Be kind to your cow this Eid or end up in jail for the next 3 months!

Eid Ul Azha is just around the corner and once again the moo’s and meh’s are to be heard from every corner of Dhaka city. Parades of men with cows of different shapes and sizes would walk the streets flaunting their purchase eagerly waiting for passersby to ask that desired question. Besides asking ‘what’s it’s price?’, it’s time we ask ‘What are it’s rights?’

Animals have rights. As soon as we hear it, most of us would be like ‘Ensure basic human rights first!’ and laugh it off. In a third world country, advocating the rights of those who won’t pay you for doing so is considered a luxurious ambition. Hence, expecting a cow or a goat to be treated like living things is a far cry in this country.

In Bangladesh, despite having faith in religion, our actions defeat the sole purpose of this religious event that comes once a year.

Every year at the time of Eid Ul Azha, there is a huge demand of cows in the cattle markets. To meet the needs, they are imported from the neighbouring country India while some arrive in Bangladesh through illegal means.

Cattle Smuggling is rampant in the India Bangladesh border. Everyday almost 300-500 cows are smuggled over the border through inhuman and degrading ways. Most of them are tied with ropes and hurled from narrow exits within the border. As a result many cows die in transit, mostly out of suffocation. And the Law enforcers only find the smuggling illegal.

In the religion of Islam, It is forbidden to treat an animal cruelly or to kill it except as needed for food (also known as Zabiha). Zabiha is the prescribed rule for slaughter in Islamic law. The rule ensures minimum suffering to animals while slaughtering them for food. Among the many, two of them suggests

1. Usage of sharp knife so that it is done swiftly, not allowing the animal to feel any pain
2. Cutting the throat, windpipe and blood vessels keeping the spinal cord intact. This is also done to to minimize the pain.

Islamic Law clearly recognises animal rights as it is an obligation for all Muslims to be kind to animals. Even while handling a cow which is about to be sacrificed, Islamic law tells you to be merciful and try to make it easy for them. But in reality it is hardly practised.

Cows arrive in Bangladesh bruised, suffocated and punctured by the barbed border fence. They get crammed in trucks and sent all the way to Dhaka. Some of them get sick on the long journey while many die due to the congested space. Even after they make it to a purchaser’s house, they get tied up for hours before finally being slaughtered. They die writhing in pain for the slaughtering not done properly. In times where religious duties are forgotten, the only driving force is law.

It is the fear of sanction that has the power to instill the idea of animal rights in us. The only law that talks about animal rights in Bangladesh THE CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1920 imposes a 100 taka fine or an imprisonment of 3 months or both to anyone torturing an animal.

Section 4 of the Act states that If any person-

(a) overdrives, cruelty or unnecessarily beats, or otherwise ill-treats any animal, or

(b) binds, keeps or carries any animal in such a manner or position as to subject the animal to unnecessary pain or suffering, or

(c) offers, exposes or has in his possession for sale any live animal which is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment, or any dead animal which he has reason to believe to have been killed in an unnecessarily cruel manner,

he shall be punished for every such offence with fine which may extend to one hundred Taka , or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.

Besides this existing law, something new is on its way. As per the draft of a proposed new law, ‘The Animal Welfare Act 2016′, any person killing or badly injuring an animal would have to face two years’ imprisonment or Tk 50,000 fine or both. This surely is positive news for our voiceless friends of the nature. Such laws will not only control torturing street dogs or other animals but regulate the treatment of cattle in Bangladesh.

The proposed law is ambitious and is expected to create a significant impact over the Bangladeshi society. While PETA is busy trying to stop cows being ill treated at dairy farms, we are tossing them over fences like badminton. But recent developments suggest animal rights are progressing in this part of the world. Effective enforcement of such strict liability would ensure that even the cows that are to be slaughtered in the Eid Ul Azha gets fair treatment. This is how the holiness of the event will remain intact.