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FAQ: What the new norms of cattle trade are all about

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-05-2017 Mayank Aggarwal

New Delhi: The government on 23rd May notified new rules tightening trade in livestock and transport of cattle to ensure their welfare at animal markets and also prevent smuggling. The rules prohibit the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, effectively barring this nationwide, including in states such as Kerala which allow the slaughter of cows. The new rules include buffaloes in their definition of cattle and this will likely jeopardize the buffalo meat export business as it will disrupt the supply of spent buffaloes, according to a meat exporters’ association. Here’s a look at what the controversy is about:

Who brought in these norms?

Environment ministry notified Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 on 23 May 2017.

What does the new rules entail?

Rules list detailed measures for protection and welfare of cattle in animal markets. Cattle, as per notification means, bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves and camels. It also brings very strict rules for cattle trade and bans trade of cattle for slaughter in animal markets.

Both purchaser and seller have to give an undertaking that the cattle sold in these markets are not for slaughter. Purchaser has to provide documentary proof that he is an agriculturist also give an undertaking that he will not sell the animal for at least six months from the date of purchase.

The animal market committee will have to ensure that the purchaser will not sell the cattle for slaughter, not sacrifice the animal for religious purpose and not sell the cattle to a person outside the State without the permission as per the State cattle protection or preservation laws.

As per the notification, animal markets are defined as “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 lairage 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”.

Traders say this definition of animal markets make it very difficult for them to procure animals.

How will cattle trade be affected?

Cow slaughter is already banned in majority of states. But India is currently the global leader in buffalo meat exports, which grew at a compound annual rate of 29% between 2007-08 and 2015-16, from Rs3,533 crore to Rs26,685 crore (13,14,158.05 Metric Tons).

The major areas for buffalo meat production are Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab. The major export destinations are Vietnam Social Republic, Malaysia, Egypt Arab Republic, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Most of the cattle trade for slaughter takes place through animal markets. Thus the new rules will make it difficult for farmers to dispose their spent cattle as traders usually buy buffaloes from farmers in cattle markets and then transport them to slaughter houses.

The rules will lead to lot of paperwork for farmers and traders to ensure that traded animals do not reach slaughter houses.

What do animal rights activists say?

The rules will ensure food safety and traceability of animals. It will also ensure cattle are not smuggled or slaughtered illegally.

“Now the cattle for slaughter can only be bought from farmers from their farms directly. The slaughter house agents who used to buy such animals from the markets can now buy them from farmers directly from their farms - thus eliminating the middlemen,” said N.G. Jayasimha, managing director of Humane Society International India, an NGO working on animal rights, and a member of the committee which drafted the new rules.

So, how will farmers sell their spent buffalo now? Where will slaughter houses get their supplies from?

Traders have to now procure from farmers directly and send them to slaughter houses without taking the animals to markets. This means individual farmers will have fewer avenues to dispose spent buffaloes which now fetches them over Rs20,000 per animal. Also, a farmer in Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh where there are no large slaughter export units will find it difficult to sell their unproductive animals. Meat export units fear their supply lines will be choked after these new rules are enforced.

Is the move beneficial for the dairy industry?

If farmers are unable to get the full economic value of their cattle after it stops giving milk, especially for buffalo which is allowed to be slaughtered for meat, the lost income will have to be incorporated in milk prices, implying price of milk and milk products may increase in the near future. Also, dairy owners fear it will be difficult for them to purchase and transport animals due to the rigorous paperwork and undertakings required, as also explaining to vigilantes on the street that the animals they are transporting are not for slaughter.

Farmers have been moving away from rearing cows to raising buffaloes as the later gives more milk and spent animals can be sold for slaughter. The new rules will lead to significant dip in price of buffaloes, and increase the risks while transporting animals, even for dairy purposes.

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