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Centre bans sale of cattle for slaughter at livestock markets
 
(New Delhi, May 26,2017):In a move amounting to a virtual ban on slaughter of cattle, the Centre on Friday announced strict rules to prohibit sale of animals for slaughter or religious sacrifice at livestock markets and animal fairs that are a common occurrence in rural areas. The animals under purview are cows, bulls, bullocks, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels.

The official reasoning is the order is intended to end uncontrolled and unregulated animal trade. The rules won't apply to goats and sheep, often sacrificed during Id. Apart from the stated objective of curbing unregulated trade, mixing of milch animals with older, less healthy beasts meant for slaughter, the move has political overtones in tune with BJP's pledge to "protect" the cow and its progeny.

The rules are in line with BJP's emphasis on shutting down illegal slaughterhouses during the UP poll and the views expressed by senior leaders calling for the promotion of "cattle wealth" rather than the meat trade.

Meat export organisations have protested the move saying it was sudden and arbitrary and will affect their business that is already taking a hit over the actions of BJP governments that have discouraged the trade.

Activists welcomed the step taken in the wake of Supreme Court's directions for regulation of livestock markets. "We commend the ministry for their vision and their efforts to protect the most vulnerable animals, be it animals used as reproductive machines for breeding or animals that are cruelly sold off at unregulated markets," said Gauri Maulekhi, trustee at People for Animals (PFA).

With the onus being on cattle owners to certify that cattle will not be sold for slaughter or sacrifice, the trade in animals will be more regulated, said officials.

The rules will bring in new norms for the functioning of well-known livestock markets or annual cattle fairs like the ones at Sonepur (Bihar) and Pushkar (Rajasthan) or in other states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Animals for slaughter can now be bought directly from farms — a move expected to ensure traceability and food safety standards and weed out middlemen between farmers and slaughterhouses, and increase the income of farmers who rear such animals for trade. New rules have, however, not banned sale of such animals for agriculture purposes or milk. But it can be done only through regulated livestock markets which will have to adhere to safety standards and certain do's and don'ts to avoid cruelty against the animals.

The rules, notified by the ministry of environment, will have to be implemented within three months across the country, including Kerala, which allow cow slaughter. Though the issues relating to cow slaughter come under the 'state' subject in terms of making law and framing the rules, the new central rules are notified under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960 that gives the Centre power over animal welfare.

"The rules intend to promote the concept of 'farm to fork', which revolves around the traceability of food products as they move through the supply chain. Due to the present system of open markets that allow trade of both milch and slaughter animals, and multiple buyers and sellers, it becomes impossible to trace an animal back to its farm of origin", said N G Jayasimha, managing director of the Humane Society International/India, who was part of the drafting committee of the Regulation of Livestock market rules.

He said, "The animals being sold for slaughter are generally unfit, making the markets a major hub for the spread of infectious diseases as there are no records and no liability. Cattle suffering from foot & mouth disease or mad cow disease may be sold. So, the idea behind the new rules is to ensure that only healthy animals are traded for agricultural purposes, whereas animals for slaughter must be sourced directly from farms to ensure traceability".

The rules also provide for setting up a district-level authority to enforce animal protection laws on the ground, including those against illegal slaughter. As part of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, it makes a provision of constitution of Animal Market Committee for management of animal markets in the district. The Committee will have to ensure that no person will bring a cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle that "the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter".

The purchaser will have to give an undertaking that he/she will not sell the animal for purpose of slaughter, follow the state cattle protection or preservation laws, not sacrifice the animal for any religious purpose and not sell the cattle to a person outside the state without the permission as per the state cattle protection laws.

Under the rules, no animal market will be allowed in a place that is within 25 km from any state border or that is within 50 km from any international border. Besides, unfit animals, pregnant animals, animals who have not been vaccinated and animals under six months of age cannot be displayed or sold at any of the cattle market anywhere in the country.

The market committee will have to keep a record of name and address of the purchaser and procure his identity proof. The committee will also have to ensure that the purchaser of the animal gives a declaration that he shall not sell the animal up to six months from the date of purchase and shall abide by the rules relating to transport of animals made under the Act or any other law for the time being in force.

Since the rules include buffaloes in their definition of cattle, big traders and exporters will initially feel the heat in procuring the animals for meat. But the regulation of slaughter houses and closure of illegal ones will ultimately bring consistency of supply in the market and ensure food safety standard. India is currently a major buffalo meat exporting country which grew from Rs 3,533 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 26,685 crore in 2015-16.

"The three-month time given for implementing these rules will be sufficient to regulate the practice. After all, the specific provisions will only apply to animals in livestock market and animal seized as case properties. The legal slaughter houses can directly procure animals from farms", said an official.


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