Sri Lankan Hindu plays with a bull at a Hindu Temple in Colombo, 16 January 2007, during the day after Pongal day called Mattu Pongal or the Pongal of the cattle. (AFP / Sanka Vidanagama)

Misleading claim circulates online that Sri Lanka has banned cattle slaughter

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Multiple Facebook posts shared thousands of times claim that Sri Lanka banned the slaughter of cattle on September 8, 2020. The claim is misleading; while Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa did propose such a ban in Parliament on September 8, no ruling was made. As of September 25, 2020, the Sri Lankan government has not enacted such a law.

The claim was published here on Facebook on September 8, 2020. The post was shared more than 11,000 times before it was deleted.

Screenshot of the Facebook post published on September 8, 2020

The Sinhala-language text superimposed on the image translates to English as: “Cattle slaughter has been banned in Sri Lanka with effect from today. Thank you.”

A similar claim was also shared here and here on Facebook.

The claim, however, is misleading.

In response to the misleading claim, a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office told AFP that the proposed ban had not become law.

"To date, a ban on cattle slaughter has not yet been made a law”, he said in a phone conversation on September 24, 2020. 

"[The ban] was an idea presented by the Prime Minister to the ruling party MPs, while pointing out that although many [previous] governments attempted to make this a law, they did not succeed. They will discuss the matter again in a month and will proceed after receiving input from various groups."

According to Sri Lankan media reports, including news websites Daily Mirror and News First, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that “the government would legislate against cattle slaughter soon” during a closed meeting with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party politicians on September 8, 2020.

Two days later on September 10, 2020, SLPP party spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella also discussed the proposal in this live-streamed press briefing, in which he said the September 8 discussions were “preliminary” and a “final decision” was not expected for another month.

From the video’s 35-minute 14-second mark to the 35-minute 35-second mark, Rambukwella can be heard saying: “There has been a discussion on banning cattle slaughter, but a final decision has been postponed by a month. Opinions on the idea will be sought from all sectors, and a final decision will be made thereafter. A preliminary idea was presented and we will act according to the responses we receive about the idea.”