Government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.It came under heavy criticism that it is constitutional misadventure on multiple grounds involving fundamental rights, separation of powers and federalism. It is important to know the new rules and the issues involved in it.
The prime focus of the regulation is to protect the animals from cruelty and not to regulate the existing trade in cattle for slaughter houses. It is envisaged that welfare of cattle dealt in the market will be ensured and that only healthy animals are traded for agriculture purposes for the benefits of the farmers. The notified rules will remove the scope of illegal sale and smuggling of the cattle which is a major concern. The specific provisions apply only to animals which are bought and sold in the notified live stock markets and animals that are seized as case properties.
Why such a rule?
Environment Ministry has issued a clarification that the notification is issued on the basis of the Supreme Court order in the case of Gauri Maulekhi versus Union of India and others.
- It allows only farmland owners to trade at animal markets. Both seller and buyer will have to produce identity and farmland ownership documents.
- After buying a cow, a trader must make five copies of proof of sale and submit them at the local revenue office, the local veterinary doctor in the district of the purchaser, animal market committee, apart from one each for seller and buyer
- The cattles bought cannot be resold within six months
- District Animal Market Monitoring Committee be set up in each which will be headed by a Magistrate, for regulation of animal markets in the district.
- It also mandates the AMC to ensure that the buyer of cattle does not further sell the animals for slaughter.
- The local authority is then directed to make a list of animal markets functional prior to the commencement of the rules.
- It bans setting of animal markets within 50 km of an international border and 25 km of a state border.
- Taking animal outside the State will require special approval of the State Government nominee.
- The Rules go on to prohibit several practices as “cruel and harmful”. These include
- Animal identification methods such as hot branding and cold branding;
- Shearing and painting of horns, bishoping in horses and ear cutting in buffaloes;
- Casting animals on hard ground without adequate bedding;
- Use of any chemicals or colors on body parts of animals.
- The person in charge of an animal has been fixed with the responsibility to ensure that the animal is not caused injury or unnecessary pain or suffering.
- They also make it mandatory for veterinary inspector to certify proper loading and unloading of animals to ensure they are not cramped inside trucks. The inspector can proceed to mark any animal unfit for sale.
- The new regulation such as, cattle bought cannot be resold for six months will hurt the business of cattle traders
- It introduced a lot of paperwork for cattle traders who are predominantly illiterate and poor.
- It provides too much discretion on the hand of veterinary inspector. He has to certify proper loading and unloading of animals. He can also mark any animal unfit for sale.
- Traders are of the view that this definition of animal markets makes it very difficult for them to procure animals.
- The industry fears that it will lead to huge losses as most of the cattle trade for slaughter takes place through animal markets.
- 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 slaughterhouses.
- The ban has hurt mostly Muslim meat and leather traders who face mounting violence by cow vigilante groups.
- Farmers have also been deprived of a traditional source of income from selling non-milch and ageing cattle.
- Only state governments were empowered to make laws on cattle markets and fairs, which rendered the new rules arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.
- It is argued that the rules were violative of the fundamental right to carry on trade and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960, under which the rules were notified, itself does not ban cattle slaughter
- The Centre must address the concerns of the trade as well as of those who suspect the notification is a part of a Machiavellian plot to influence and curb food choices.
- While there is a case to retain most of the rules prohibiting the cruel treatment of animals, the ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets must go.
- “The proposed ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at agricultural markets violates fundamental rights of food and livelihood, and the spirit of federalism.” Critically comment
- “Govt has banned the sale, purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter by notifying a stringent rule under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.” Examine the issues involved.