The Centre is set to amend controversial rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that banned the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets. The changes could clear the confusion over several issues, including whether buffaloes should be kept out of the ban. “The issue is being politicised and the notification has been ‘misconstrued, misinterpreted and misunderstood’. If the misinterpretation is because of particular words or sentences, we will make efforts to remove that confusion,” Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan told Business Standard.
The rules, notified on May 23, laid down several preconditions. including an undertaking from a buyer that animals bought were meant for farming and not for slaughter. The notification had brought livestock markets across the country to a halt. The trade in buffalo meat collapsed as over 90 per cent of the animals are bought by slaughter houses from cattle markets.
Cattle as defined by the rules included bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves, including camel. Apart from the buffalo meat trade, the notification rattled the country’s livestock and dairy industry.
The Opposition Congress termed the rule as an assault on the people’s eating habits as beef is consumed in the southern states. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the move as an effort to impose the RSS agenda over the country.
Beef fests were organised on a large scale in the southern states. In one instance, Youth Congress workers publicly killed a cow, sparking protests from the BJP and other parties.Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the notification was not meant to regulate slaughter while Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said cattle was the engine of growth in rural areas.
“It was never the intent of the government to directly or indirectly adversely affect the slaughter business or harm farmers or even influence the food habits of people,” Harsh Vardhan said. He added the government was studying representations from all sections and would take remedial measures soon.
Officials said there could have been some drafting flaws in the notification. “It was never the government’s intent to harm business and food habits,” an official remarked. Reacting to Harsh Vardhan’s statement, DB Sabharwal, secretary-general of the All-India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, said exporters would wait for the amendment as also the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter, expected on June 15.
India is a global leader in buffalo meat exports, which grew at 29 per cent annually between 2007-08 and 2015-16 to ~26,685 crore. The country is also the largest producer of milk, of which over half is buffalo milk.
Some reports said Agriculture Produce and Export Development Authority under the ministry of commerce had written to the ministry to of environment to exempt buffalo from cattle slaughter rules.