K’taka’s anti-cow slaughter law hits supplies, industry worth ₹500 cr affected
Aurangzeb Qureshi, a second-generation beef trader, has a photo of his stall filled with beef. The photo, he says, gives him more joy than the photos of his wedding. On Tuesday, Qureshi’s stall in the narrow lanes of the Bengaluru’s 89-year-old beef market in Shivajinagar had only a handful of tenderloins, which remained unsold.
“We used to have more than 200kg of beef every day and it would be sold by the end of the day. After this ban, with the limited supply, we have less than 50kg of stock. We used to make a profit of at least ₹2,000, but now we are running losses to keep the store open. It breaks my heart to see my store like this,” Qureshi said.
The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Protection of Cattle Bill was passed in the legislative council on Monday, ensuring an almost blanket beef ban in the state. The anti-cow slaughter bill was passed in the legislative assembly in December and the traders say the supply has been hit since then.
Aijaz Qureshi of the Karnataka Beef Merchant’s Association said over 60% of the stores in the market have been shut since the owners were unable to bear the losses.
Although the government has allowed the slaughter of the buffaloes aged above 13, the demand is dismal, say traders. “Most of our customers are locals and they want bull meat. Cow meat was never available. People do not want buffalo meat, because it is considered cold meat. There are some migrant populations, like those from Kerala, who still buy buffalo meat, but it is a small population,” said Zaid Qureshi, who runs a beef stall in the market.
Many traders were forced to increase the price by up to ₹100 to make up for the losses. This has reduced the sales further. “We do not know any occupation other than this. Some have shut their shops and have started looking for other jobs but have no option but to keep the stores running,” Zaid added.
The ban is likely to impact the large farming community, which depends on selling livestock and cattle to bear the burden of mounting losses due to uncertainty in agricultural income in a state which has extreme seasons that oscillate between droughts and floods.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Karnataka mooted the legislation as the first of many such laws in line with its core ideology. The new law is likely to deal a fatal blow to Karnataka’s beef industry roughly valued at around ₹500 crore.
Government officials say that beef from Karnataka is consumed locally and sent to neighbouring states like Goa as well. The coastal state is heavily dependent on Karnataka to meet its local demand for beef since similar restrictions in Maharashtra have dried up supply lines.
According to Visvesvaraya Trade Promotion Centre, a government-designated nodal agency of the state for the promotion of international trade, beef exports accounted for $2.5 million in 2019-20.
Beef from Karnataka is exported to countries like UAE and Qatar whereas larger exporting states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Bihar make up for the bulk of international trade. There is no export of skin and hides from Karnataka internationally. But finished leather products like purses, travel goods, wallets were worth $8.5 million in 2019-20.
Basavaraj Bommai, Karnataka’s home minister, on Monday said that roughly 200,000 cattle are slaughtered each year in the state. Speaking in the legislative council, he said that mutton, chicken and other meat products account for 70-75% of consumption while beef accounts for just under 20-25%. “This bill was introduced to protect both people and the animals,” he said.
The Beef Merchant Association, on the hand, is planning to challenge the legislation, which they call prejudicial.