Public appeal to the Judiciary to uphold Buddhist values and disallow Animal Sacrifice
Posted on July 26th, 2014

Shenali D Waduge

The Sinhale Nation during the pre-colonial rule was animal friendly. No person could harm animals. People lost their rank and status and were treated as outcastes if they harmed an animal. Over 180 Sinhala Buddhist kings ruled following the tenets of Buddhism. Foreign invasion and colonial rule dethroned a value system based on Buddhist principles that prevailed for over 2500 years. The change in values resulted not out of choice but because of forceful implementation. At post-independence the former values should have taken over, that it didn’t and with time the values of later occupants have taken over thus replacing the Buddhist values that built the Sinhale nation and the politicians who get elected from the majority vote seem not to care. Even if they did having outsourced key areas of governance and public policy making to non – Buddhists are they in a position to guarantee that the Buddhist values and ethos would not be excluded and disregarded? In all this what role should the judiciary of Sri Lanka play? What is the status of Article 9 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution?

Animal friendly heritage lost to Colonial rule & Post-Independence

Colonial invaders completely changed the cultural ethos and values of Sri Lanka. Minds of post-independent rulers have been too colonized and perverted to return to the value system that prevailed before foreign conquest.

The Animal Welfare Bill languishes because the Minister is a non-Buddhist and marches to a different drum. Politicians are silent because they enjoy handouts from non-Buddhists.  Compare that to Russian President Putin banning animal sacrifice. Unfortunately even in Anuradhapura and Mihintale, Sri Lanka’s premier Buddhist citadels and once considered pristine areas for abeyadana (where animals can live without fear) animal sacrifice is taking place without even a murmur of protest. The fault lies with the authorities and the custodians of Buddhist heritage who are no longer interested or lack the backbone to invoke the Buddha’s injunctions against Animal Sacrifice, which are clearly laid down in the Buddha Dhamma.

Ethical and Moral thinking has made Christians and Jews rethink the act of ritual slaughter in the modern era. Closely linked is the logic of how anyone can gain merit from taking the life of another and eating the animal one has sacrificed. There is no such thing as blind faith. People are aware of what’s right and wrong. The choice is very much theirs. Life is precious to everyone even non-human sentient beings. The Buddha’s teaching of ‘Metta’ and ‘Karuna’ are absorbed intricately into the first precept. When for 2500 years that compassion has been the practice and the edicts of the ruling kings have been to forbid animal slaughter, why should these values change because later arrivals to this land bringing cultures and values that are at cross purposes with fundamentals of Buddhism demand that their religious and cultural rights supersede those of the Buddhist majority and because of words termed ‘secular’ ‘liberal’ ‘multicultural’ ‘pluralism’ which are used in Asian countries e.g. India, Sri Lanka, with heavy anti – majoritarian connotations and are clearly meant to drive away traditional religions like Buddhism from the public place. 

Abrahamic countries have legal systems incorporating Abrahamic religious values

In nations where Abrahamic religions prevail as the religion of the majority the laws are clear – no values or cultures of other religions can take precedence over theirs. Their legal systems incorporate Abrahamic religious values and are accordingly interpreted by the Judiciary of those countries. There is no political correctness in governance or judicial interpretation in these majority Muslim nations. Over 100million animals are killed at an annual religious festival and no one dares object within or outside these countries. The moral voices of the world including that of Dalai Lama and the Pope are totally silent on the annual genocide of the harmless innocent animals. Society everywhere today needs strong moral voices like Mahatma Gandhi who became the moral conscience of India and much of the world during his day.

 In the time of the Buddha and Mahavira (circa 500 BC) animal sacrifice was a widespread practice. It was virtually a mandatory exercise for anyone wanting to curry favour with the ‘gods’. The practice had the blessings of Kings but that did not prevent the Buddha from speaking out against this morally indefensible practice. The principle of ‘Ahimsa ’ developed in India in the wake of the opposition raised against animal sacrifice by both the Buddha and Mahavira ( the founder of Jainism ) and led to India becoming an almost Vegetarian country. The only country in the world to allow high moral consideration for the lives of animals to influence choice of food on a mass scale.

The Buddha’s injunctions against animal sacrifice

The Buddha whose gentle disposition was offended by the unnecessary cruelty performed on the altars of the gods, visited the priests officiating in the temples, and made the following remarks:

  Ignorance only can make these men prepare festivals and hold vast meetings for sacrifices. Far better to revere the truth than try to appease the gods by shedding blood.

