While some salivate when images or advertisements of fish and chicken are broadcast into our homes, there are few who have a bone to pick with them.
Three Jain religious charitable trusts and a Mumbai resident have filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court, urging a ban on advertisements of non-vegetarian food, terming such promotions as an “utter violation” of the right to live in peace.
According to a report in Bar and Bench, the petitioners argue that the advertisement infringes on their right to live peacefully and “tamper” with the minds of the children.
As we examine this matter closer, we also take a look at how non-vegetarian food has become a source of controversy in the past too.
Ban on non-veg food ads
Shree Atma Kamal Labdhisurishwarji Jain Gyanrnandir Trust, Sheth Motisha Religious and Charitable Trust, Shri Vardhaman Parivar and businessman Jyotindra Ramniklal Shah have approached the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on the advertisements of meat and meat products in print and electronic media.
In their PIL, they say that families of Jain community members “including their children and other vegetarian people are forced to watch the advertisements without their desire, wishes or consent, thereby infringing the right to live life peacefully, tampering upon the minds of children, teenagers and vegetarian adults by infringing upon their privacy and compelling them to watch/read about non-vegetarian foods against their own wishes.”
They contend that the ads are not only disturbing, but also infringe upon their fundamental right of privacy.
“It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country to live with human dignity free from exploitation, however, the impugned advertisements exploit the mind of children and youngsters by provoking, promoting and intimidating to consume non-vegetarian foods,” the plea highlighted.
According to the petition, the advertisers “express and promote cruelty towards birds, animals, and marine life” and thus violate Article 51A(g) of the Constitution, said the Live Law report.
The petition has sought relief from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the State, the Press Council of India, the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department and the Advertisement Standards Council of India.
The petition had made some companies like Licious, Freshtohome Foods and Meatigo as respondents.
They have sought directions to the concerned authorities to frame and issue guidelines to restrict and ban advertisement of non-vegetarian foods across media.
This isn’t the first time that non-vegetarian food has been the source of a row in India.
Earlier in April, there was outrage in Delhi when many meat shops were forced to shut down after civic officials asked them to remain shut for Navratri.
Ghaziabad Mayor Asha Sharma had directed owners to shut meat shops during the Navratri festival — from 2 April to 11 April. The mayors of East Delhi and South Delhi also jumped on to the bandwagon and demanded for a closure of meat shops during the festival.
South Delhi mayor Mukkesh Suryaan had said during the nine-day festival, devotees shun even the use of onion and garlic in their diet and “the sight of meat being sold in open or near temples makes them uncomfortable”.
“Their religious belief and sentiments are also affected when they come across meat shops or when they have to bear with the foul smell of the meat on their way to offer their daily prayers to the Goddess. Moreover, some meat shops dump waste in gutters or beside the road, which the stray dogs feed on,” the letter read.
The move riled many who took to social media to express outrage. Some pointed out that someone’s choice to abstain from meat should not infringe on another’s freedom to eat meat or earn a livelihood.
I live in South Delhi.
The Constitution allows me to eat meat when I like and the shopkeeper the freedom to run his trade.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) April 6, 2022
Karnataka’s meat matters
The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government received flak from many people, including All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi over its decision to ban the sale of meat in Bengaluru on 31 August for Ganesh Chaturthi.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had imposed a meat and slaughter ban in Bengaluru on 31 August for Ganesh Chaturthi.
Earlier too, the BBMP had issued a circular banning sale of meat and killing of animals on Shri Krishna Janmashtami. The BBMP had also ordered the closure of abattoirs and slaughterhouses in the city on the occasion of Janmashtami.
Gujarat’s street food row
When BJP-ruled civic bodies in Gujarat ordered a ban on the sale of non-vegetarian foods on streets in November last year, a controversy broke out in the western state.
The hullabaloo began when Rajkot Municipal Corporation announced that roadside stalls selling non-vegetarian food and eggs on the main roads would be removed. This was followed by Vadodara, Junagadh, Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar.
Different civic bodies provided different reasons — ranging from ‘unhygienic to obstructing traffic’ for stopping non-vegetarian food vendors.
When explaining why Ahmedabad had banned those selling non-veg street food, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Town Planning and Estate Management Committee chairman Devang Dani told The Indian Express, “Orders have been issued to the Estate Department to conduct checking and remove carts selling egg and non-vegetarian food from the main roads. From tomorrow morning, these will be removed. Also, these carts are banned within a 100-metre range of religious places, gardens, public places, schools and colleges.”
“There were complaints, especially from morning walkers, residents visiting religious places and parents, of foul smell from these carts. They were leaving a negative impact on the minds of young children,” Dani added.
Gujarat revenue minister Rajendra Trivedi had also said at the time that such kind of eateries not only play with the sentiments of some people, but it also causes inconveniences to the commuters as the spicy fragrance and flavours cause discomfort to the eyes.”
The Gujarat High Court intervening in the matter came down heavily on the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, questioning how people could be stopped from “eating what they want”.
Justice Biren Vaishnav, who was hearing the petition, got agitated and asked the AMC, “What is your problem? How can you decide what I should eat outside my house? How can you stop people from eating what they want? Suddenly because someone in power thinks that this is what they want to do?”
Mumbai’s meat politics
Several rounds of meat politics have played out in the country’s financial capital.
In September 2015, the Jain community had demanded a ban on sale of meat during their festival ‘Paryushan’. The Bombay High Court had later stayed the order and, the Supreme Court refused to quash the stay.
In the same year, Maharashtra also banned the slaughter of cows and the sale and consumption of beef. The move invited huge outrage from people who felt they were increasingly being told to not do this or that.
Farhan Akhtar, a Bollywood actor, director and singer, had tweeted his dismay at the law.
So now in Maharashtra you can have a beef with someone but you can’t have beef with someone.
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) March 3, 2015
Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O’Brien, had also spoken against the ban on the “poor man’s protein” in Maharashtra. O’Brien said the move would lead to a rise in prices of other meat like fish and chicken, and affect the business of beef traders. It would also harm farmers in Maharashtra, which already has a “55 per cent shortage” of animal feed, he said, adding that the ban prevents the slaughter of sick and old animals that would otherwise be used to make feed, deepening the crunch for farmers.
In 2016, the Bombay High Court said it was no longer illegal to possess or eat beef, as long as it had been brought into Maharashtra from outside.
In addition to this, there have been several reports of ‘vegetarian-only buildings’ in Mumbai. Several housing societies have a ‘not so secret’ rule forbidding non-vegetarians from buying homes there. Also, shops and restaurants too, don’t store or sell non-vegetarian items in fear of ‘offending the peoples’ sentiments’.
The politics of meat continues where a Pew survey of 2021 reveals that only 39 per cent of Indians are vegetarians whereas 81 per cent eat meat, but with restrictions — either they don’t eat certain meats or avoid meat on certain days of the week.
With inputs from agencies
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