In Focus

Of the Beef Ban And Lop-sided Media Coverage

Kunal Kambli (MACJ, KC College, Mumbai)

At the start of 2017, in the month of January, President Pranab Mukherjee finally gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995. As per the previous Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976, the slaughter of cows was prohibited in the state.

However, the passage of the new Act resulted in a ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks as well, which was previously allowed on the basis of a fit-for-slaughter certificate. The major after-effect of this ban was that any person caught possessing or selling beef would be sentenced to 5 years in jail, along with a fine of Rs 10,000.

The passage of this Act emerged as big news not only in the state of Maharashtra, but the whole of India, with all the major newspapers in the country reporting on this ground-breaking development. However, the initial reports based on this story focused primarily on the financial consequences that were expected to be caused by the Act.

The news shared on The Indian Express’ website consisted of several quotes based on this story – majority of which were from an economic point of view.

For instance, the article featured a statement from Mohammed Qureshi, the president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealer Association, who stated: “Apart from rendering people jobless, the immediate effect will be the spiralling price of other meats as people will be forced to gravitate to them.”

Furthermore, Arif Chowdhury, an office bearer of the All India Jamiatul Quresh, an organisation of beef traders, added to this topic by claiming: “We are now holding deliberations to see if we can challenge this in any way. The beef traders have been impacted, but it will be the farmers who will be affected the most. Who will care for the old and infirm animals that were earlier sold for meat?”

From these aforementioned statements, along with several others that mentioned the words “money,” “sales,” and “business of restaurants,” it is quite evident that the news agencies covering this news focused mainly on the economic consequences of the ban, whereas several other important aspects, such as the environmental effects that would be caused by the ban on slaughter of a massive number of animals, reactions of the public that regularly consumed beef, and even the religious impact on a society as diverse as that of India, were largely ignored.

The top news agencies in the country did cover the reaction of the public in the month of August 2017, when the Beef Ban Law was set to be tested following the Supreme Court’s declaration of the right to privacy as a fundamental act. However, the fact remains that the initial coverage received by this topic at the start of 2017 was majorly from a financial and economic point of view.

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(This article has been submitted by a Media student as an assignment and is being published verbatim, gratis and in good faith)