: This article is not about Democracy, Right to Religious Freedom, or Secularism. It’s written from a purely environmental standpoint. Something I am actively concerned about, having helped put together Mumbai’s Digital Climate March. So let’s quickly get past my last name and read on.
First of, as an environmentalist (most environmentalists are also concerned about the current state of the meat industry) here are the various aspects of the new notification
i.e. Gazette No. 396 ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules, 2017’ issued by the central government that I applaud:
- Prohibition of hot branding and cold branding, shearing, bishoping (in horses) and ear cutting (in buffaloes), and the use of chemicals on the body parts of animals to identify them or make them look younger.
- Prohibition of forcing animals to perform unnatural acts such as dancing and their castration by quacks or traditional healers.
- The rules detail the facilities that every animal market is required to have: adequate space, shade, feeding troughs, water tanks with multiple taps and buckets, lighting, and separate enclosures for sick and infirm animals, among others.
Now let’s quickly ascertain that this ‘Cattle Slaughter Ban’ is socio-political in nature and not environmental or for that matter economical. Then we shall establish why it’s seriously detrimental to the environment and therefore macabrely humorous that the ban originates from our ‘Environment’ Ministry. We shall then invalidate my earlier applause.
- Only 30% of cattle slaughtered in India is used for meat, either for local consumption or export
- Most of the 30% cattle slaughtered is the water buffalo because the culling of cows for meat is either totally banned or allowed with strict riders in all but five states
- Eating, selling, transporting or exporting meat of the cow genus is already a non-bailable offense, punishable by up to 10 years in jail in all of northern, central and western India
- 40% of a dairy farm’s income is derived from the sale of unproductive cows. With the added strain of an increase in demand for dairy, an inability to sell unproductive cows could be the undoing of the dairy industry
- The inability to access a marketplace for sale of their agricultural cattle will add a brand new burden on the shoulders of Indian farmers – by now we should be aware of just how burdened those shoulders are
- 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 ₹3,533 crore to ₹26,685 crore.
- A ban on purchase for the purpose of slaughter means the end of an industry that is worth $5 billion
Given the above data, it’s easy to conclude that the move isn’t economical in nature but is driven by socio-political agendas. Here is why it’s clearly not environmental in its objectives:
- According to the 2012 Livestock Census, India has a total of 191 million cows and bulls and 109 million water buffaloes
- That is roughly 25% of India’s human population
- According to the livestock census, India already has an estimated 5.2 million stray cattle – many of them wandering through urban areas – abandoned by owners that no longer feel it makes sense to feed them, but who cannot find a market for them, due to existing restrictions on cow slaughter
- Gazette no. 396 aims to stop all trade of bovines for slaughter – no selling and no buying
- This will lead our already burdened farmers, to simply stop rearing bovines and abandon their existing ones to fend for themselves
- This has indeed already happened in states like Maharashtra with the 2015 ban on bullock slaughter
- These newly abandoned bovines will add to our 5.2 million stray cattle
Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2). But the negative effect on the climate of CH4 is 84 times higher than the effect of CO2 on climate change. An average cattle produces about 100 kg of methane a year, mostly through flatulence and belching.
A United Nations 400-page report, titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs, and goats. But in almost every case, the world’s 1.5 billion cattle (300 million of which are in India) are most to blame. Livestock is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. That’s more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together. You could even watch this Netflix documentary available in India to learn more about this.
So, the Gazette No. 396 is amazing and it could potentially lead to the end of the cattle-meat industry, therefore reducing the demand for cattle and therefore reducing India’s methane emissions. Which would then make us the world leader in the fight against climate change. But before we begin the applaud, consider these points:
- Sagari Ramdas, a veterinarian who has studied India’s dairy and livestock industries for the Food Sovereignty Alliance, said the “measures were a de facto countrywide ban on the slaughter of cattle and buffalo, and the consumption of beef.“
- “What you are actually saying is that slaughter is a form of cruelty,” says Ms Ramdas. “You are criminalising the entire element of slaughter.”
- The new rules require the seller as well as the purchaser to give an undertaking that the cattle being sold or bought is not meant for slaughter. “…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 or his duly authorized agent….stating that the cattle has not been brought to the market for sale for slaughter,” says one of the provisions.
- “…where an animal has been sold and before its removal from the animal market, the Animal Market Committee (to be formed in every district) shall… take an undertaking that the animals are brought for agriculture purposes and not for slaughter,” says another provision.
The only way that a farmer would allow for the culling of his cattle population (which would then reduce our methane emissions) would be through some form of monetary gain, given that he has invested roughly ₹25,o00 in it.
The only way that sale would happen is if slaughter is allowed. Let’s face it, there is no Indian benefactor going around saying I shall purchase all of the cattle now available, simply so I can cull them for the sake of climate change.
Besides that, is the government fine with the culling of all stray and newly abandoned cattle for purely environmental reasons, with none of the meat being used, but instead destroyed? In this way we could, in a short period of three years, reduce the cattle surplus to only cattle being used for Agricultural and Transport purposes. Would the government ensure that our dear Gaurakshak friends won’t react with their regular lynching tendencies over the culling?
Culling of the newly abandoned or stray cattle is not allowed as a provision in Gazette No. 396, which makes it easy to see that this ruling has little to do with the environment or for that matter animal protection. If it had anything to do with the latter, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying, and Fisheries
of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
would have passed this ruling. From an environmentalist’s standpoint, the former provision where cattle slaughter was allowed (even if for it’s meat) was a far better solution to our environmental problems. At least earlier, there was some form of population control and methane control.
I have not consumed local Cow Meat for as long as I have lived in India. Not because I am a Muslim appeasing my social circles. But simply because I am not a huge fan of where the animal industry is at, ethically and environmentally speaking. Which as I stated at the beginning is something I am actively concerned about.
: Such a disclaimer is needed given the times we live in, considering my last name and the lovely Facebook comments people left me with after I shared my last YKA article.