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According to the notification, the member secretary of an animal market committee will have to ensure that no person brings a young animal to the animal market. Photo: Reuters
According to the notification, the member secretary of an animal market committee will have to ensure that no person brings a young animal to the animal market. Photo: Reuters

Centre’s ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets will cripple buffalo trade

The Centre has banned the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter by notifying a stringent rule under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

New Delhi: The environment ministry has notified new rules tightening trade in livestock and transport of cattle to ensure their welfare at animal markets and also prevent smuggling.

The rules prohibit the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, effectively barring this nationwide, including in states such as Kerala which allow the slaughter of cows.

The rules include buffaloes in their definition of cattle and this will likely jeopardize the buffalo meat export business as it will disrupt the supply of spent buffaloes, according to a meat exporters’ association.

The new rules come at a time when India has witnessed heated discussions around cow slaughter and the need for a countrywide ban on it. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is already discussing the possibility of a national law to ban cow slaughter and the sale of beef.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, notified on Tuesday are aimed at protecting cattle and ensuring their welfare in animal markets.

Cattle, as per the notification, are defined as “bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves and camels".

The rules say that “no person shall bring cattle to an animal market" unless a written declaration is furnished with details of owner and details of the identification of the cattle and mentions that the “cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter".

They also state that the authorities in charge of animal markets shall take an undertaking from purchasers that the animals are bought for agricultural purposes, not for slaughter, and that they will not re-sell the animals for six months. The authorities, the rules add, shall keep a record of the purchaser including his identity proof and verify that the purchaser is an agriculturist.

The rules also specify that the purchaser shall not sacrifice the animal for any religious purpose or sell it to a person outside the state without permission.

India’s buffalo meat exporters say the new rules will hurt them.

“The new rules of buffalo trade on which we were not consulted has come as a surprise and shock for the industry. It is not possible for individual farmers to sell their spent animals for slaughter (directly to us) without going to the nearest animal market," said Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson for the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, the trade lobby of buffalo meat exporters.

Alavi added that for want of raw material (spent buffaloes), the export industry will have to shut shop. “It is strange that the environment ministry wants to make rules on ‘traceability’ when the animal husbandry department is in the process of framing these rules. Also, the new rules will promote vigilantism and eventually hurt the dairy industry. How will you explain to a mob whether the animals being transported are for dairy or slaughter?," he added.

India is currently the global leader in buffalo meat exports, which grew at a compound annual rate of 29% between 2007-08 and 2015-16, from Rs3,533 crore to Rs26,685 crore.

Union minister for environment, forest and climate change Harsh Vardhan defended the move.

“The aim of the rules is very-very specific. It is only to regulate animal market and the sale of cattle in these markets and ensuring welfare of the cattle dealt in the market," he said.

The rules also prohibit hot branding and cold branding, shearing, bishoping (in horses) and ear cutting (in buffaloes), and the use of chemicals on the body parts of animals to identify them or make them look younger.

They also prohibit forcing animals to perform unnatural acts such as dancing and their castration by quacks or traditional healers.

The rules detail the facilities that every animal market is required to have: adequate space, shade, feeding troughs, water tanks with multiple taps and buckets, lighting, and separate enclosures for sick and infirm animals, among others.

Animal rights activists cheered the rules.

“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 traceability," said N.G. Jayasimha, managing director of Humane Society International India, an NGO working on animal rights, and a member of the committee which drafted the new rules.

“The new rules will also help in controlling smuggling of cattle," he added.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the centre’s move while the state’s agriculture minister V.S. Sunil Kumar told reporters the government is contemplating legal action.

“The move is an attempt to implement RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) agenda in the country," said Vijayan in a two-page statement to reporters, where he invoked pluralism in Indian society, consumption patterns and impact on the poor, among other factors, while criticizing the decision. Kerala has a relatively higher share of beef/buffalo-consuming population compared with the rest of the India, showed a Mint analysis in 2015.

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