and a fine amount of Rs. 10,000.
Cow slaughter has been a much debated topic for centuries in India. The debate always had a religious significance as the cow is a holy animal for the Hindus. The beef trade in the state is largely controlled by the Qureshis and the ban is going to render many of them jobless. Inevitably, the ban makes the minority community feel alienated. Kader Chaudhry, a Muslim leader said to Times of India, “This shows how insensitive the government is to Muslims and their issues. After depriving them of reservation and attempts to grab Ismail Yusuf College, it has dealt yet another blow to a section of the community with the ban on beef trade. It is diligently working on agenda of the Sangh Parivar.”
Beef is often seen as a poor man’s meat, as it costs only one third of the price of mutton. The ban will make the poor people forgo a cheap source of protein. Also, many poor Muslims would make do with beef on Eid as they couldn’t afford mutton. They would now have to look for other alternatives.
Once the ban is implemented it is going to impact the dietary choices of not only humans, but also animals. Animals in the zoo are fed beef meat. A tiger needs to be fed at least seven kilos of beef every day. Recently, when the beef traders went on a strike, the authorities had to feed them chicken.
Now, with a blanket ban, the tigers will again suffer. Since beef is their natural food, they cannot survive on chicken for too long.
The bill is also being perceived as an anti- farmer bill, as it will directly impact them. Earlier, the farmers would send their cattle for slaughtering once those animals could not work on the farm anymore. But now, the farmers would have to bear the burden of rearing them until their end, which is not very viable economically. Many farmers, due to lack of funds, may not feed their old cattle; thus, causing their death. Hence, the bill passed to protect cattle may eventually lead to more hatred against the BJP. It currently has an image of a development oriented party, but is doing much harm to its image by this bill. In the long term, this bill will affect our exports, our farmers, and even the nutrition of our country. Many restaurants are also contemplating to close down as the bill demands a change in their cuisine. The government needs to weigh these pros and cons before implanting the bill.