  What love can a man possess who believes that the destruction of life alone will atone for evil deeds? Can a new wrong expiate old wrongs? And can the slaughter of an innocent victim blot out the evil deeds of mankind? This is practicing religion by the neglect of moral conduct”.
  Purify your hearts and cease to kill; that is true religion”.

  Rituals have no efficacy; prayers are vain repetitions; and incantations have no saving power. But to abandon covetousness and lust, to become free from evil passions, and to give up all hatred and ill will, that is the right sacrifice and the true worship.”

See ‘ The Gospel of Buddha ’ compiled from ancient records by Paul Carus, (Senate, London, 1997 reprint, page 33).

 Pre- colonial rulers upheld Buddhist values in governance

What needs to be said is that when Muslims lived under Sinhale Buddhist kings in the pre- colonial era no such animal sacrifice or home slaughter took place. No demands were made to permit animal sacrifice or home slaughter. The natives, visitors and traders knew the ground rules which were strictly enforced by the State. How has what did not exist formerly turn into a demand and right today? If the rule of the Kings were followed without fuss because what was acceptable as the law of the land was made clear to all new comers to this land why has that suddenly changed?

What it translates to mean is that it is the lack of what is acceptable and what is not that is dividing people and causing anxieties.  This is the crux of the problem that is confronting Sri Lanka today. Because the national space of Sinhale Buddhists and Buddhist Values are not clearly demarcated or insisted upon due to default on the part of the post – independence rulers, the field is left open to parties with sinister agendas to come out with all sorts of ‘human rights‘  theories and interpretations really meant to reduce the size and scale of Buddhism in the country.

Does tolerance and accommodation equate to only Buddhists having to sacrifice their ethical and moral values carried down over 2500 years simply because a new value system was introduced by colonial invaders and followed by later occupants? Is it correct for later cultures to use neo-liberal slogans and new colonial pressure points to suppress the original values systems that prevailed throughout the country? Has this not shown that while the Sinhale Buddhists have been accommodating of others the later cultures are least interested in respecting Buddhist values and now making every effort to wipe out the Buddhist ethos and identity of the country altogether as has happened in neighbouring countries e.g. Maldives, Indonesia, Afghanistan etc. in the past.

Trusteeship role of Kings to protect animals

What needs to be reiterated is that no one can argue against the noble declaration to treat all living beings including sentient beings with compassion. It was the realization of this that led to King Devanampiyatissa taking up the trusteeship to protect animals, birds and other living beings and it was this same King who brought Buddhism to the Sinhale Nation by royal invitation thus sealing the State patronage to Buddhism. Even South Indian King Elara followed the Buddhist royal decree and punished his own son for harming a cow.

The MAAGHAATA (do not kill) proclamations prevailed from 1st to 8th century.

King Vijayabahu 1 proclamation in the 11th c was to protect wildlife and fishes in the forests and lakes.

King Buddhadasa (341 AD) was a reputed medical/veterinary surgeon

King Kirti Sri Nissanka Malla issued a noble and magnanimous decree forbidding killing of all living beings in 6 famous inscriptions which every citizen, and non-citizen including traders and visitors had to follow without objection. No one could really object to such a high moral and ethical decree.

 What religions can argue against the Buddhist call to treat animals with compassion?

It was these royal decrees of the Sinhala Buddhist kings that stand as landmarks in the social and legal history of Sri Lanka. The high moral and ethical governance changed ONLY after foreign invasion and colonial rule of Sri Lanka. 

It was ONLY during colonial rule beginning with the Portuguese Inquisition in Sri Lanka, who forbade the practice of Buddhism, destroyed Buddhist Temples en masse, and forcibly converted the local people of Sinhale into their religion i.e. Christianity, that animal killing was legalized and liquor and other vices were introduced.

Sadly today the maximum fine for cruelty to animals is just Rs.100, the amount set in 1907 by the British Raj and it puts to shame the current law makers for their indifference towards protecting animals through providing deterrent penalties in the law and in turn displays contempt for the distinguished royal decrees of Buddhist Kings that cherished and protected all forms of life. Mass inhumane slaughter of goats and chickens is taking place at Munneshwaran Hindu kovil, without any objection by the State unlike in the days of our Buddhist Kings.

Home Slaughter – Banned in UK

There is also Home Slaughter for which the Colombo Municipal Council and Veterinary officers grant licenses. On what basis do these authorities issue permits to ordinary, unskilled people to slaughter innocent defenseless animals in their private homes? Does Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance No. 13 of 1907 not apply in this instance in view of the unnecessary pain and cruelty to the animal taking place?

