Article 48 of the Constitution of India runs as under :-
The State Shall endeavor to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular "take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle".
Under this article the state is enjoined in particular to take steps to preserve the breeds and prohibit the slaughter of milch and draught cattle.
This article has advisedly laid stress not only on Preserving but improving the breed of milch and draught cattle. Agriculture and animal husbandry arc closely allied in India. The population depending on agriculture has been consistently very high. In our working force 72.8 percent were engaged in agriculture when India became free. This percentage has remained stationary, in spite of a very heavy increase in population which has grown up from 36 crores, to 68 crores. In 1980 of the work force of 21 crores and 32 lacs, 15 crores and 45 lacs were engaged in agriculture. Agriculture and animal husbandry are vitally dependent upon each other .
Agricultural waste like fodder, straw, grass, weeds, husk, shrubs etc. provide cattle feed. Cattle retain carbohydrates for nourishment and return protein and vitamin rich milk and nitrogenous and phosphoric fertilizers in the form of cow dung enriching the soil and increasing agricultural output by about forty per cent. Thus agriculture and animals support each other and at the same time provide rich diet for human beings and a great source of energy for many purposes like oil extraction, cultivation, haulage, and water lifting. The cow dung if passed through a Gobar Gas Plant provides !ich fuel in the shape of gas which can be utilised both for cooking and other energy purposes as also for lighting, besides retaining hundred per cent manure.
The Supreme Court has analysed the position fairly at length. It has felt that cattle in India have a triple role to play, namely. to produce :
1. Milk for food
2. Bulls for draught and
3. Manure for agriculture.
Even cows giving a kilogram/liter or less of milk per day have to be preserved as otherwise borne 90% of the present day milch cows will be eliminated and we shall lose about 70% of our milk products besides a large number of bullocks that they will bear. "In India where a large section of the population consists of vegetarians, there is a huge shortage in the supply of milk. Cows and other milch cattle, therefore, arc of very great value to this country". "There is another important consideration which is perhaps more important from the stand point of human food supply. It is the bullock that takes the largest share in meeting the power requirements for our agricultural production". The Supreme Court further observed "That our working animals are perhaps just about sufficient to supply the power to keep our agricultural operations up to the necessary standard, but the demand for food is growing, and we shall require large number of these animals. The cattle also provide huge quantities of dung and urine. for fuel and manure. In terms of money the dung and the urine will account for a large portion of the agricultural income in India". About the usefulness of the cow and her progeny the Court says ."They sustain the health of the nation by giving them the life giving milk. The working bullocks are indispensable for our agriculture. for they supply power more than any other animal. Good breeding bulls are necessary to improve the breed. The dung of the animal is cheaper than the artificial manures and is extremely useful, in short, the backbone of Indian agriculture is the cow and her progeny".
With reference to the slaughter of useful cows the court observes. "Instances are not uncommon, however that to get an animal passed for slaughter the teeth or the rings round the horns of the animal are tampered with and sometimes a cow is even maimed in order that she may be passed by the veterinary inspector as fit for slaughter. Cows which are rejected by the inspector are taken out of the limits of the cities and slaughtered in the rural areas".