India is caught in the vortex of cow politics. It started with terrible lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in his home, which was followed later by mob lynching of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer. In between and beyond, there had been several instances of mob lynching and violence against cattle traders, transporters and beef / meat sellers. A state governments have closed down illegal slaughter houses. Many citizens have protested acts of vigilantism, slack and biased law enforcement, high handed behaviour of government/s and administration. Protests erupted against perceived intolerance and high handed behavour of state supported vigilante groups against citizens belonging to minority community. Media attention drawn by such actions has brought embarassment to administrators.
In the middle of all these brouhaha, people trying to prevent cows from being slaughtered have tried to point out that cattle traders are not as innocent as being projected. They also resort to violence. It is claimed such a violence is never highlighted by media. Recently at least three such incidents came into light. One BSF officer when confronted cattle smugglers in India Bangladesh border in Tripura, was attacked. Injured officer lost his life a few days later. In another instance, an animal rights activist was attacked in Bangalore when she reported illegal cow slaughter in the city. In the same city, a team of court commissioners, lawyers, police and members of cow protection NGO was heckled, chased and attacked when they went to investigate an illegal slaughterhouse.
As an average law abiding ordinary citizen, I strongly disagree with anyone trying to unilaterally enforce their point of view on my lifestyle. Let us talk about cow vigilante groups and animal welfare groups and their impact on our lives:
- Members of cow vigilante groups hold cow in high esteem because of their religious belief. As a result, these people discourage, often violently, slaughter of cows. It is believed that action of cow vigilante groups have not only interfered with food habits of people, many people associated with leather and meat export industries have lost their livelihood. Loss to economy has been considerable.
- Animal welfare groups look after interest of all animals. Members of these groups had made biology research very difficult. Functioning of organisations undertaking drug discovery research and contract biology research were severely affected due to interference by animal rights group. Even today, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a permission to use dogs and monkey for pharmaceutical research. In an industry where time and cost plays a very important role, animal rights groups have made processes very unattractive.
- It appears that animal rights organisations are very vocal against targets that are concerned about their public image, organisations that play by the rule, and groups that do not resort to violence. Apart from pharmaceutical companies, government agencies that have tried to control population of nilgai, wild boar and wild monkey. Jalikattu, an annual bull taming sport in rural Tamil Nadu has come under protective gaze of animal rights group. PETA has approached supreme court of India to stop Jalikattu.
- Yet, the same animal rights groups like PETA look otherway when it comes to animal slaughter for food or during religious festivals like Idul Fitar. Anyone who has seen how chickens are coupled up in a small cage, may understand what I am saying. I have never been to an abbatoir, but I have heard horror stories about them. Yet thee groups were silent about mass sacrifice of animals during religious festivals like idul fitar.
It is not difficult to understand the importance of high quality animals for food as well as for experimental work. A diseased animal may be harmful as a food as well as may give erroneous result if used in experiment. From this angle. there is no dispute that interference of animal rights group has streamlined process of breeding, selling. procurement and use of experimental animals. These groups have force laboratories interested to do animal research, to create good quality experimental animal facility. Cost of research has gone up, but quality of research data has probably improved. But permission ot undertake studies on dogs and monkeys remain very difficult.
There was criticism when similar principles as pharmaceutical research towards breeding and procurement of animals were applied towards streamlining slaughter of animals for food. Like in pharmaceutical research, cost of doing business of animal slaughter went up. Many people went out of business. Chief minister of UP faced flak for being anti-minority. While animal rights group remained quiet on the issue. Now that an animal right activist has faced ire of people who make a living slaughtering animals, may be things will be different.
We cannot but not miss the inherent contradictions. Those who support Jalikattu, oppose cattle sacrifice. On the other hand, those who oppose cruelty to animals, keep quiet when animals are slaughtered en masse during religious festivities. If legalisation of illegal abattoirs lead to job loss, so does streamlining animal use in pharmaceutical research. Lynching of a cattle farmer is abhorrent, so is attack on animal activists and law enforcement agencies who inspect illegal slaughterhouses.
We all need clear transparent enforceable rule of law not vigilante groups enforcing their own ideas of right and wrong. Please outrage against loss of life and liberty on both sides of the divide. Then and then alone we shall look at issues in a dispassionate manner.