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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Ban on cattle sale for slaughter: As protests grow, govt hints at rethink

States eye legal options, Kerala high court issues notice against new rule that effectively bans India’s beef industry

india Updated: Jul 19, 2017 18:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union government may rethink a new rule banning cattle trade for slaughter after the issue snowballed into a national controversy, prompting anger from state governments and at least one high court hearing petitions against the rule.

Environment ministry sources said the department is examining petitions against the new rules.

“We are still getting representations. Once all representations are received, they will be duly considered,” a senior environment ministry official, requesting anonymity, told Mint. The official said a final call on it will be taken at the highest level—by the Prime Minister.

In a notification announced last week, the government said cows and buffaloes cannot be sold for slaughter at animal markets across India, allowing only farmland owners to trade at animal markets. The notification covers bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves, as well as the camel trade.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the CPI(M), which rules Kerala, spoke in a rare voice of unity between the two arch rivals against the Narendra Modi government.

“We won’t accept the Centre’s decision … it is unconstitutional,” Banerjee said, dubbing the ban as an attempt to “encroach into state power”.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged his counterparts to raise their voice against the restrictions on cattle trade, saying the Centre’s “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move” is an attempt to usurp power from the state governments.

Their comments came on a day the Kerala high court asked the central government to respond to petitions challenging the ban, according to local media.

Focus on cows, considered sacred by Hindus, and beef has increased since the BJP won power in 2014. The party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has long pushed for a nationwide ban on cattle slaughter and trade.

But the beef ban was viewed as an attempt to limit people’s freedom to choose what they eat.

While the scope of the government rethink is unclear, reports have said the government could remove buffaloes from the purview of the ban.

“On Monday, a representation was also given to environment ministry asking them to remove buffaloes from the definition of cattle. We also explained that trade has nothing to do with animal cruelty and that they are completely different (issues). If we will not change this, it will prevent farmers from rearing buffaloes and will also affect the dairy industry in the long run,” said Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson for the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association (AIMLEA), a trade lobby group of buffalo meat exporters, according to Mint.

Meat exporters are among the hardest hit by the ban, which could crimp supplies to a Rs 1-lakh crore industry that sources about 90% of its requirement from animal markets. The rest comes for licensed breeders.

The other group that the ban affects the hardest is Muslims, who dominate the industry and are the main consumers of beef.

Muslims are considered a key support base of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M) and Congress. Banerjee wondered why the trade curbs were announced on May 23, just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The CPI(M) said it will organise “evening dharnas” in 2,000 places across in Kerala on June 2. The date coincides with BJP chief Amit Shah’s three-day tour to the southern state, where the party is trying to make inroads.

The Congress has also attacked the ban, but it was seen on the backfoot after members of its youth wing slaughtered a cow in Kannur and distributed the meat to people on Saturday.

First Published: May 30, 2017 09:28 IST