Dalit, Minority and Food Rights activists have opposed the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020. The Act fails to take into account the serious adverse economic, social and nutritional consequences.
Earlier in 2020, the Karnataka Government passed the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act 2020 which legalizes a complete ban on the slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks, males and female buffaloes below the age of 13 years.
It has also introduced a definition of beef as the 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, with the apparent aim to preserve cattle of the indigenous breed.
“Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim and other minorities are already in a terrible situation because of the Covid 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,”. says Sylvia Karpagam, the nutrition expert.
Karnataka state in recent times has seen increasing incidents of attacks of communal and casteist nature and those who incur losses and sustain injuries in these instances are people coming from marginalized and repressed religious and caste communities.
“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.” said one of the petitioners.
Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Bheemvada) commented that the new law contributes to the victimisation of these communities socially where they are regularly being attacked by vigilante groups and lynch mobs and economically due to loss of livelihood.
A Cabinet note, obtained through RTI justifies the Act stating that it will prevent the 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 Nutrition and food rights activists negate these claims.
The Cattle Act is in contradiction to Constitution protects the right to expression of one’s culture. It ignores the cultural, economical, and nutritional aspects and necessity of beef consumption. The law is leading to economic distress of working class Dalits and Muslims.
Beef has several nutritional benefits and is widely consumed by several communities in Karnataka. This imposition of largely vegetarian “upper caste” food habits on marginalised castes who have less access to variety of nutritional supplements and food will deprive them of adequate nutrition and lead to stunted and weak population. Already, Karnataka has very poor nutrition indicators (see Annexure 1). Beef, especially organ meat, is a nutrient-dense food that can go a long way in addressing anaemia, Vitamin A, B complex, zinc, and protein deficiencies.
The activists also demand that no person attached to the cattle business will be harassed or threatened, or abused for their occupation, cultural or nutritional choices.
The undersigned also demanded 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.