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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Environment ministry open to exempting buffaloes from cattle trade rules, industry representatives say

The cattle trade rules that seek to regulate cattle markets were notified on May 23 have invited opposition not just from farmers but also industry.

health Updated: Jul 05, 2017 13:15 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
The environment ministry is set to amend cattle trade rules notified on May 23, that have attracted opposition from various quarters.
The environment ministry is set to amend cattle trade rules notified on May 23, that have attracted opposition from various quarters.(HT Photo)

As the environment ministry gets ready to amend the cattle rules notified on May 23, some of the most vocal voices opposing them are from the meat, leather and dairy industries. Representatives from the meat industry said the environment minister has assured them that buffalos will be exempt from the trade rules that prevent cattle from being traded in cattle markets for slaughter.

Members of the All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association (AIMLEA) met the minister on Monday. “We have met the minister and also the secretary, and both have assured us that they will take required action,” Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson for AIMLEA said.

The ministry is being “conned by the animal rights activists,” Alavi added.

PETA India, the animal rights organisation, is set to submit its representation to the ministry on Thursday.”The rules are perfect, we do not want any amendments to the rules, we do not want any animals excluded,” Nikunj Sharma, the Public Policy-Lead at PETA India, said.

The rules aimed to regulate cattle markets, which are central to Indian agriculture, so that cattle are only traded for agricultural purposes and not for slaughter. It is not a ban on cattle trade for slaughter because it allows such trade to take place from the farmers’ homes, but effectively excludes landless farmers from it. The cumbersome rules governing the trade also make it harder for legitimate transactions to take place.

A contentious issue has been the inclusion of buffaloes in the definition of cattle. India is the largest exporter of beef, that is basically buffalo, not cow meat. The rules currently include cows, buffaloes, bulls, bullocks, heifers (cows that have not had calves yet), calves and camels.

The meat industry representatives claim supply to meat markets will be squeezed if the rules are implemented. They want the buffalo removed from the list because it is the most important animal as far as trade is concerned.

The rules are being viewed by some as a furthering of the BJP government’s Hindutva agenda. Under BJP rule the question of treatment of cows has acquired an unprecedented significance and cow vigilantism is on the rise sparking aggression and violence.

The environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, has stressed on various occasions in the past week that the rules do not aim to influence food choices or curb trade and industry.

“Cow slaughter is a different subject altogether, the law of the land should prevail on that,” Alavi said, however he challenged the ministry’s claim that it was to prevent cruelty towards the animals that are often subject to harsh conditions when brought to markets.

“The policy is biased,” Alavi said. “if it is animal cruelty they are concerned about, then every species should be included, why only the Buffalo? You should see how poultry is handled.”

He also noted that in a country where human beings do not get potable water and wholesome food, the rules require cattle owners and traders to ensure the cattle are provided for with both.

“I wish they had applied these rules to humans,” he said.

The rules face not just political opposition but also legal challenges. The Supreme Court is hearing a plea on Thursday that argues that the rules constitute a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens- their right to the food of their choice and religious freedom.

First Published: Jun 14, 2017 17:40 IST

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