“Killing of stray dogs for ‘human consumption’ is nowhere else defined as crime in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. What is prohibited under Sections 428 and 429 of the Act is “mischief” against animals.
Discussions around the consumption of dog meat almost invariably revolve around issues of cruelty and barbarism. This is seen every year in the international outrage over the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China. Consumption of dog meat in other countries like South Korea is also frowned upon and has often come under attack. In recent years, the consumption of dog meat in North East India has also caught the attention of animal rights activists.
The consumption of dog meat in Nagaland, where many consider it a delicacy, first came in the spotlight in 2016, when a legal notice was sent to the state government seeking a ban on the sale of the meat. The state reportedly did contemplate taking such a step, though it is yet to materialise.
In 2015, a BBC report on the stray dog “menace” in urban India said that in Tamil Nadu alone, more than 100,000 cases of dog bites had been registered. In neighbouring Kerala, dog catchers had resorted to extreme measures, such as injecting stray dogs with potassium cyanide, to kill them the report said. A recent Times of India report, talking about stray dogs in Porvorim, said that residents of the Goa town had become “victims” of the canines and were being “harassed” by them.
Given the resentment against stray dogs in urban India, law makers have proposed various methods to address the issue. In 2012, a solution was submitted by a member of the Punjab Assembly, Ajit Singh Mofar. The Congress politician proposed that all the stray dogs in Punjab should be sent to Nagaland, Mizoram, and to China for, “whatever they do to the dog,”. He further stated, “We cannot be really bothered what that is. We have to solve our problem first. Stray dogs are killing children, attacking the elderly”. As one might expect, this statement caused an uproar, but this would not be the last time such a proposal was made.
So, on the one hand, you have stray dogs who are looked at as dangerous, posing serious concerns, and even labelled as encroachers in urban India. Yet, on the other hand, conversations about dog meat as a delightful meal are unthinkable.
This calls for a debate on dog meat consumption in India (as well as other countries). Why is it that certain culinary practices are seen as cruel and savage, while others are considered appropriate in human society? Why mobilise for the banning of dog meat in India, which, to borrow from Michaela DeSoucey’s argument in her book on the debate over Foie Gras consumption, “has little to no impact on the nation’s diet or commerce, and not for chicken, beef, pork… (or homelessness or crime, for that matter)”?
In an article for Raiot, advocate Sira Kharay explains that there is no direct legal provision banning dog meat cosumption in the country. This why every time someone is arrested for eating dog meat in India, they are charged legal provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Indian Penal Code. However, as Kharay argues, it is unclear how this can be qualified as an offence. What remains unclear, as advocate Sira Kharay explains in an article for Raiot, is the concept of cruelty:
“Killing of stray dogs for ‘human consumption’ is nowhere else defined as crime in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. What is prohibited under Sections 428 and 429 of the Act is “mischief” against animals. To attract the two penal provisions, first, the ‘act of killing’ must constitute a ‘mischief’ as defined under Section 425 of the Act and second, to constitute a ‘mischief’, the act must be done ‘with intention to cause wrongful loss/damage to the public/person’ and there has to be ‘actual cause of destruction/change/diminishing of utility of the property’...But killing of stray dogs ‘with intention’ to ‘consume as meat’ can by no stretch of imagination be considered as an act of ‘mischief’ ‘with intention to cause wrongful loss to any person/public’ as defined and more so because the economic idea of ‘loss’ can hardly be associated with the loss of life of a stray dog.
With regard to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Kharay says: “The point is not to argue that ‘cruelty’ to animals must be glorified, but that every act of killing of animal does not amount to ‘cruelty’. What is material is the ‘purpose’ in determining what amounts to ‘cruelty’ in law and not in fact.”
Unless dog meat is seen as food and there are regulations pertaining to safety and hygiene, including clear guidelines for humane slaughter, the matter of putting this dish on the plate will remain a legally grey area.
Source: Dolly Kikon|Scroll.In