The plight of innumerable cows, buffaloes and other animals killed in illegal slaughterhouses across India seems to have taken centre stage in the political spotlight, with sudden crackdowns following Uttar Pradesh’s election of Adityanath Yogi as its Chief Minister. Within hours of his appointment, illegal abattoirs were being shut down in the state. What animal rights activists had spent years fighting for, finally happened in a matter of hours!
The aftermath? Meat sellers in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s largest meat producing states, decided to go on an indefinite strike. Even the state’s 41 registered sellers are feeling the heat because of supply shortages and fear of action by government agencies. They are worried about the impact of this sudden move on their livelihood, and uncertain about their future. Even chicken and fish sellers, not targeted by the crackdown, have joined the strike.
On April 3rd, the Allahabad High Court instructed the state government that it could not impose a de facto prohibition on meat, and that in shutting down illegal slaughterhouses it must also guarantee a legal supply of meat to prevent food shortage or loss of livelihood.
The crackdown’s repercussions call for a more in-depth analysis of what it means for the animals in our country. Most importantly, it requires that we disentangle politics and religion from the fates of millions of sentient beings who are incognizant of such human concepts. FIAPO firmly believes that animal suffering needs to be opposed in recognition of their individual rights. Politics and religion must not be allowed to dominate the fate of animals. Otherwise, once animals have served their purpose in the political jigsaw, their exploitation and abuse will continue – and we in the animal rights movement will continue to rue “politics” and “politicians”.
We rejoice that with the shutting down of slaughterhouses, thousands of animals will live to see another day, and that the issue of illegal slaughter has been brought centre stage. Today, animals are at least a part of the conversation. But will the welfare of animals remain a lasting priority?
Do animals’ own lives and suffering matter, or is the agenda again being dominated by conflicts between religious communities? Are animals mere pawns in a political game? The intrinsic value of animals continues to be ignored. Slaughterhouses need to close because animals have rights, because animals are not commodities, and because animals are not food. Not just because it’s a convenient means to a religious or political end.
When the rights of animals are recognized, that’s when we’ll be celebrating the closing of slaughterhouses. Not today. Not yet.
Image credit frisse82, CC BY-NC 2.0