Cattle slaughter and the ‘demonising of Muslims’ By Latheef Farook

This is in response to the article, Continued cruelty demands ban on cattle slaughter, by Sagarica Rajakarunanayake of Sathva Mithra in The Island Opinion page of July 20.


I admire Sagarica’s compassion towards animals, especially cows. Reflecting the general mindset she has accused Muslims of committing these cruelties. However, the question is what is preventing the relevant authorities from stopping such cruelties by strict legal measures. Most meat traders point out that this is not a common practice though there may have been incidents where animals were ill- treated.


I agree with her demand to ban cattle slaughter and turn this country into a nation of vegetarians. But, according to meat traders around 80 to 85 percent of the customers are non- Muslims, Sinhalese and if they stop buying the demand will drop sharply and the number of animals slaughtered, too, will go down accordingly.


There is some good news for Sagarica and her Sathva Mithra colleagues and friends. A group of Muslims is exploring the possibility of launching a nationwide campaign to not only stop slaughtering cows but also to impose a complete ban on the import of any meat products. After all animals are animals wherever they come from, be it America, Europe, Asia or Australia.


Every time the topic of animal slaughter crops up the spotlight is turned on the Muslims who are projected as villains as if the entire non-Muslim population in the country and the world were harmless, pure vegetarians.


Muslims do not slaughter animals in a cruel manner. Instead Islam has clearly and specifically stated the method to be adopted and the type of knives to be used in slaughtering animals causing the minimum possible pain. The severing of the carotid artery which is the method involves, causes the animal to die a rather painless death as this particular artery supplies blood to the brain and its severing causes a natural anaesthesia. It has been proved time and again that the Islamic method of slaughter is the most humane method of slaughtering compared to other methods, such as, stun gun for cattle, commonly followed in the so-called civilised West.


Also, slaughtering animals is done by selected Muslims who have been trained in the field and strictly abide by the rules laid down in Islam when taking the lives of animals for food.



However, Sagarica has confined her compassion to cows only in Sri Lanka. It should be extended to cows worldwide.


Meat industry is one of the largest industries in the world involving the livelihood for millions of workers and billions of dollars of business. In the United States alone oil and meat, especially, beef, remain the two most important industries. In India where cow slaughtering is banned meat industry is a huge business. So much so India became the world’s leading beef exporter in 2012.


According to a report by Pratiksha Ramkumar, the measures to promote meat production and export have led to a 44% increase in meat consumption and export in four years.


Data compiled by the Animal Husbandry Departments of all states showed that, meat from registered slaughterhouses increased from 5.57 lakh tonnes in 2008 to 8.05 lakh tonnes in 2011. Export earnings from bovine (beef and cattle) meat is expected to touch Rs 18,000 crore in 2012-2013.


There are around 55 Muslim countries in the world and all of them slaughter animals for the consumption of their people. No Muslim country slaughters animal as an industry for export, unlike the West that kills them for controlling market prices and for pleasure.


Many countries in the world starting from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Holland, Scandinavia and other countries in Europe, from Australia to New Zealand, slaughter millions of cows, goats, and pigs for export and domestic consumption. To these countries, meat industries and meat exports which provide jobs for millions constitute an extremely important part of their national economies.


It is also well known practice in the US to kill millions of cattle, chicken or other livestock for the simple purpose of controlling market prices whenever there is over-production. These countries prefer to destroy their surplus animals rather than sell them at lower prices. Further in countries like the UK, we often hear of millions of cattle being killed simply because one or two cows contract the harmless hoof and mouth disease which could be cured. This needless killing is simply done for the purpose of restoring confidence in their meat industry.


Do the animal lovers in this country know the type of methods used by these meat exporting countries to slaughter animals? The meat from these countries is prepared and packed in different forms and sold in almost every super market chain all over the world, including Sri Lanka. Despite religious beliefs even local television networks display, in their colourful advertisements, a wide variety of tempting sausages and other items enjoyed by happy families.


