Cat­tle Trade Ban

Libertatem Magazine - - News Story - Nitya Jain

On 23rd May, 2017 En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry banned the sale and pur­chase of cat­tle from an­i­mal mar­kets for slaugh­ter to en­sure their wel­fare and also to pre­vent smug­gling by is­su­ing a no­tice un­der Prevention of Cru­elty to An­i­mals (Reg­u­la­tion of Live­stock Mar­kets) Rules, 2017, which turned out to be a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue. Ac­cord­ing to Min­istry, these rules are re­sult of two Supreme Court or­ders from the years 2015 & 2016 wherein Supreme Court had asked the govern­ment to draft rules for wel­fare of the an­i­mals by pre­vent­ing them from be­ing smug­gled out of In­dia to Nepal for Gad­hi­mai fes­ti­val where nu­mer­ous sac­ri­fices take place. As a re­sult, the rules im­pose var­i­ous sanc­tions on the slaugh­ter mar­ket, farm­ers, ex­port mar­ket and cer­tain re­li­gious mi­nori­ties.

De­tails of The New Guide­lines

The no­ti­fi­ca­tion en­tails de­tailed rules which de­fend an­i­mal rights and pre­vent il­le­gal smug­gling.

Now, the word ‘cat­tle’ in­cludes not only the pri­mary cow and calves but also buf­faloes, heifers, camels, bul­locks, bulls and steers.

The new guide­lines tend to al­ter the def­i­ni­tion of ‘an­i­mal mar­ket’. Ac­cord­ing to the no­ti­fi­ca­tion, an­i­mal

mar­ket means, “a mar­ket place or sale-yard or any other premises or place to which an­i­mals are brought from other places and ex­posed for sale or auc­tion and in­cludes any lair age ad­join­ing a mar­ket or a slaugh­ter­house and used in con­nec­tion with it and any place ad­join­ing a mar­ket used as a park­ing area by vis­i­tors to the mar­ket for park­ing ve­hi­cles and in­cludes an­i­mal fair and cat­tle pound where an­i­mals are of­fered or dis­played for sale or auc­tion”

Fur­ther­more, the seller and pur­chaser will now have to give an un­der­tak­ing that the cat­tle sold is not for slaugh­ter and won’t be sold for atleast six months from the pur­chase date. A doc­u­men­tary proof that the pur­chaser is an agri­cul­tur­ist is also manda­tory. Fur­ther, a seller can­not sell cat­tle out­side the state with­out per­mis­sion un­der State cat­tle pro­tec­tion laws. Both seller and buyer will have to pro­duce iden­tity and farm­land own­er­ship doc­u­ments. The trans­ac­tion in­volves loads of pa­per­work and doc­u­men­ta­tion. – Af­ter buy­ing a cow, a trader must make five copies of proof of sale and sub­mit them at the lo­cal rev­enue of­fice, the lo­cal vet­eri­nary doc­tor in the dis­trict of the pur­chaser, an­i­mal mar­ket com­mit­tee, apart from one each for seller and buyer.

There is a com­plete re­place­ment of com­pet­i­tive mar­ket with direct sourc­ing as the rules im­ply that the buy­ers will have to go to the farmer di­rectly to buy the cat­tle. Fur­ther, the num­ber of cat­tle houses will be re­duced to one or two as com­pared to hun­dreds which ex­isted be­fore the no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Eco­nomic Im­pli­ca­tions

The govern­ment ex­plains this move to be di­rected to­wards re­duc­ing il­le­gal slaugh­ter­ing of bovines in the coun­try. Their aim is to erad­i­cate all the il­le­gal slaugh­ter houses as such a prac­tice is bla­tant in the coun­try. For ex­am­ple, in 2013, the state of Andhra Pradesh es­ti­mated that there were 3,100 il­le­gal and 6 li­censed slaugh­ter­houses in the state. The no­ti­fi­ca­tion will surely up­turn this sce­nario.

Fur­ther, a se­ri­ous bone of con­tention has been the buf­faloes. Buf­falo meat is one of the pri­mary sources of meat ex­port in the coun­try. The In­dian buf­falo meat in­dus­try ex­ports worth $4 bil­lion an­nu­ally and more, apart from sup­ply­ing raw hide to leather units that ac­count for an­other $5.5 bil­lion. An­nual herd re­place­ment through slaugh­ter is 15 per cent or 16 mil­lion out of a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 108.70 mil­lion. The buf­falo ex­port in­dus­tries will face the worst hit as pro­cure­ment of raw ma­te­rial would be­come ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for them. They com­plain that they were not con­sulted be­fore is­su­ing such a no­ti­fi­ca­tion which would jolt their busi­ness tremen­dously. As a re­sult of which ex­ports are prone to de­cel­er­a­tion in up­com­ing months as the do­mes­tic sup­ply chain is blocked. An­other stake­holder is the farmer. The im­pli­ca­tion will be two-fold.

Farm­ers of­ten rear bulls and buf­faloes in­stead of cows as they pro­vide more milk and their meat fetches them more price. Af­ter the cat­tle (bulls and cows) have aged and stop milch­ing, the farmer sells them in an­i­mal mar­ket and earns around 15,000-20,000 ru­pees out of the sale. But af­ter the no­ti­fi­ca­tion, it would be­come dif­fi­cult to dis­pose off their cat­tle, also re­sult­ing in a low in­come. This would fur­ther lead to a hike in the prices of milk and milk prod­ucts as the farm­ers would not re­ceive their nor­mal in­come. Now, a farmer may be forced to sell his cat­tle for half the price be­cause of the ab­sence of a free an­i­mal mar­ket. The last nail in the cof­fin is com­plex pa­per work as it will cre­ate a prob­lem for such farm­ers and traders who are il­lit­er­ate. The trans­porta­tion of cat­tle has also be­come dif­fi­cult be­cause of the strin­gent norms and the highly charged cow vig­i­lantes.

