The central government recently in an attempt to tighten the noose around its "controversial cow" protection policies called for a nation wide ban on the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter. (The blanket ban excludes the state of Jammu and Kashmir).
The government released a notification
In a notification dated 23rd May, the Environment Ministry issued a set of new rules under the Prevention of Cruelty (Regulations to Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 that asks for the constitution of Animal Market Committee.
This district wise committee is to be responsible for the management of animal markets (a market place or sale-yard or any other premises or place to which animals are brought from other places and exposed for sale or auction) in the concerned districts to overlook restrictions on sale and purchase of cattle.
Much to our dismay, the cattle here is an umbrella for bovines, including bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalo, steers, heifers and calves and also camels, that cannot be bought for slaughter directly from the animal markets.
However, one is free to buy cattle for slaughter directly from the farms.
What does the notification say?
According to the notification the Member Secretary of the Animal Market Committee shall ensure that-
-No person shall bring a young animal to an animal market
-No person shall bring a cattle for sale for slaughter
-The owner of the cattle or the authorised agent shall upon arrival furnish a written declaration duly signed and stating the name and address of the owner of the cattle with a copy of the photo identification proof
- Provide details for the identification of the cattle and stating that the cattle has been brought to market for sale of 'agricultural' purposes and not for slaughter
However, this notification is not without its loopholes.
There are no alternatives suggested or specified for the buying and selling of cattle for slaughtering.
The notification does not specify what happens to 'fit' cattle that are eventually not sold in the market.
There are only provisions for 'unfit' animals that shall be kept in custody of the local SPCA or an animal welfare organisation recognised by the board or a Gaushala. This is tricky as farmers are not allowed to sell their unfit cattle which leaves them with no other option but to bear the cost of their maintenance that can go up to rs 40,000 a year!
"The high yielding milching animals rarely arrive at the cattle market for sale. The per day cost incurred on a buffalo ranges from Rs 125 to Rs 150, while the general price of the milk sold is Rs 40 per litre. If the per day milk production dips, then gradually the cattle becomes unproductive," spokesperson of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, Fauzan Alavi said.
How is the step being justified?
N G Jayasimha, former member of the Animal Welfare Board of India told Indian Express that "the animals being sold for slaughter are generally unfit, making these markets the hub for the spread of infectious diseases. The idea behind these new rules is to ensure that only healthy animals are traded for agricultural purposes, whereas animals for slaughter must be sourced directly from farms to ensure tractability".
Given that the notification allows for the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter directly from the farms there is no mechanism to cross check whether unfit cattle is being sold or not.
As far as regulations are concerned, both the notification and senior officials have not specified the nature and purpose of the regulation.
The questions here that arises are why the regulations at first place? And why only cattle and not other animals like sheep, goats, poultry or fisheries? Also, how will banning the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter ensure regulation?
A setback for Farmers and Merchants
This decision is a major blow to both the farmers and the merchants alike.
Animal markets more or less act as a middle man in this whole process of selling and buying of cattle for slaughtering.
Majority of the farmers sell their cattle to animal markets after they loose their productivity nine or ten years later. Besides, a major chunk of the slaughtering goes to the hide and export industries.
According to US Department of Agriculture India is ranked second in the list of beef exporters in the world.
So will I be able to consume Buff or not?
Technically yes, given that your outlet is buying its meat directly from the farm. But again, here is the catch, by eliminating the middleman one is breaking a chain.
While one will still be able to source her meat through a direct link, the process will be both complicated and lengthy besides being much more unregulated.
In days to come, hopefully more clarity will be provided on how the government plans to compensate the merchants for their loss and will the farmers also have to submit 'authorised' papers to slaughterhouses as well.
(Feature image source: Reuters)