One also comes across the practice of killing animals for pure pleasure such as bird shooting in the US, fox hunting in the UK and bull fighting in Spain. To this must be added the terrible experiments on animals that go on in many laboratories across the world. Such cruelty, needless to say, is unheard of in the Muslim world as Islam clearly prohibits the killing of animals except for food or in self-defence.


Did any animal lover in Sri Lanka object to the large scale slaughter of animals in these meat exporting countries? Did anyone ask them not to slaughter but be kind to animals? Did any of them raise this issue with diplomatic missions of these countries here? In fact, Sri Lankan animal lovers have not even thought about it so far!


They restrict their compassion only to local animals and that, too, only to cows as if other animals such as goats and pigs, were without life. Once again, it is the conditioned mindset moulded against Muslims who are easy prey in the local media, especially in the absence of an organized Muslim media that might put across their views to educate the masses on the Muslim-bashing that we see too often in the media.


Starting from Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, South Korea, and North Korea to Peoples Republic of China and Japan, are all predominantly Buddhist countries. Are the people of these countries vegetarians?


Instead, millions of all kinds of animals, especially pigs, are slaughtered on a daily basis for the consumption of people there. In Thailand various types of animals are slaughtered and consumed with relish while people in some countries in the Far East eat the monkey brain as a fabulous delicacy as they do other vital parts of rare animals.


Here in Sri Lanka which is a multinational, multi- religious, multi- linguistic, multi -racial, and multi-cultural country, slaughtering cows has been an issue of concern. But, this issue needs to be sorted out certainly not by politicians who ruined this country but by enlightened religious and civil society in a peaceful manner.


After all, this is a human problem. Irrespective of religious beliefs, human beings in general eat meat, take liquor, smoke and gamble, commit adultery, crime and the like. How can one legislate against these individual desires and pleasures?


One should not forget that we live at a time when the Muslims all over the world are demonised as terrorists, harassed, persecuted, tortured and killed under a ferocious global campaign unleashed by the United States together with Europe and Israel. Sri Lankan Muslims can’t be an exception.




Sagarica Rajakarunanayake of Sathva Mithra The article which appeared in The Island on 20 July 2013

SagarikaContinued cruelty demands ban on cattle slaughter 

The government is going ahead with a national scale milk industry incurring a massive investment. Its aims are to provide nutrition to the people, and eliminate the huge cost incurred by the state in importing milk powder to the country. The fillip given to dairy farmers in the way of enhanced prices for milk, and the improvement of the local strains of animals through high yielding imported breeds will bring them a better income. The milk cow will save our children from malnutrition and usher in health and prosperity, once more becoming an important asset. Strict laws must, therefore, be introduced to protect it. Such laws will be instrumental in reviving in our people the traditional values of compassion and gratitude to animals that help us in agriculture, dairy farming and other livelihoods.

In the past, before the commercialization of our economy, animals were used by people to work in the field, obtain milk, and for transport .However, in accordance with Buddhist culture, animals were not cruelly and ruthlessly exploited; in fact people treated work animals with gratitude and cared for them until the end of their lives. The cow had gained a ‘mother image" in our society, because children were nourished by her milk and until about sixty years ago, the family cow was not sold to the butcher even past the age of productivity. Selling one’s cow was considered a despicable act and looked on with contempt.

Laws were introduced both by the British and our post-colonial administrators regarding the ownership, use and administration of domestic and livestock animals. This was done based on colonial practices of the ruthless exploitation of animals for human use and not taking into account our own culture and practices of well over two thousand years. Based on this exploitative policy of British rulers we have among several other such pieces of legislation, the Animal’s Act of 1958, introduced by our own political leaders and administrators giving legal sanction to the slaughter of the cow after the age of productivity.

