Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed banning the slaughter of cattle for beef, according to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP, or People’s Front).
Addressing the party’s parliamentary group at a meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Rajapaksa — while discussing the agenda for the week — made the proposal, Cabinet spokesman and Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella said. Asked what the MPs said in response, Mr. Rambukwella told The Hindu: “They applauded. They appeared to welcome such a move.”
However, there is no policy decision on the proposal yet, he added. “The PM was just seeking the party legislators’ views on a possible ban.”
Buddhists constitute 70% of Sri Lanka’s population and most Buddhists do not eat beef, as they consider cows sacred. Minority Muslims, Christians and a section of Hindus eat beef. The Constitution gives Buddhism the “foremost place”, and states that “it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana”, while assuring freedom of religion as a fundamental right.
Reactionary Sinhala-Buddhist groups have in the past called for a ban on cattle slaughter.
In 2013, they launched an aggressive campaign opposing halal certification, forcing stores to stop selling meat labelled for Islamic food guidelines. In 2013, a Buddhist monk set himself on fire, protesting cattle slaughter. In 2018, Hindu outfit ‘Siva Senai’ staged a protest in Jaffna, calling for a beef ban, stating: “This is the land of Hindus and Buddhists. We worship the cow.”