Sri Lanka has banned cattle slaughter after the Cabinet cleared Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent proposal, the government announced on Tuesday, adding that it would take steps to import beef.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Rajapaksa made a proposal to the parliamentary group of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP, or People’s Front) on banning cattle slaughter. Legislators of the party had “applauded” when the proposal was made then, but it obtained official sanction following Cabinet approval.
For some years now, reactionary Sinhala-Buddhist groups, many of whom are supporters of the Rajapaksas, have been demanding a ban on cattle slaughter.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist majority country, those following the religion constitute 70% of the country’s population. Most of them do not eat beef, as they consider cows sacred, while minority Muslims, who make up about 10%, Christians and a section of Hindus consume beef.
Government critics have voiced concern that the call for banning cattle slaughter could be a move to target the island’s Muslims who not only eat beef, but also control a considerable part of the meat trade, including its halal certification that hard-line groups have sought to ban in the past.
Justifying its move, the government has said that various parties had pointed out that the livestock resource required for traditional farming purposes “is insufficient due to the rise of cattle slaughter” and that was an impediment to the local dairy industry.