I would make bold to say that by introducing this provision our own post-colonial rulers struck a blow at the very heart of Buddhist and Hindu values of gratitude, compassion and respect, not only for fellow humans but for all living beings. Unlike Indian national leaders who taught people to continue to respect their traditional values even after colonial rule, our political leaders with their Brown Sahib mentality, did their best to wean our people from traditional Buddhist values, and adopt colonial policies and practices such as the ruthless and cruel exploitation of animals. Buddhists have continued to ask for the protection of the cow after the age of productivity, but our politicians have been relentless, bent on encouraging dairy farmers to make full economic gain out of the cow.

In several states in India, where the cow is considered sacred and cattle slaughter is prohibited, any attempts to slaughter cattle have led to violence against such perpetrators. Buddhists in Sri Lanka have so far shown high tolerance, not resorting to violence against the slaughter of cattle. However, in recent times there is a growing hostility among Buddhists to cattle slaughter and the meat trade, and a particular abhorrence of the slaughter of cows. A movement to restore Buddhist values, high among which is compassion to animals, is emerging

The meat industry, riddled with corruption, has been allowed to grow to huge proportions with the state exercising little control over it. Several thousands of animals are slaughtered each day and a large number of these animals are stolen from farmers and villagers causing them great economic loss. Showing little concern for the growing milk industry, meat traders continue to steal a large number of milk cows from rural farmers and slaughter them. The giant meat trade, with its growing demand for animals has also compelled rural people steeped in poverty, to supply it with animals, thus undermining traditional Buddhist values.

The meat trade spreads its tentacles everywhere, holding the police, from the lowest ranks to the higher officers, and officials of provincial councils and local government bodies in a tight grip of bribery and corruption. Meat traders are thereby openly enabled to flout the laws requiring the obtaining of permits and licences for the transport and slaughter of animals. They also connive in violating the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance in the transport, handling and treatment of animals.

Intolerable to Buddhists and all humanitarian persons is the atrocious cruelty inflicted on animals in the meat trade. Animals are put through unspeakable tortures in transportation and in slaughterhouses. The abominable cruelties inflicted on cows, are particularly shocking and outrageous. Pregnant cows are crushed into overcrowded vehicles and transported in the most inhumane conditions, and in the abattoirs they are subjected to barbaric treatment prior to slaughter.

Clearly the situation with regard to cattle slaughter, particularly the slaughter of cows, has now reached an intolerable state to Buddhists and all people who hold humanitarian views and do not condone the cruel exploitation of animals. In this context it is necessary for Muslims to understand that the demand to stop the slaughter of cattle is not a cry against them, but a cry against the unspeakable cruelty to cattle by meat traders and butchers, disallowed by law. This applies to Christians too who are engaged in the meat trade.

We are surprised that Muslims choose to remain silent about such cruelty because according to what they often tell us, it is a matter of serious concern to them as the flesh of animals cruelly slaughtered is "haram", which they are prohibited from consuming.

Recently the Australian government taught the world a lesson in refusing to tolerate cruelty to animals, in dealing with countries in matters of trade, even at a huge cost in money to the Australian state. Reacting to atrocious cruelty shown to livestock animals in the abattoirs of Indonesia and several other Muslim countries, it took the groundbreaking step of refusing to send any more live animals to these countries. Australia has taken the lead in showing it is important that a country’s animal rights record must be good in order to have animals exported to them.

Australia puts Sri Lanka to shame in the atrociously cruel way we allow our animals to be treated in our own country despite our ancient tradition of compassion to animals. We are a civilized society where people belong to one of four great religions that call for compassion to all living species. Not a single of these religions condone the cruel exploitation of animals by man.

It is quite evident that the meat traders and butchers will not stop the brutal treatment of cattle. The time has come for us to join in raising a cry to stop the slaughter of cattle, giving immediate priority to stopping the slaughter of cows. The refusal by butchers to stop the barbaric cruelty to cattle justifies this demand.

Sagarica Rajakarunanayake.Sathva Mithra 

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