The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020 fails to take into account the serious adverse economic, social and nutritional consequences.

We demand the withdrawal of the Act.

The Karnataka Government passed the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act in 2020 which legalizes a complete ban on the slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks, male and female buffaloes below the age of 13 years. It has also introduced a definition of beef as flesh of cattle in any form, where cattle means cow, calf of cow, bull, bullock and he or she buffalo below the age of 13 years. The penalties and punishments have been steeply enhanced, withthe ar parent aim to preserve cattle of indigenous breed.

A Cabinet note (obtained through RTI) justifies the Act stating that it will prevent illegal slaughter and illegal transportation, that livestock in the state is decreasing and the Bill will be instrumental in stopping the decline. It is claimed that the Act will prevent farmer suicides and will conserve the Indian breed.

The State government must surely be aware that many vulnerable communities in Karnataka – Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim and other minorities are already in a terrible situation because of the Covid19 pandemic and lockdown. The law that has been passed has taken away the livelihood and essential nutrition of these communities which now face both acute and chronic hunger as well as several nutritional deficiencies along with loss of livelihoods. There are also several instances of these same communities being targeted by communal and casteist forces leading to physical, social and psychological stress. Karnataka has already had several such incidents of communal violence and instead of making all efforts to protect the vulnerable citizens, the government has instead brought a law that further victimizes the same communițies and makes them economically very vulnerable while enabling lynch mobs and self-appointed vigilante groups. This does not create faith in the government.

The law has led to adverse physical, social and psychological consequences for farmers, transporters, slaughter house workers, tannery workers, loaders/unloaders, cleaners, sanitation workers, butchers, small and large eateries, street vendors as well as a whole gamut of services associated with these.

Beef is the cultural food of these same communities and Article 29 assures us of protection of our distinct culture. The diverse food culture of Karnataka is evident and bringing this ban will take away from the rich and nutritious diet eating culture of the State. The right to consume meat of cattle is protected by Article 29(1).

The claim that consuming beef will reduce the indigenous cattle population and lead to illegal slaughter/transportation or farmer suicides is not borne out by facts. In fact in states which do not have stringent cattle slaughter bans, the indigenous cattle have thrived. Not only that, criminalizing a normal, essential activity is what will lead it to go underground and illegal rather than the other way round. So in fact the law itself will lead to a rise in illegal activities. As a farmer leader said “This law is making criminals of all of us who have been in the cattle economy for generations. We get targeted, fined and punished for doing the activity which has contributed to the thriving dairy economy of the State.” The same farmer leader also said that there is a genuine risk of more farmers committing suicide if they are unable to sell their unproductive cattle and buy younger more productive ones.

The groups affected by the ban have categorically said that they respect the Hindu sentiments of the cow, but bringing a blanket ban to cover ox, bulls and buffaloes shows that targeting minorities and Dalits seem to be the bigger agenda.

That apart, beef has several nutritional benefits and is also consumed by several communities in the State. Karnataka has very poor nutrition indicators (see Annexure 1), which is expected to have increased considerably following the prolonged lockdown, Mid day meals and anganwadi meals and rations have not been provided to the children either in the adequate quantity or quality. In this dismal scenario, further taking away a cheap nutritious food such as beef is not scientific. Beef, especially organ meat, is a nutrient dense food that can go a long way in addressing anemia, Vitamin A, B complex, zinc and protein deficiencies see Annexure 2).

We therefore demand that the elected Government take cognizance of the enormous damage to livelihood, nutrition and mental health that this poorly thought out Act has caused and we demand immediate withdrawal. Further we demand that a statement be issued that no person attached to the cattle business will be harassed or threatened or abused for their occupation, cultural or nutritional choices.

We also demand that those citizens of Karnataka who have been devastated by this Act be compensated at the earliest in the interest of justice and due process.

-Khasim Shoaib Ur Rehaman Qureshi

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam

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