Dichotomy in Animal Sacrifice: SC | 17 Jul 2020

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Kerala government on a plea challenging the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968.

  • The Act prohibits sacrifice of animals and birds in temples to ‘please’ the deity.
  • It also criminalises the intent behind the animal sacrifice and not animal sacrifice per se.
    • If the sacrifice is not for pleasing any deity but for personal consumption even in the precincts of the temple, it is not forbidden.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • The plea challenged the 16th June 2020 Kerala High Court order upholding the 1968 Act.
    • Essential Practice: The petitioners, who are Shakthi worshippers, appealed that animal sacrifice is an integral part of the worship and an essential religious practice.
      • They are unable to perform “Bali” rituals after the ban which they believe is diminishing the family deity’s power.
      • Shaktism or Shakthi tantric practice is a major tradition of Hinduism and as per its scriptures and practices, animal sacrifice is essential and unavoidable.
    • Discriminatory: It was also argued that the Act applies only to Hindus but does not stop other religions from practising it which is arbitrary and violative of Article 14 (Right to Equality before the Law) of the Constitution.
      • Petitioners referred to bird sacrifice at a Church in Kochi and the festival of Bakrid which have not been banned.
      • According to the state assembly, killing animals in other religious practices cannot be considered as a sacrifice because the animals are later cooked and consumed.
    • Enforce Blanket Prohibition: They held that if the killing of animals and birds was to be prohibited, it should be for all purposes, religious or otherwise.
  • Supreme Court’s Reaction:
    • The SC highlighted the dichotomy in animal protection law which allows the killing of animals for food but does not permit the killing of animals as an offering to a deity.
    • The court raised an important question of “Is killing, not cruelty?” and highlighted the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 which allows the killing of animals but prohibits cruelty to animals.
      • According to the SC, there may be a point in saying that taking lives is permissible in certain circumstances but cruelty is not.

Source: TH