Regulation of Livestock Markets or Beef Ban? Sifting the facts from fiction

Image for representative purpose only

The macabre blood dance played out in Kerala and shared across social media sites of a bunch of barbaric Youth Congress goons holding down an innocent calf, one of them slitting its throat and then all of them enacting a war dance even as the Calf’s life ebbs out minute by agonizing minute is a reflection of the of the utter depravity of the times we live in. This was not the end of it. The CPI-M not to be left out joined in and more Cows, Bulls, Buffalos, and calves were put to the sword.

If the reaction by political parties was shocking, the reportage by Mainstream Media (MSM) and trigger happy authors was pathetic to say the least. The blame for what transpired in Kerala and what is being planned in parts of TN and Karnataka must be squarely laid at the feet of the unscrupulous elements within the media establishment who went to town proclaiming that the government had issued a decree that amounted to a “Blanket Beef Ban”.

This was followed by a predictable but utterly one-sided, ill-informed, and cacophonic barrage on the virtual highways of Social Media that firmly established this lie as the truth and led to the spiraling of what was a minor notification to the Gazette of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, into a debate on freedom, choice, and infringement of individual rights and liberty.

In a world that communicates more than ever before, the greatest casualty has been communication itself. This strange oxymoron is the only truth of a virtual world where anyone with a smart phone is an expert on subjects spanning the entire gamut of human knowledge.

I have gone over the entire Gazette notification running into 12 pages with a fine-toothed comb and have not been able to locate even one reference to Beef, Blanket, or Ban – the three Bs that have been bandied about by all and sundry. It must be said though that the NDA government erred in not issuing a clarification or calling out those who were guilty of spreading false information – by that logic this government is also guilty by association.

In this article, we take a look at what this new notifications actually outlines and show how this is actually a noteworthy attempt at regulating the sale of cattle (not just cows and bulls) and that there is no mention of any ban on beef or for that matter any mention of the word ban itself.

The first point that jumps out of the Gazette Notification (see image below and relevant portion underlined) is the fact that a draft notification was made available for public scrutiny inviting comments, suggestions and feedback as early as January 16, 2017 and those that were received were considered before the final Notification was issued. The question therefore is where were all these people who are raising objections now when they could have used the opportunity to share their views, suggestions, and even make public their concerns?

Gazette-notificationThe notification further clarifies that “these rules may be called the Prevention of Cruelty to animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets, 2017)” – no mention of cow, beef, or ban clearly.

The two key points to be noted, in the gazette feature under the “Definitions” section of the notification and include an expanded and clearer definition of what constitutes an “Animal Market” and the creation of an “Animal Market Committee”.  “The “animal market” means a market place or sale-yard or any other premises or places to which animals are brought from other places and exposed for sale or auction and includes any lairage adjoining a market or slaughterhouse…”

The “Animal Market Committee” shall include members drawn from the Chief Municipal Office, Jurisdictional Tahasildar, Jurisdictional Veterinary Officer, Jurisdictional Police Inspector, a representative from the SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and two representatives from the Animal Welfare Organization making this body truly representative and inclusive.

Importantly, all animal markets functional prior to the commencement of these rules should register with the committee within a 90-day window (from the commencement of these rules). New applications for the establishment of any new animal market shall be whetted by the committee before being given permission.

Of the several responsibilities of this committee, a key responsibility would be the strict implementation of steps to ensure that no animal market is located in a place situated within twenty five (25) kilometers from any State border and/or within fifty (50) from any international border. This is one of the most important regulations in the Notification that should go a long way in preventing inter-state and cross-border smuggling and illegal trade of cattle particularly cows, bulls, buffaloes, and camels.

The Animal Market Committee is also authorized to inspect, seize, and suo moto cancel registration of animal markets that contravene the new laws after giving reasonable opportunity to the party of being heard. Veterinary inspectors of the Animal Market Committee shall screen animals entering the market for the presence of infectious diseases and injuries and decide on treatment, quarantine, or emergency euthanasia as the case may be.

Sections 14 and 15 of the notification list all practices considered cruel and harmful and the protection of animals from injury or unnecessary pain or suffering – this has been sufficiently expanded to include all modes of cruelty being practiced currently. (At the end of this article, a link to the PDF of the Gazette notification is provided for those who would be interested in reading the notification in its entirety.)

Section 22 of the Gazette notification which deals with the sale of cattle titled “Restrictions on the sale of cattle” is probably the only section that could be considered contentious given how loosely regulated the sale of cattle has been thus far in our country. This is probably the only section that could have been objected to, if at all, and even then a civilized and rational discussion could have sorted out differences if any and provided clarity. Also, the “30-day review-window” provided by the government could also have been used to make changes (if any) to this section.

Section 22 prevents the sale of young animals. Further, an animal cannot be traded without a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle or his/her duly authorized agent. All animals sold at the animal market would be only for the purpose of agriculture and not for the purpose of slaughter or sacrifice.

It is probably this restriction that is at the heart of the entire hullabaloo. In all probability slaughter houses were indulging in illegal buying of perfectly healthy cattle from animal markets when in reality the animal markets are primarily for the purpose of trading in cattle for use in agricultural lands and for agricultural purposes. Nowhere in the notification does it say that slaughter houses are banned from buying cattle directly from farmers for the purpose of slaughter but clearly the illegal practice of slaughter houses buying from animal markets and also the practice of locating slaughter houses adjacent to or very near animal markets is being sought to be prevented or at least restricted and this is as it should be.

In the short term though it is clear that slaughter houses that had it easy and could procure cattle without any restrictions would be put to some difficulty but as mentioned earlier there are no restrictions on buying of cattle directly from farmers. The Government could perhaps look into this aspect and come out with guidelines on how slaughter houses would receive cattle going forward for their businesses to continue to thrive.

It is this aspect that media houses, politicians, and expert commentators should have debated instead of indulging in meaningless polemics and mass slaughter of innocent calves in broad daylight.

In conclusion, it is clear that the prime focus of this notification/regulation is the prevention of cruelty to animals and ensuring protection of animals from needless suffering and pain during the process of handling, transportation, and caging/penning. The clause that restricts the setting up of a slaughter house within 25 kilometers of a State border and 50 kilometers within an International border is another laudable step to prevent the smuggling and illegal inter-state and trans-border trade of cattle. The restriction on sale is only restricted to the animal market and does not prevent direct sale from farmer to slaughter houses.

Mainstream media would do well to report and inform the truth to people rather than focus on building narratives that suit their paymasters in the political arena. Politicians would be advised to focus on their primary job which is to work for the welfare of the state and subjects rather than working to expand fault lines and stoke divisive tendencies within the country.

This article was first published in Rightlog.in on May 30, 2017 under the title: “You are being taken in by the media reports about beef ban, The government report presents an entirely different story” Link to the article on the site is here (Click to read)

Link to the Notification:

Image of Cow: http://blog.daum.net/pzkpfw3485/2247962



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