Patents and Cow Slaughter
“Cow Slaughter” has been a hotly debated topic for a while in India now. It started with laws banning slaughter and issues around citizen enforcement of such laws, and recently gained serious momentum after the Union Government passed regulations banning sale of animals in markets for slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty Act. While the Madras High Court stayed the Government’s regulations on constitutional grounds, the Rajasthan High Court went to the extent of recommending life imprisonment for slaughtering a cow, and recommended making the cow a national animal.
Following Rajasthan High Court’s recommendation, the debate has now reached a completely different level. People across the country are today involved in hot discussions, and all kinds of arguments are being put forth for and against cow slaughter. While submissions for and against cow slaughter rage on constitutional, legal, religious, moral, ethical and other grounds, we, patent attorneys, decided to take a look at cow slaughter from the patent perspective.
Indian Patents Act prohibits patentability of inventions that are against public order and morality, and inventions that result in cruelty to animal life or health will generally be denied patent protection based on moral grounds, unless benefit to humans outweighs animal suffering. More out of idle curiosity than to gain any path breaking insights, we decided to search for patents and applications on cow slaughter. We present some of our findings hereunder.
Patents on Cow Slaughter in India
Though several patents on cow slaughter exist in other countries, no patents have been granted specifically on inventions relating to slaughtering cows in India. We only found some patent applications that indirectly relate to cow slaughter.
Patent 1 – Device to Stun Cows before Slaughter
TAMIL NADU VETERINARY AND ANIMAL SCIENCES UNIVERSITY (TANUVAS) filed a patent in 2015 on an IMPROVED ELECTRICAL STUNNER FOR STUNNING ANIMALS BEFORE SLAUGHTER (Patent Application No. 3278/CHE/2015).
The abstract of the application reads as follows: A novel electrical stunner having tongs, control panel, operable at a lower voltage & current before slaughtering the animals, characterized by multi-effective utilization for all types of animals by a single device.
Application status: Awaiting examination
Patent 2 – Sanitary Animal Slaughter
A national phase patent application filed by KIEZEBRINK, HARM claims a method for sanitary slaughter of animals, and a bag for the said purpose (Application No. 1048/KOLNP/2008). The primary objective of the invention is to prevent spread of disease, but the method seems a little barbaric for a weak hearted soul.
The abstract reads as follows: The present invention relates to a method for the sanitary slaughter of animals. The invention is especially suitable for the sanitary slaughter of poultry such as chickens, ducks and the like, in case of a break out of a contagious disease. The invention is characterized in that at least one body part selected from the nose and the mouth of the animal is covered with a foam prepared from a liquid and a gas, wherein the liquid contains a surfactant, and the gas used for making the foam comprises a gas component having the property to kill and/or narcotize the animal. A suitable gas component is for example carbon dioxide. The invention also relates to a bag suitable for performing the procedure.
Application status – Examination report issued/ under examination
This seems to be a method of strangling or asphyxiating an animal to death. Though the procedure is recommended for poultry and small animals, it is capable of being applied for large animals as well.
International Cow Slaughter Patents
There are several patents on cow slaughter in other countries, and we are hereby citing a couple of them as illustrations.
Patent 3 – Slaughtering device for Cows and Camels
A PCT application claims a novel device for slaughtering large animals like cows and camels (WO201494852). As per the abstract, the invention specifically relates to a slaughtering device for large slaughter animals, such as cattle or camels, having a U-shaped receptacle, in which the slaughter animal is introduced and held during slaughtering, having an adjustable holding device for stretching the neck during the slaughtering process, wherein the receptacle can be pivoted about an axis from a vertical position to a turned position (UP) in which the throat of the slaughter animal is cut transversely. The receptacle is placed directly on the floor in the vertical position (VP), and a support frame is placed on the floor next to the receptacle, wherein the receptacle can be pivoted from the vertical position to the turned position (UP) by means of an articulation and an actuation means between a side of the receptacle and the support frame, and that after slaughter several slaughter animals are conveyed from the receptacle pivoted into the turned position (UP) to a roller conveyor to bleed out, a drain being arranged next to said roller conveyor to drain away the blood.
Patent 4 – Cow Slaughter Box
This is a utility model filed in China by QINGDAO JIANHUA FOOD MACHINERY (Application No. CN201846722). The invention relates to a box for slaughtering cows easily and safely.
The abstract of the utility model reads as follows: The utility model discloses a cow slaughtering box. The cow slaughtering box comprises a supporting frame and a box body which is arranged on the supporting frame. The cow slaughtering box is characterized in that the box body comprises a front side baffle, a back side baffle, a left side baffle, a right side baffle and a base plate. The back side baffle is a movable baffle which can be opened or closed, the lower portion of the base plate is connected with an air cylinder which can control the base plate to be opened or closed, and the air cylinder is fixed on the supporting frame. By the adoption of the cow slaughtering box, in the process of slaughtering a cow, an operator draws the cow in the box body and only needs to stand outside the box body to slaughter the cow, due to the fact that the cow is controlled in the box body, damage to a human body or damage to objects cannot be easily caused, and therefore safety of slaughtering the cow is improved. The air cylinder is controlled to open the base plate after the cow is slaughtered, a cow body can automatically slide out from the box body, and therefore the cow slaughtering box is convenient to operate.
Patents do not directly reflect human behavior, beliefs, ideology or thought process, and not many inferences can be made based on patent activity. When read with other parameters, patents may sometimes indicate the direction of scientific and industrial progress. Since its origin, morality has always been an integral element of patent law, and inventions, whose use or exploitation is against public order and morality are not patentable.
Section 3(b) of the Indian Patents Act excludes inventions, which are against public order or morality, and which are prejudicial to human, animal or plant life or health. Would processes and devices/implements for slaughtering cows be prejudicial to animal life? The inventions are meant to take life, and therefore, one can easily give an affirmative answer on a literal reading. However, when the text is placed in context, such an interpretation would obviously be illogical and untenable. Humans have been eating animals and using them for various purposes from time immemorial, and the provision is not intended to be against taking animal life by slaughter.
Public Order and Morality are however tricky terms because they are dynamic and their meaning and scope is constantly changing. What is right and wrong, and what is moral and ethical, is transforming rapidly. What is moral yesterday can be immoral today, and what is immoral yesterday can be moral today. The decision of what is moral is a social decision, defined by public consciousness, which is subject to a multitude of influences ranging from globalization to religion.
The tests for assessing morality of an invention for patentability are therefore ambiguous and open ended. Harm/Benefit balancing (Harm to Animals v. Benefit to Humans), Public Hatred (disposition of the public mind to a particular invention), Ethics, traditions, customs, practices, etc., are factored into the morality determination while deciding whether an invention is patentable or not.
Would the change in law, and the ongoing debate, affect patentability of cow slaughter inventions based on morality grounds? They definitely will, and the invention of TAMIL NADU VETERINARY AND ANIMAL SCIENCES UNIVERSITY for stunning cows and other animals before slaughtering them may have to overcome some uncomfortable objections before the patent is granted. Having said that, one can only predict the future of morality by making close to wild, uncertain conjectures.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017.
Madras High Court decision: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/pil-against-new-animal-slaughter-rules/article18625410.ece
Kerala High Court decision: TG Sunil vs Union of India WP 17749 Of 2017