The lowdown on the slaughter ban in U.P.
WHAT IS IT
BJP promise in Uttar Pradesh that if it came to power it would ban illegal slaughterhouses and put a stop to licensed mechanical slaughter of buffaloes has put the Yogi Adityanath government in a spot. Immediately after taking the oath, the Chief Minister warned the police that local police officers would be made accountable if illegal meat shops and slaughterhouses were found functioning. The authorities, in turn, acted not only against illegal slaughterhouses but also mechanised slaughterhouses and meat-processing and packaging units. All meat sellers across Western Uttar Pradesh downed shutters in protest, putting the thriving meat industry — exports from the State in 2015-16 stood at ₹11,350 crore — in a crisis.
HOW DID IT COME ABOUT
The BJP claimed that due to the meat trade, cattle stock had come down in the State. Meat exporters rejected this allegation, referring to the livestock census 2012, which concluded that there was a 28% growth in the population of buffaloes and 10% growth in cows since 2007. After the government was sworn in, even private meat-processing units, which had No-Objection Certificates but had minor technical faults were asked to shut down, according to the National Meat Exporters’ Union. For instance, Al Aqsa and Al Yasir meat-processing plants in Meerut, two major players in the meat export trade, were closed for not having an apA proved map by the Meerut Development Authority. Slaughter of cow and oxen is banned in the State, but slaughter of buffalo is not. Action against illegal slaughterhouses is not new. In May 2015, the National Green Tribunal asked the State government to bar illegal slaughterhouses as they were polluting the environment.
WHY DOES IT MATTER
India is the largest buffalo meat exporter in the world. The total worth of the buffalo meat industry is valued at $5 billion. About 43% of the total buffalo meat export, the highest in the country in 2015-16, came from Uttar Pradesh, according to the Agriculture and Processed Food Export Development Authority. Indian buffalo meat is in demand globally because of low prices. According to the Meat and Livestock Report-2014, prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, while a kg of buffalo meat from India costs around $2.88, Brazil and Australia sell it at $4.52 and the U.S. at $4.73.
U.P. is also India’s largest meat-processing State because 38 of the 72 government-approved abattoirs-cum-meat processing plants/standalone abattoirs are in the State. The crackdown is also bad news for the leather industry and leather-based exports. The All-India Meat and Livestock Exporters’ Association has noted that such widespread closures would affect the livelihood of 25 lakh people directly or indirectly.
The leather industry, one of the biggest exporters from India, is dependent on the beef industry. With more than 12,000 small and big leather units in Agra and Kanpur, U.P. employs over 25 lakh people, mostly belonging to the marginalised and underprivileged sections like the Scheduled Castes. A blanket ban on the meat industry could adversely affect milk production. India’s meat export market faces strong competition from North America and Brazil. Unfavourable conditions for legal buffalo meat-exporting units in the State will jeopardise India’s strong position.
The State government has assured meat operators that legal slaughterhouses need not worry, but meat exporters allege that it had already shut down more than 10 major meatprocessing units. According to government data, U.P. has more than 375 illegal slaughterhouses. The Uttar Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1959, which governs slaughterhouses, states that civic bodies shall ensure that fresh and hygienic meat is provided to people and supervise the operation of slaughterhouses within city limits. But most cities do not have a corporationrun slaughterhouse, thus creating hundreds of illegal ones. Even if a slaughterhouse is legal, cattle traders are scared of the vigilantism by Hindutva groups. These vigilante groups, who often stop vehicles to check whether they are carrying any buffalo, treat everything related to meat as illegal. Cattle traders are afraid of taking their stock even to legal slaughterhouses.