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Religious Animal Slaughter Restrictions in India and worldwide

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By Shivangi Bhatawadekar

Animal slaughtering refers to the killing of animals, usually domestic livestock. It can be for the purpose of food or any other religious offering. Religious animal slaughtering is mainly prevalent in the Jewish and Islamic religious community. Nevertheless, it is found in other religions also like Sikhism and Hinduism.

Different religions have different methods of slaughtering. Some religions explicitly proscribe slaughter of certain animals. We live in a multi-cultural and diverse world where the interaction between people of different faith and religion is a daily routine now.

In order to maintain peace and harmony in the society and at the same time let people enjoy their religion, the need to impose legal restrictions on religious practices that may potentially lead to conflict is much needed.  

Religious slaughtering in India

India recognizes herself as a secular state. There is no state religion of India. All religions are treated equally and all beliefs & methods of worship are accepted. The Indian Constitution also guarantees the Fundamental Right of Right to Religion. It gives the following freedoms:

1. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion (Article 25)

2. Freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 26)

3. Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion (Article 27)

4. Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions (Article 28)

Religion is considered to be a matter of private faith, however, if the need be, the state has the authority to impose reasonable restrictions on certain religious practices.

In S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India[1], it was held that secularism is the basic feature of the Indian constitution. The State, in the interest of public order can impose certain restrictions on the freedom of religion.

In The Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras vs Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt[2], the Court gave the essentiality test. It stated that not all religious practices are protected under the right to religion.

Only those practices which are essential and form the basic tenets of any religion can be protected. If any other practice of a religion is not an essential part of that religion and is found violative in nature, then the state may rule to abolish such practice.

The practice of religious slaughter can be undertaken under article 25. As long as the practice is done without harming public order, morality or health, religious slaughter can be permitted. Animal slaughtering is during the festival of Eid is allowed in India.

However, there have been cases, when legal restrictions were imposed. At times, the question of if animal slaughtering is an essential part of any religion was also brought in front of the courts.

In Mohd. Hanif Quereshi vs State of Bihar[3], the Supreme Court decided on whether “cow slaughter” on the day of Bakri Id was an essential practice or not.

It held that the specific act of slaughtering a cow is not an essential part of Islam. Hence the ban on cow slaughter did not infringe the right to freedom of the petitioners.

In a recent decision of the Uttarakhand High Court, the HC banned the slaughtering of animals and dumping of dead animals in all public places across the Uttarakhand State. This was in view of public order and morality and health. It allowed animal sacrifices and slaughtering in private places but prohibited the same in public places.

The Beef Ban

According to Article 48, “The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.[4] The beef ban has always been a topic of debate in India. It is one point of conflict between the Hindus and Muslims in India.

The Hindu population of India worship cows and consider them as God. They absolutely proscribe the slaughtering of cows for any purpose. Beef is considered as an adequate source of meat in Islam and Christianity.

So, there is always a tussle between the religions in India on this regard. Not all states in India have banned beef. They are West Bengal, Arunachal radish, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.

Some states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have made it a punishable offence. States like Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,  Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have very strict laws regarding beef ban.

According to a notification of the Environment Ministry in May 2017, all types of cattle slaughter are banned nationwide except in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Such are the restrictions regarding animal slaughtering in India  

Religious slaughtering in the world.

Animal slaughtering is practised by many other communities across the world. Hence the need for suitable legislations is present in different countries. Generally, the methods and acceptable forms of slaughtering are expressly mentioned in legislations. Some of them are given below: ·       

In USA, the Humane Slaughter Act[5] is present. It is designed to decrease the suffering of the animals during the slaughtering process. It gives certain directions as to how to treat animals before the slaughter. It mainly directs that animals should be stunned and made unconscious so as to reduce their pain. The methods of slaughtering should be humane. However, animal killing in the name of ‘ritual slaughter’ is exempted from such provisions.     

Countries like Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Sweden etc, make it mandatory for animals to be stunned before slaughtering. However, countries like Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom etc, have no such legal requirements for stunning. ·       

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The signatories of this convention have made their personal laws regarding animal slaughter.    


It is observed that no country has overtly restricted the practice of animal slaughtering for religious purpose. The idea of freedom of religion is accepted. However, in order to maintain public order, certain restrictions have been imposed on the process. In India, the restrictions are generally regarding the animals that can be slaughtered or the places where slaughtering can be done. In other countries, restrictions are generally regarding the method of slaughtering. The slaughtering should be done in humane conditions. As long as these restrictions do not hamper the spirit of any religion and are imposed with a view of achieving public morality and not establishing dominance of any particular religion, such restrictions will be accepted by the people.  


1. Zeiad Amjad Aghwan, Joe Mac Regenstein; Slaughter Practices of different faiths in different countries.; Journal of Animal Science and Technology.

2. Aayush Akar; Beef Ban in India: A Legal Perspective

3. Uttarakhand High Court bans animal sacrifices in the open for all religions; Hindustan Times, 22 August 2018.

4. European Convention on Human Rights.  

[1] 1994 AIR 1918

[2] 1954 AIR 282

[3] 1958 AIR 731

[4] Article 48, The Constitution of India, 1949.

[5] 7 USC 1901-1907