Until recently, only some parts of India banned the slaughter of cows. That just changed, however, when the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified new rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, banning the sale of cattle for slaughter in open markets across the country. This is seemingly in response to recent vigilante violence against Muslim cattle traders.
Groups of Hindu nationalists are beginning to aggressively protect cows, an animal viewed as sacred in their religion. According to NPR,
“The president of the women’s wing of the National Cow Protection Group, she says her members will take the law into their own hands when the police don’t.”
Things were getting increasingly violent. A 55-year-old driver was lynched by a mob in Rajasthan, alleging he was illegally carrying cows.
The government has attempted to take control of the situation, banning the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter from animal markets. These markets are essentially sale yards where the animals are purchased for slaughter for food and other reasons. Cattle, in the notification, are defined as “bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves and camels”.
To ensure that no cattle entering the animal markets are to be sold for slaughter, the notification states that,
“No person shall bring a cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle – stating the name and address of the owner of the cattle, with a copy of the photo identification proof […] Giving details of the identification of the cattle and stating that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter.”
While this might not sound like a major change, it will significantly affect the welfare of many farmers and Muslim traders. Farmers traditionally acquire income from the sale of their old and non-milch cattle. Now, if they are unable to keep the cattle at their properties, they’ll have to pay for expensive upkeep in shelters. Although they can still trade the cattle for purposes other than slaughter, the process now requires significant amounts of paperwork to be handled by a group of hardworking people who are mostly illiterate and already living in poverty.
Along with the inability to sell animals for slaughter, the ban also requires that no animals are to be sacrificed for religious purposes and they may not be sold out of state without permission.
Many are concerned with the new ban, especially since it will likely not effect the violent mob attacks on farmers and traders.
“The new rules of buffalo trade on which we were not consulted has come as a surprise and shock for the industry. It is not possible for individual farmers to sell their spent animals for slaughter (directly to us) without going to the nearest animal market,” said Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson for the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, the trade lobby of buffalo meat exporters. “It is strange that the environment ministry wants to make rules on ‘traceability’ when the animal husbandry department is in the process of framing these rules […]
Also, the new rules will likely promote vigilantism and eventually hurt the dairy industry.
“How will you explain to a mob whether the animals being transported are for dairy or slaughter?” Alavi added.
He’s likely correct. It seems like an important subject on both sides and does not appear that the Indian government is truly putting an end to the unnecessary violence. Whether this stems from the actual welfare of the animals or from a more deeply rooted disdain for religious variances, the ban will be in full effect within the next three months.
Only time will tell if it truly makes a positive difference in the lives of the humans and animals involved.