The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a notification on 23 May 2017 defining a new set of rules and regulations for the livestock markets. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, as it has been named, has a wide set of rules and regulations for the management of animal markets in the country.
As soon as the ministry issued the notification, voices of protest rose from all corners of the country, with the loudest and strongest opposition coming from Kerala. Many were intrigued to see the state, which has one of the least cattle densities among the major states, rise so strongly in protest against the new rules. But it is no surprise because Kerala is one of the top producers of beef and carabeef (buffalo meat) as well as a top consumer.
The nation came in for a rude shock and was visibly disgusted when some youth congress members slaughtered a cow in public and circulated the video, which went viral on the social media. In a country where a majority of the population reveres the cow, this mindless, gruesome act did not help their cause; neither do the ‘beef-festivals’ being organised in protest.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017
The PCA (Regulation of Livestock Markets) 2017 defines rules and regulations in two broad sections:
a) It mandates the constitution of ‘Animal Market Committees’ for the management of all the markets in the district and a ‘District Animal Market Monitoring Committee’ for regulating the markets in each district. It lays down a broad set of guidelines for the facilities to be provided and on ways of treating animals in the market. It also defines a set of rules and regulations for the buyers and sellers of animals.
b) It defines a set of ‘prohibited practices that are cruel and harmful’, a set of rules defining how ‘not’ to treat animals.
Some of these rules and regulations have been the bone of contention, with the most controversial one being Section 22, which lists a set of ‘restrictions on the sale of cattle’. It requires the ‘seller’ to furnish a written declaration stating that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter. The ‘buyer’ is expected to provide a written declaration stating that they will not sacrifice the animal for any religious purpose. The minorities, Dalits and those who consume beef are up in arms, saying this rule effectively bans the supply of beef.
The rule that has disturbed Kerala the most is the one that prohibits the seller from selling “the cattle to a person outside the state without the permission as per the state cattle protection or preservation laws”. This is a rule that effectively applies the brakes to the exponential growth of Kerala’s beef production, as most of the cattle that are slaughtered in Kerala are brought in from the neighbouring states.
Today, Kerala is the state that slaughters the maximum number of cattle in India. Kerala’s recognised slaughter houses slaughtered over 11.7 lakh cattle in 2014-15!
Kerala is one of the top meat-consuming states as a majority of Keralites are non-vegetarians with chicken, duck, mutton and beef being the most consumed meat in the state. Beef is part and parcel of Kerala cuisine. Eating beef is not taboo there; in fact, most eateries in the state offer beef as part of the regular menu.
People across religions consume beef in Kerala making it part of the regular household cuisine.
Beef production, export and consumption
Kerala is not just a top consumer but also a top producer of beef. It is one of the top beef and carabeef (buffalo meat) producing states of India, reporting steep growth in the production of beef from cattle and buffaloes during the last decade. In fact, it has seen one of the highest growth in production among major Indian states. The state’s beef and carabeef production has more than tripled from 2009. In 2009-2010, Kerala slaughtered 498,510 cattle and 410,270 buffaloes. In total, Kerala slaughtered 908,780 cattle and buffaloes.
The number of slaughtered animals (cattle and buffalo) zoomed to 1,164,480 cattle and 9,10,660 buffaloes in 2014-15, totaling 2,075,140 animals. The number of cattle and buffalo slaughtered spiralled by almost three times in about five years! Kerala, which was the second top state in 2009-10 for the number of cattle slaughtered, behind Bihar, rose to the top position in 2014-15 with 1,164,480 cattle slaughtered, leaving Bihar a distant second at 510,730.
According to a report, of the 2,100 slaughter houses in Kerala, just over a hundred were authorised, and there were two mechanised slaughter houses.
The volume of beef and carabeef rose from 90,700 tonnes in 2009-10 to 249,020 tonnes in 2014-15.
According to India’s nineteenth Livestock Census, 2012, Kerala has one of the lowest cattle densities, with just about 2,716,687 cattle. It is one of the lowest cattle per household among major Indian states! The cattle population in Kerala was 33.96 lakh in 1996. It declined to 21.22 lakh in 2003 and further down to 17.20 lakh by 2007.