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The Central Governmenton 26th May 2017 announced strict rules to prohibit sale of animals for slaughter and sale. The ban on slaughter is alsoapplicable to 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 reasonbehind the order is intended to end uncontrolled and unregulated animal trade. The rules won’t apply to goats and sheep, often sacrificed during Id.

Meat export organizationsprotested the move saying it was sudden and arbitrary and that it will affect their business.

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.

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 allows 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 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.

 

Sanchayeeta Das

The Indian Lawyer

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