Skewered chicken being sold at an eatery in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)
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RainbowMan: Why the Meat Ban is Misguided and Difficult to Digest

Bans are back with a bang! Just when I thought, that the powers-that-be had learnt their lesson with the porn ban reversal, they lay yet another one on us… the Meat Ban!

I’m still a true blue vegetarian and love animals. But I don’t go about forcing my views on people. I mean imagine, wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I were to discourage heterosexuality just because I’m gay?!

Bans only antagonize people, sometime so much, that they will purposely do the banned stuff anyway just to further antagonize the people who asked for the ban in the first place. They think, “How dare he tell me what to eat? Now I will eat in front of him... Rok sakko toh rok ke dikhao”. It’s a messed up version of the boy eloping with the girl, just after the girl’s father has forbidden them from ever meeting again, in a cheesy Hindi movie from the 80s. Suddenly I have Neelam, Govinda and Amrish Puri on my mind… but I digress.

Customers having lunch at the popular Irani cafe Britannia and Co in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)
Customers having lunch at the popular Irani cafe Britannia and Co in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)

The thing that I find most deeply disturbing about this profoundly misguided ban is that it has polarized people along the lines of religion and caste and that is scary. It is becoming a Jain vs non-Jain, Brahmin vs non-Brahmin, Marathi vs Gujarati thing.

I respect the role of this religion in making people more compassionate towards animals. But I think linking it to just days of a holy festival is actually counterproductive.

Isn’t it just as farcical as Shravan, when suddenly for a few days people go vegetarian. I’m happy to see dinner tables go meatless, but how is it holy to be compassionate to animals for a few days and then suddenly go back to eating killed-dead-cooked bodies of animals?

What kind of God is selective in his/her/hir compassion that is limited for a few days? Does the animal feel any less pain or trauma on any of the other non-holy days? I guess my question for my religious friends is that why seek a ban that polarizes people? Is it an easy route? Why not ensure advocacy all year long, not as Jains or Brahmins but as human beings and advocates of compassion and science.

Meat being sold at a roadside eatery in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)
Meat being sold at a roadside eatery in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)

And to those people, who are itching to take the route of reverse discrimination and making it personal by raking up my caste or religion, I have just this to say.

Yes, I was born into a family of Hindu Brahmins. My so called caste is the result of an accident of birth and is therefore irrelevant. My compassion was a conscious decision. I was non-vegetarian. I gave it up by choice. So, basically, I am not vegetarian because I am Brahmin, I am vegetarian because I don’t believe animals are for me to exploit.

I know several compassionate people from a different religions, communities and socio-economic strata who are vegetarian by choice. I also know a lot of Jains and Brahmins who are non-vegetarians by choice and often hide the fact. I’m not judging you. Everyone is entitled to their secrets.

That said, I really value the Jain community’s intervention in some cases such as sterilization of stray animals to effectively control their population without killing them. It is because of the tireless efforts of several Jain groups (and animal rights organizations) that Mumbai will never become like Kerala, where dogs are being killed every day!

MNS workers protest by displaying a meat garland outside a Jain temple in Mumbai (Photo: Twitter/redditindia)
MNS workers protest by displaying a meat garland outside a Jain temple in Mumbai (Photo: Twitter/redditindia)

Another disturbing result of the ban is the proliferation of several nonsensical retorts like ‘we will not eat meat during Paryushan, if you would eat meat during Ramzan’. This and other such potentially polarizing content is being spread on social media platforms. It’s NOT COOL!

The more effective and constructive (though long) route is advocacy through mass awareness drives. I know that it is difficult, riddled with debates and discussions and perhaps even slightly boring and a little painstaking. It may leave one frustrated because of the slow change it will bring. But hey! That is change for good.

Jains agitating against animal slaughter in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)
Jains agitating against animal slaughter in Mumbai (Photo: Reuters)

The only way to beat insensitivity is through science and dedicated advocacy. I understand my moral responsibility towards my feathered and tailed friends. But I don’t believe compassion or religion should be imposed through bans. Do you agree?

(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘RainbowMan’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)