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"Time to reconsider eating habits", Plea in SC challenges circular re meat consumption amid COVID-19, seeks animal slaughter ban in long run

"In long run this Hon’ble Court has to take up calls of Nature to immediately re-consider human eating habits – not for survival but for ‘change of taste’ (sic)", the petition states.

Shruti Mahajan

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the circular issued by the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries giving a clean chit for consumption of meat and fish amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petitioner organisation claims that this circular by the Joint Secretary of the Ministry, which gives a green signal for consumption of meat and fish, is one without any expertise considering that China itself has barred meat consumption in Wuhan where the novel coronavirus is said to have originated from.

The circular, which had given a go ahead for the consumption of non-vegetarian food, was passed on March 30. The same is sought to be stayed by the petitioner organisation which also seeks a direction for the government to restrain slaughterhouses from indulging in animal slaughter through halal, and skinning among other practices.

The organisation says it is an association that represents the class of vegetarians who are suffering on account of the COVID-19 outbreak "due to violent eating habits of some people consuming both domestic and wild animals for mere ‘change of taste’ despite availability of sufficient agri-based food"

It is because of the "atrocious" and "barbaric" habit of "change of taste" of some that the guarantee under Article 21 of various others has been hit, the petitioner claims. The petition invokes Directive Principles of State Policy that call upon the State to take steps for improvement of natural environment and to have compassion for living creatures.

There are short and long term goals sought in this ples. The primary short term relief prayed for is for a stay on the circular of the Ministry of Animal husbandry, dated March 30 which promotes eating meat at a time when the country is experiencing a pandemic.

The plea goes on to highlight that earlier as well, various strains of coronaviruses were found to have been carried from animals to human cells. At a time when the world over, scientists are attempting to find an antidote to the novel coronavirus, an advisory of this nature seems to be lacking expertise on the subject, the petitioner states.

The role played by the World health Organization (WHO) in spreading awareness about the pandemic is also highlighted by the petitioner. In this regard, the petitioner states that the WHO has called upon the countries to identify the role played by various species of animals in carrying the virus. Without any conclusive result from the research underway on this issue, the Centre ought not to have issued such an advisory, the petitioner claims.

It is also alleged that the circular issued by the Ministry was one made under pressure from the meat lobby without assessing the risks involved.

As regards the long term goals in the petition, a phased-out approach in stopping animal killing altogether, except for survival is sought. The petition states,

"In long run this Hon’ble Court has to take up calls of Nature to immediately re-consider human eating habits – not for survival but for ‘change of taste’ restraining Man having born on Earth and having conquered the whole Earth (never created by Him), from justifying killing of every other specie created by Nature in most ruthless manner through Halal and skinning of live creatures, which is not only unconstitutional but also offensive under Sections 428 & 429 IPC. (sic)"

It is claimed that the Courts have in various ways taken steps to prevent animal cruelty. Even history seems to suggest that Mughal Emperor Akbar was impressed by the Jain way of life pertaining to not harming animals, the petitioner states. Years later, Lord McCaulay, while codifying the Penal Code, made cruelty to animals a punishable offence, it is added.

The petition goes on to say that the provisions of the Constitution of India also promote compassion for the animals as well as protection of natural environment. Therefore, a phased-out end to the slaughter of all animals is the long term goal sought so as to "save world from wrath of Nature."

The petitioner organization is the Vishwa jain Sangathan and the PIL has been filed through Advocate Ravi Prakash Gupta.

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