Views have been expressed and published in mainstream newspapers objecting to home slaughter:

No private residence should be allowed by law to be used as a place of slaughter for whatever may be the reason. People exercise their right of choice to live as far as possible from a legally designated abattoir for the simple reason that they do not wish to be tormented by the agonized cries of innocent animals and threatened by the poor standards of public hygiene usually found in such places. That right of choice of residents to live at a long distance away from a slaughter house must be respected by the law enforcement authorities”

How can authorities allow a house to be turned into a slaughterhouse? When UK banned home slaughter in 1999 what is the reason for inaction in a country which for thousands of years completely prohibited killing of animals for purely religious purposes and conduct of rituals?  

People need to realize that there is no blessing in killing a life. Those that argue that animal sacrifice is a charity to provide protein need to be reminded that however true this argument may have been during times when money did not exist, today money can provide all the proteins one needs instead of taking away a life. Where does it say that God has asked man to kill an animal to please Him?

Right of decolonized countries to rectify historical injustices of colonial rule

If the colonials took away the high moral and ethical value system that prevailed it is for indigenous leaders of post-independence to restore what was removed by force. Rectification of historical injustices of colonial rule by post – independence Governments is a right claimed and accepted as a valid norm by International law. Petitions, appeals and other forms of lobbies on this issue have been addressed to those we call leaders. Why has it fallen on deaf ears?

If the Buddha Sasana Ministry’s function is to not displease foreign countries and their religious beliefs there is no requirement for such a Ministry to exist. The Buddha Sasana Ministry is meant to protect the doctrines of Buddhism and promote Buddhist values as its foremost duty and not to please other religions and their beliefs.

The question we continue to ask is – Just because colonial govts changed the values that existed for over 2500 years must we continue and adhere to values that were imposed on our people by force?

 Article 9 of the Constitution

 A country is measured by its history and no one can deny the significant place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka’s history. Our former Kings ruled following the Buddhist precepts (dasa raja dharma).

 Article 9 of the Constitution captures the essence and spirit of the requirement that the country should be governed according to Buddhist values when it says:

  The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana …..”

 An argument placed before the judiciary is that the practice of animal slaughter and home slaughter existed and thus should not be banned. What needs to be reminded is that the practice of animal slaughter or home slaughter existed only after foreign invasion and colonial rule came into being. That legal provision is just 199 years old after the ceding of the Kingdom Kingdom in 1815, whereas for over 2500 years by royal decree killing of animals for purpose of rituals was banned and Muslims too followed these royal edicts without fuss. Cow slaughter attracted the death penalty during the times of our Sinhale Kings.

Therefore, there is a greater need for both rulers and the judiciary of Sri Lanka to take cognizance of Article 9 of the Constitution, the indigenous Buddhist value system that prevailed and which everyone followed and would have followed if not for foreign invasion, than the value systems that were forcefully introduced and implemented by the Christian western powers that ruled this country of ours for nearly 450 years.

Abeyadana to animals – the right attitude

It is time that Sri Lanka revert back to the ancient practice of giving freedom to the animals (abeyadana) respecting their sentience rather than killing them in the most abominable manner, a practice which we have acquired from our former colonial masters and later arrivals and now find ourselves incapable of freeing ourselves from it.

Every one fears death, every one fears punishment, everyone loves his or her own life, take you yourself as an example and do not kill, do not hurt




2 Responses to “Public appeal to the Judiciary to uphold Buddhist values and disallow Animal Sacrifice”

  1. AnuD Says:

    In Sri Lanka, Buddhists have to accommodate Muslims, Christians and Hindus and let them kill animals. On the other hand, what Christians and Muslims do to accommodate Buddhists who are the majority people of the country ?

    Is Rajtha Senarathne a Christian to blame Buddhists for aluthgama Incident. See, how in europe muslims and minorities are treated ?. How did the politicians behave ?

    Sri Lankan buddhist leaders are silent because of that Sinhala-buddhists are DODO birds.

    It is the govt that allows different ethnic groups to build enclaves.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    The truth is Article 9 of the Constitution is IMPOTENT.

    The govt. disregards it. The supreme court disregards it. The parliament disregards it.

    Article 9 of the Constitution should be change to


    This will save SL from animal sacrifice, JIHAD nonsense, pork-beef controversy, etc.

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