A new con­fu­sion is be­ing raised due to the def­i­ni­tion of lair age. If a lair age is also con­sid­ered “an­i­mal mar­ket”, it rules out the pos­si­bil­ity for slaugh­ter of even live­stock sourced di­rectly from farms. Hence, slaugh­ter­house com­mu­nity is per­plexed as their busi­ness might come to a stand­still.

So­cial Im­pli­ca­tions

Many peo­ple see this new law as be­ing re­li­giously mo­ti­vated. Cow is a holy an­i­mal for the ma­jor­ity whereas it is a source of pro­tein and in­come for the mi­nor­ity. This tus­sle was ag­gra­vated on 23rd May as the min­istry is­sued Cat­tle trade laws. The re­li­gious mi­nori­ties in­clud­ing Mus­lims, Dal­its eat beef and own the ma­jor­ity of slaugh­ter­houses in the coun­try. Also, some of them use aged cat­tle for mak­ing sacred sac­ri­fices. On the other hand, Hin­dus wor­ship cow as their mother and stand against eat­ing and trad­ing of beef. The govern­ment’s no­ti­fi­ca­tion which was aimed at pro­tec­tion of the cat­tle was in­ter­preted by some re­li­giously charged peo­ple to be against the mi­nor­ity and took an ugly shape soon af­ter its is­suance. This has a his­tory at­tached to it. BJP has of­ten ad­vo­cated cow pro­tec­tion along with its ide­o­log­i­cal sup­porter- RSS. Lately, there have been hot de­bates in the coun­try on rul­ing govern­ment try­ing to change the eat­ing habits of the coun­try. A re­cent video of a Mus­lim man hav­ing been charged to have eaten beef and beaten up bru­tally by cow vig­i­lantes went vi­ral and de­picts the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion. It is be­ing hyped up as a proxy war be­tween the ma­jor­ity and mi­nor­ity with the govern­ment in­clin­ing to­wards the ma­jor­ity.

Reg­u­lat­ing cat­tle trade is a state sub­ject but an­i­mal wel­fare is han­dled by the Union. En­vi­ron­ment min­istry no­ti­fied the rules un­der an­i­mal wel­fare laws but gave the en­force­ment power to dis­trict administration. States like Ker­ala and West Ben­gal have ve­he­mently op­posed the or­der and said that they will not fol­low even an inch of it. Ker­ala has or­ga­nized beef festivals and West Ben­gal’s Chief Min­is­ter has asked its po­lice not to ap­proach any slaugh­ter house for clos­ing them. Mamta Ban­er­jee posed the ques­tion of right to eat. She stated that what one wants to eat is a per­sonal choice and state has no right to in­ter­vene in it. Ker­ala’s Chief min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan called the ban as “anti-fed­eral, anti-demo­cratic and anti-sec­u­lar”. He also urged his coun­ter­parts in other states to “stand to­gether” and op­pose it. Beef and buf­falo are also some im­por­tant in­gre­di­ents in north-east­ern states and a source of cheap pro­tein for its poor peo­ple. Hence, the out­cry roars from all di­rec­tions in the ears of the Union.

Le­gal­ity Un­der Ques­tion

Ac­cord­ing to some le­gal ex­perts the le­gal­ity of these rules is ques­tion­able. The Union has used ‘cru­elty to an­i­mals’ to jus­tify the new rules but the Act un­der which these rules have been framed does not treat slaugh­ter as ‘cru­elty’. While fram­ing rules, one can­not over­ride the Act. Fur­ther, the ju­ris­dic­tion of preser­va­tion of an­i­mals falls ex­clu­sively un­der the state list. One can also see the new rules as bar­ring one’s right to trade and pro­fes­sion which is a fun­da­men­tal right un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia. The own­er­ship of cat­tle is also jeop­ar­dized when the owner is for­bid­den to sell it for first 6 months.


Cat­tle ban has lead to a huge out­cry in the coun­try. While the govern­ment states its pi­ous in­ten­tions, many have been call­ing the guide­lines un-sec­u­lar and un­rea­son­able. The eco­nomic front of the coun­try is ought to be af­fected neg­a­tively be­cause of the ban as the ex­porters are un­able to re­ceive the raw ma­te­rial. In­ter­nal eco­nomic tur­bu­lence will also oc­cur be­cause of the loss to farm­ers. The agenda is of­ten be­ing termed as po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda of the right winged govern­ment and faces strin­gent op­po­si­tion from the left­ists es­pe­cially Ker­ala and West Ben­gal. Strife be­tween the ma­jor­ity and mi­nor­ity has sur­faced as the cow vig­i­lantes be­come vi­o­lent and nu­mer­ous cases of deaths, rapes and in­juries are re­ported be­cause of beef con­sump­tion. How­ever, the move is wel­comed by the hu­man right ac­tivists be­cause of its pro­tec­tive ap­proach to­wards the bovines. The Union has called for sug­ges­tions and promised to re­vise the ban if re­quired. In­deed the Union needs to mull upon the im­pli­ca­tions of this ban as op­po­si­tion be­comes vig­or­ous day by day.

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