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Dog Meat: To Ban or Not To Ban That’s The Question

Aizawl: Mizoram goverment’s recent actions towards banning consumption of dog meat has put many, including dog meat eaters and sellers on tenterhooks.

A few days after Kolasib district banned inclusion of dog meat in the menu of feasts and social gatherings, Mizoram Police Department on September 14 issued an order banning consumption of dog meat in banquets within the department.

The order was in pursuant of a letter from Mizoram State Animal Welfare Board to the state DGP dogs aren’t included among animals permitted for slaughter under The Mizoram Slaughter (Amendment) Act 2020 and Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation 2011.

Earlier on September 12, deputy commissioner John L T Sanga issued a public notice, officially banning the inclusion of dog meat in any feasts and gatherings within the district.

This decision follows a request from the Mizoram State Animal Welfare Board to prohibit dog meat consumption during official events, which stemmed from the clarification made by the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary (Ah& Vety) Department, which highlighted that dogs aren’t included among animals permitted for slaughter under The Mizoram Slaughter (Amendment) Act 2020 Section 2 Clause (a).

This action aligns with the legislative change made in 2020, when the Mizo National Front-led Mizoram government unanimously passed the Mizoram Animal Slaughter (Amendment) Bill, 2020, explicitly stating that dogs should not be categorised as cattle.

Before this legislative change, the Mizoram Animal Slaughter Act of 2013 had listed dogs as a type of cattle. The Mizoram State Animal Welfare Board had vocally opposed this classification, considering it both illegal and unconstitutional.

In response to their concerns, the board had threatened legal action and urged the state government to either repeal the Mizoram Animal Slaughter Act of 2013 or remove the “dog” classification from the definition of “animal.”

When the Mizoram government in June this year made a decision to more rigorously enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rule 2017, it drew criticisms from the public and threw up a hot debate on social media platforms.

Worried, the Aizawl Uisa Zuar Association (an association of dog meat sellers in Aizawl) have met chief minister, as well as minister of animal husbandry and veterinary.

“After meeting the AH&Vety minister Lalrinawma, we have also met chief minister Zoramthanga. Both told us not to be worried as they is no intention as of now to ban consumption of dog meat in the state,” member of the dog meat sellers, association, who did not want to be named, said.

Notably, the Kohima bench of the Gauhati High Court has recently quashed a ban imposed by the Nagaland government on the commercial import, trading, and sale of dog meat in markets and dine-in restaurants. The court stated that the consumption of dog meat appeared to be an accepted norm and part of the food culture among the people of Nagaland, even in modern times.

R Laltanpuia, an advocate based in Aizawl, said, “In the event that the state government’s decision to prohibit the consumption of dog meat faces legal challenges, the court’s judgment might align with the precedent set by the Kohima bench of Gauhati High Court, especially if it considers the food culture of the Mizos.”

Laltanpuia also reassured, “Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the ban on dog meat consumption has not been implemented for the entire population at this point, so there is no immediate cause for concern.”

Although Mizos are known to consume dog meat, it is not their most preferred delicacy and rarely makes it onto their family’s Sunday morning menu or the menu of community feasts. Dog meat does not have a significant connection to Mizo cultures, nor was it a popular meat in the olden days’ Mizo society. However, it is a fact that in contemporary society, there is a notable number of individuals who consume dog meat, mostly during social outings with friends. No one kills their pet dog for consumption.

Social activist Ruatfela Nu expressed, “It’s important to recognize that not all Mizos don’t eat dog meat consumption. A significant portion of the younger generations abstains from it, and only a small segment of the state’s population indulges in it. Personally, I choose not to consume dog meat, but I respect others’ choices.”

She, along with many others, firmly believes that individuals should have the freedom to make dietary choices without imposing their beliefs on others.

Ruatfela Nu opined that if the state government were to decide on a blanket ban on dog meat consumption for the entire population, it would likely face a situation similar to the Prohibition of Liquor, where people would continue to consume it clandestinely. Such a ban, she argued, would only encourage illicit trade.

Currently, dog meat is openly sold in Aizawl at Rs 600 per kilo.

One of the arguments made against beef ban is that if someone chooses not to eat beef, they should simply refrain from doing so, without imposing their beliefs on others. These arguments are relevant to dog meat ban if you substitute the word ‘beef’ with ‘dog’. There are communities in India that have historically consumed beef, and preventing them from doing so due to religious reasons goes against the pluralistic nature of the country.

The same principle applies to the dog meat ban. Mizos have been consuming dog meat for generations, and it is no one’s business to interfere with someone’s eating habits. Imposing such a ban would demonstrate a lack of respect for the pluralistic character of India.

Such debate would become more complex if vegans get involved. Unless one argues for a ban on all meat and the killing of all animals, birds, and fish for food purposes, there is no logically consistent or intellectual argument for specifically banning dog meat. Those who express concerns about the “ill treatment” of dogs should also consider the similar fate endured by other animals such as pigs, oxen, goats, chickens, and more.

As the debate on the ban of dog meat continues, it is crucial to approach the issue with an understanding of cultural diversity and respect for individual choices.

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