The Press Information Bureau of the government of India made it clear in 2017 that:
“The basic purpose of the [PCA] Rule is to ensure welfare of the animals in the cattle market and ensure adequate facilities for housing, feeding, feed storage area, water supply, water troughs, ramps, enclosures for sick animals, veterinary care and proper drainage etc.”
The PCA Rules do not ban ritual sacrifice of animals other than that of cattle. It defines cattle as “bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves and includes camels”. It only stipulates that it should be done at “registered abattoirs and follow certain guidelines, but in the case of most ritualistic animal sacrifices these rules are not followed”.
The recent talks of ban on animal sacrifice originated from a comment of Mr. S. P. Gupta, the Cahriman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI): “If anyone does animal sacrifice, that is punishable, no animal is exempted… People are not aware, they link it to religion, but this is not a religion thing. In no religion can you kill animals.” (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/government-body-to-campaign-against-animal-sacrifice-ahead-of-bakrid/story-w0XILNNpO6g90it0mzcPhL.html)
As the board is under the Government of India so Mr. Gupta’s statement carries weight. Bakrid/Id al Azha is on August 21/22 this year. Muslims have voiced concerns regarding the intention of the comment.
Two things are definite from the PCA Rule 2017. The first one is that no animal that belongs to the category of “cattle” can be slaughtered in India. The second one is that all slaughtering should take place in licensed “registered abattoirs” following certain guidelines to prevent cruelty and harm to animals. Yet, there’s nowhere in the document that all animal sacrifice of any kind of animal is prohibited/punishable. Mr. Gupta and PETA say that it’s actually illegal sacrificing any animal in any way in India. Moreover, Mr. Gupta passed a sweeping remark about no place of animal sacrifice in any religion. That remark can be easily proven wrong with reference to the Holy Bible, and Quran-Sharif, and also with reference to the prevalent practices all over the world.
Although ritual animal sacrifice is a part of Id al Azha/ Bakrid celebrations, as far as the PCS Rule is concerned, the sacrifice cannot be legally performed on streets or at someone’s place. Moreover, it has to be an animal not in the category of cattle and then, the actual sacrifice ought to be performed at an abattoir.
In some quarters Muslims ask: “Why this sudden ban and why cattle?” A partial reply may be that the stipulation for animal slaughter at registered abattoirs only is for the purpose of health, hygiene and prevention of cruelty to animals. The category of animals that cannot be slaughtered may have something to do with majority popular sentiments. This article is not about the validity of the logic behind defining that category. It’s about ban of ritual animal sacrifice at personal level.
I think that there’s a precedent of the same practice in UAE. In Abu Dhabi the Municipality prohibited it. It issued directives for the “public to avoid slaughtering their sacrificial animals in houses, streets or public squares. An immediate fine of Dh500 shall be slapped against violators and the animals shall be confiscated. Municipal patrols will regularly be walking around to spot violators since this results in adverse health and environmental risks”.
“The slaughter of animals in homes and public spaces is prohibited at all times to safeguard public health and the environment, said Khalifa Al Romaithi, head of public health administration for the municipality”.
A call in the name of health and hygiene will always appeal to modern minds. Instead of direct confrontation, I think that both the government agencies and people must find out a solution keeping in mind the reality of our times.