For years I’ve heard the popular saying that initially provoked skepticism and today, after learning something about the law, makes me uncomfortable. Surely almost all of us have heard it, and many have said it. It’s said that, under the Law, someone who kills a cow is more severely published than someone who takes the life of another human being: “It’s worse to kill a cow than…”
The phrase deserves a brief analysis from the perspective of the Penal Code to try to answer its macabre sense. I will take as a reference the crime of Illegal Slaughter of Major Livestock and the Sale of Their Meat, under Article 240.1 of this body of law:
He who, without prior authorization from the state agency specifically empowered to do so, slaughters major livestock, is punished with imprisonment from four to ten years.
The other point of reference is the crime of homicide which is governed by Article 261 of the Penal Code:
Whoever kills another, shall be punished by imprisonment from seven to fifteen years.
Analyzing both offenses, obviously shows that in the general case, the popular voice is not correct; because while the Illegal Slaughter of Major Livestock (which includes cattle and horses) has a criminal penalty range of four to ten years imprisonment, murder has a wider range of seven to fifteen years.
Another criterion against that phrase is that the Illegal Slaughter allows for alternatives to prison sentences when the amount is five or fewer years’ imprisonment (With correctional labor with or without confinement and restriction of freedom).
So far we have disproved the aforementioned popular opinion, but it is possible, though rare, that the statement is true. Both offenses have room to coincide in the criminal context: between seven to ten years of imprisonment. So it could be that someone, for example, is sentenced for sacrificing a cow to ten years in prison while another is sentenced to seven for murder.
With all due respect for the animal kingdom and for some kind of Hindu philosophy I’m not familiar with, the value of human life is unparalleled. These overlaps should be deleted in future amendments to the Criminal Law.
January 19 2013