By Pabodha Hettige –
Few days ago it was a time for many to rejoice when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his desire to legislate on a total ban on cattle slaughter. Even though further progress on the proposal got postponed for a month, it seemed to have endorsed an ecclesiastical appeasement on a certain bloc of society, who eternally opposed the practice of slaughter.
Despite the presence of fake bona fides of Rajapaksas, if implemented the outcomes of the proposed legislation may drastically affect the socio political, religious and economic equilibrium. It’s not that the Rajapaksas are unaware of it, but they need to set their own momentum now and then to appease the majority and achieve their personal political aspirations.
At a time the proposed 20th Amendment to the constitution has hit the controversy, the proposed ban on cattle slaughter is a sneaky diversion or rather a political bonbon given to pamper the majority, while a steady setting is being created to crown the very own Rajapaksa brainchild. Alas, for the muttonheads, the proposed ban is an achievement like no other. The pressing historical Anagarika Dharmapala dilemma may finally have come to an end for them by the grace of Sri Lanka’s guardian cohort. Rajapaksas drawing the majority of their power from the Sinhala Buddhist community has undoubtedly tantalized them with the support derived from the mainstream Buddhist religious leaders.
It is palpable that this would disturb the harmony between Muslim and Sinhala communities, certain factions of the former being dependant on the meat industry as their income generator and being the prime consumers of beef. The move maybe understood and reconciled by the educated middle class of both communities but the narrative will not be pleasant among many, which will also draw the other irreconcilable differences adding fuel to the fire.
While banning the cattle slaughter, the government plans to import beef to rectify the consumer needs. The ulterior motives underlying such would be many. It could be another Rajapaksa hallucination to entrust the process on one of their henchman, which could even result in the importation of substandard beef, where the consumer will have to pay an exorbitant price inclusive of their future health bills. It is obvious that the importation of “KOBE BEEF” would not be an option. Hence, a beef scam is on the horizon, where it’s possible that Rajapaksas and their loyalists can become fat cats at the expense of the end user.
It’s to be remembered that this is not the first occasion that Sri Lanka may get shoddy products with a political involvement behind it.
Problems behind the curtain
Livestock slaughter is a wide spread industry in the world and it’s impractical that Sri Lanka is pressing on the ban. If the lives of cattle are spared how would we handle the issues behind the curtain? While the cows could be used for obtaining milk until they become barren, what would be the solution to control the spread of bulls and calves? Do we let them to roam around freely and become a menace and on which mediums would they feed on? With no pun intended, do the cattle well wishers expect the government to allocate a budget for cattle maintenance when the government can hardly maintain their own citizens. Also, it would burden the dairy farmers to maintain the barren cows once they could no longer be milked.
Today, the grazing cattle has become a threat to the balance of the ecosystems of national parks and forests, which has resulted in the rapid disappearance of the green consumed by the wild elephants and other animals. This scarcity of food has also been a key factor worsening the human elephant conflict.
It’s not contested that there is an issue about humanity behind the inhuman slaughter, but in order to implement a ban pragmatic solutions have to be invented. This is where it should be understood as to why the nature has invented food chains to strike a natural balance.
Hence, mere religious belief or a political agenda cannot always provide viable solutions but could immensely contribute to the burden.
Thus far, the most practical solution would be demanding the government to regulate the slaughtering industry with the introduction of minimum standards (to provide the consumer with healthy meat and to minimize the brutality of slaughter) and establish a monitoring mechanism to review the license in order to prevent them being falsified.
Nevertheless we should not forget that Mr. Karu Jayasuriya (in the capacity of the then mayor of Colombo) proposed a less painful slaughterhouse system, yet had to withdraw amidst the commotion made by certain prominent Buddhist clergy.
However, none seem to want to resort to these measures, implying they still want to crack the heads of the cattle with a sledge hammer. All we should be aware of is that those in power would only want to use the sensitivity of these issues as a mean to tickle the muttonheads and to keep them occupied till they create a strong platform to achieve their intents.