Public appeal to the Judiciary: Animal Sacrifice and Buddhist values
The Sinhale Nation during the pre-colonial rule was animal friendly. People lost their rank and status and were treated as outcastes if they harmed an animal. Over 180 Sinhala Buddhist kings ruled following the tenets of Buddhism. Foreign invasion and colonial occupation dethroned a value system based on Buddhist principles that prevailed for over 2500 years. That value system changed only as a result of foreign invasion and occupation. The change in values resulted not out of choice but because of forceful implementation. At post-independence the former values should have taken over, that it didn’t and with time the values of later occupants have taken over the Buddhist values that built the Sinhale nation and the politicians who get elected from the majority vote seem not to care. Even if they did having outsourced key areas of governance are they in a position to guarantee that the Buddhist values and ethos would not be exterminated and annihilated? In all this what role should the judiciary of Sri Lanka play?
Animal friendly society lost to Colonial rule & Post-Independence
Colonial invaders completely changed the cultural ethos and values of Sri Lanka. Minds of post-independent rulers have been too colonized to return to the value system that prevailed before invasion.
Animal Welfare Bill languishes because the Minister is a non-Buddhist. Politicians are silent because they enjoy handouts from non-Buddhists. Compare that to Russian President Putin banning animal sacrifice. Unfortunately even in Anuradhapura, Mihintale once considered the abayadana and Buddhist citadels are carrying out animal sacrifice. The fault lies with the authorities and the custodians of Buddhist heritage.
Ethical and Moral thinking has made Christians and Jews rethink the act of ritual slaughter. Closely linked is the logic of how anyone can merit from taking the life of another and eating the animal one has sacrificed. There is no such thing as blind faith. People are aware of what’s right and wrong. The choice is very much theirs. Life is precious to everyone even non-human sentient beings. The Buddha’s teaching of ‘Metta’ and ‘Karuna’ are absorbed intricately into the first precept. When for 2500 years that compassion has been the practice and the edicts of the ruling kings have been to forbid animal slaughter, why should these values change because later cultures and values demand their rights supersede those of the majority and because of words termed ‘secular’ ‘liberal’ ‘multicultural’?
In nations where Abrahamic religions prevail as the majority populace or religion the laws are clear – no values or cultures of other religions can take precedence over theirs. There is no political correctness in governance in these majority Muslim nations. Over 100million animals are killed at an annual religious festival and no one dares object.
What needs to be said is that Muslims lived under Sinhale Buddhist kings and no such animal sacrifice or home slaughter took place. No demands were made demanding animal sacrifice or home slaughter had to take place. How has what did not exist formerly turned into a demand and right today? If the rule of the Kings were followed without fuss because what was acceptable as the law of the land was made clear to natives, visitors and traders why has that suddenly changed?
What it translates to mean is that it is the lack of what is acceptable and what is not that is dividing people and causing anxieties.
Does tolerance equate to only Buddhists sacrificing the values carried down over 2500 years simply because a new value system was introduced by invaders and followed by later occupants? Is it correct for later cultures to use neo-liberal slogans and new colonial pressure points to suppress the original values systems that prevailed throughout the country? Has this not shown that while the Sinhale Buddhists have been accommodating of others the later cultures are keen to wipe out the Buddhist ethos altogether?
What needs to be reiterated is that no one can argue against the noble declaration to treat all living beings including sentient beings with compassion. It was the realization of this that led to King Devanampiyatissa taking up the trusteeship to protect animals, birds and other living beings and it was this same King who brought Buddhism to the Sinhale Nation by royal invitation thus sealing the State patronage to Buddhism. Even South Indian King Elara followed the Buddhist royal decree and punished his own son for harming a cow.
The MAAGHAATA (do not kill) proclamations prevailed from 1st to 8th century.
King Vijayabahu 1 proclamation in the 11th c was to protect wildlife and fishes in the forests and lakes.
King Buddhadasa (341 AD) was a reputed medical/veterinary surgeon
King Kirti Sri Nissankamalla issued an astounding decree forbidding killing of all living beings in 6 famous inscriptions which every citizen, non-citizen including traders and visitors had to follow without objection. No one could really object to such a high moral and ethical decree.
What religions can argue against the Buddhist call to treat animals with compassion?
It was these royal decrees of the Sinhala Buddhist kings that highlighted the social and legal history of Sri Lanka.
The high moral and ethical governance changed ONLY after foreign invasion.
It was ONLY after foreign invasion that animal killing was legalized and liquor and other vices were introduced.
Sadly the fine for illegal transportation of cattle is just Rs.100, the amount set in 1893 and puts to shame the royal decrees that prevailed under Sinhale Buddhist kings. Mass slaughter is taking place at Munneshwaram Hindu kovil where ritual slaughter takes place of goats and chickens.
There is also home slaughter for which the Colombo Municipal Council and Veterinary officers grant licenses. On what basis do these authorities issue permits to ordinary, unskilled citizens to slaughter in their homes? Does Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance No. 13 of 1907 not apply in this instance in view of the unnecessary cruelty taking place? Section 12 states that “No private residence should be allowed by law to be used as a place of slaughter for whatever may be the reason. People exercise their right of choice to live as far as possible from a legally designated abattoir for the simple reason that they do not wish to be tormented by the agonized cries of innocent animals and threatened by the poor standards of public hygiene usually found in such places.” How can authorities allow a house to be turned into a slaughterhouse? When UK banned home slaughter in 1999 what is the reason for inaction in a country which for thousands of years completely prohibited killing of animals?
People need to realize that there is no blessing in killing a life. Those that argue that animal sacrifice is a charity to provide protein need to be reminded that this argument was true during times when money did not exist, today money can provide all the proteins one needs instead of taking away a life. Where does it say that God has asked man to kill an animal to satisfy Him?
If the colonials took away the high moral and ethical value system that prevailed it is for indigenous leaders of post-independence to restore what was removed by force.
Petitions, appeals and other forms of lobbies have been addressed to those we call leaders. Why has it fallen on deaf ears?
If the Buddha Sasana Ministry’s function is to not displease countries and their religious beliefs there is no requirement for such a ministry to exist. The Buddha Sasana Ministry is meant to protect the doctrines of Buddhism and not to please other religions and their beliefs.
The question we continue to ask is – Just because colonial govts changed the values that existed for over 2500 years must we continue values that were enforced by force?
The argument placed before the judiciary is that the practice of animal slaughter and home slaughter existed and thus should not be banned. What needs to be reminded is that the practice of animal slaughter or home slaughter existed only after foreign invasion and occupation. That legal provision is just 199 years old whereas for over 2500 years by royal decree killing of animals was banned and Muslims too followed these royal edicts without fuss.
Therefore, there is a greater need to take cognizance of the value systems that prevailed and which everyone followed and would have followed if not for foreign invasion and forced occupation than the value systems that were forcefully introduced and implemented while continuing to demonise and remove the indigenous Buddhist value system of the Sinhale Buddhist nation.
Every one fears death, every one fears punishment, everyone loves his or her own life, take you yourself as an example and do not kill, do not hurt (Dhammapada)
– by Shenali D Waduge
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