Going forward

The third session of the Parliament rejected the proposal to lift the ban on the slaughter of animals and sale of meat during the first and fourth months of our calendar. Some, like Freewill who wrote “…I think it is a stupid move”, are confounded by the Parliament’s decision. But others are happy. Ifyouwilliwill (no prize for guessing the intent behind this nickname) wrote, “I feeeeeeeeeel great. Good decision by the MP’s.” Both comments were posted in “Parliament rejects LG Bill”.

The proposal to amend the Livestock Act, which would have lifted the meat ban, was debated in both houses of the Parliament. And, MPs presented a range of arguments both for and against the proposed amendment. While the National Assembly passed the proposal, the National Council did not. So, the proposal was discussed in a joint sitting. And in the end, the proposed amendment was rejected.

We’ve heard the arguments: from religion and health to the black market and a survey conducted by the National Council. And since our lawmakers have reached a decision, there’s little point in continuing the debate. Not now, at least. Not till a new bill is introduced – if one is introduced in the future – to lift the current prohibition on the slaughter of animals and the sale of meat during auspicious days and the two auspicious months.

We should, however, look  ahead. And, move forward. The ban is intended to benefit our people, and all sentient beings. So now, we should discuss how to optimize these benefits. Here are a few random thoughts:

First, we can strengthen Bhutan’s image abroad – our county’s trademark, if you will – as a good and compassionate society based on Buddhist values and absorbed in the pursuit of gross national happiness.

Second, we can promote Bhutan as a religious destination, more meaningfully, for tourists. This could be particularly helpful in expanding the tourist “season” since the first and fourth months of our calendar are on the two ends of the spring tourist season.

Third, we can reduce our dependence on imports, especially if imported meats are substituted by locally grown vegetables.

Fourth, and most importantly, we can promote the consumption of more vegetables in our society. We eat too few greens, and, when we do, we overcook them. So, we can use the ban to encourage eating habits that are more suited to today’s lifestyle.

The ban, however, is not a new. Instead, it is a continuation of a ban that was already in place. So, these opportunities are also not new. But, if these opportunities are valid, they, and others like them, may be worth exploring.

One final note: I voted against the proposal to amend the Livestock Act. My decision was not driven by personal preference (I am a meat eater), religion or ideology. Instead, I was influenced by the strong views of the many people who advised me in Thimphu and in my constituency.

Consulting democracy

The National Assembly has decided to amend the Livestock Act (2001) to remove the ban on the slaughter of animals and the sale of meat during the first and fourth months of our calendar.

I did not support the proposal to amend this Act. I did not support the proposal for a very simple reason – none of us had bothered to consult the monk body. And there are about 15,000 monks. That’s a lot of them. Enough to be taken seriously especially on issues concerning religious matters.

For a vibrant democracy: consult. And consult widely.