Food by VICE

India Is Upholding Its Beef Ban During the Most Meat-Centric Muslim Holiday

The bovine ban is having a bigger impact on Muslim than on Hindu communities, and is stirring longstanding ethnic tension.

by Nick Rose
Sep 23 2015, 2:20pm

Photo via Flickr user Larry Hoffman

While Muslims around the world get ready to celebrate Eid al-Adha—a.k.a. the Greater Eid or Bakri-Eid, a holiday which honours Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son because Allah told him to—India's judiciary has ruled that the sacrifice of cows during this period will remain forbidden.

Bulls are often used symbolize Abraham's attempted filicide, and the Bakri-Eid ritual is one practiced across the Muslim world. But Mumbai's High Court has refused to temporarily lift the existing ban which prohibits the slaughter and sale of bulls for human consumption, following a demand by the influential and strictly vegetarian Jain community.

READ MORE: Indians Are Outraged that Mumbai Is Banning Meat for Four Days

Last March, the state of Maharashtra in Western India amended the Maharashtra Prevention of Animals Act to include provisions that make the slaughter and sale of beef punishable by a five-year prison sentence and large fines.

NGOs such as Muslim Yuva Manch claimed that the beef ban was a violation of the Indian constitution because it prevented the practice of a religious ceremony, the International Business Times reported.

More specifically, they argued that the ban was unconstitutional because it violated three fundamental rights—article 25 (freedom of religion), article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs), and article 29 (protection of minority interests)—of the Indian Constitution.

Secular groups objecting to the ban also stated that the measure had a huge economic impact on butchers and poorer castes who cannot afford goat—the pricier alternative to beef, which is prohibited among the Hindu majority.

The bovine ban is having a bigger impact on Muslim than on Hindu communities, and is stirring longstanding ethnic tension. Some are even calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "immediately scrap all such partial bans favoring a certain community" because it violates religious freedoms, calling the ban a "stain on [India's] great democracy and Constitution."

The prohibition of beef sparked a huge controversy in India and saw the #BeefBan become one of the most used hashtags on Twitter.

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While a final hearing is expected to take place on October 21, petitioners have been asking for a temporary lift of the beef ban for the religious holiday, during which sheep, lamb, calves, and bulls are commonly slaughtered.

In the Old Testament, Abraham (and his son Isaac) are spared at the last minute, when God accepts Abraham's willingness to kill his only child as sufficient sacrifice. Despite last-ditch legal efforts to allow beef consumption, those celebrating Bakri-Eid in Western India are confronted with the reality that divine intervention is no match for ethnic tension and influential vegetarian communities in the modern age of state power.