Animal markets — pashu haat or pashu mela as they are popularly known as in many parts of the country — can no longer be used to sell or buy cattle for purposes of slaughtering them for meat. The environment ministry on Friday issued new rules to regulate these animal markets with the stated objective of preventing cruelty to animals and streamlining the trade in cattle. The new rules would apply to bulls, cows, buffalos and camels.
The rules require the seller as well as purchaser to give an undertaking that the cattle being sold or bought was 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 authorised 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 rules also require the Animal Market Committee to ensure that the purchaser of the cattle does not further sell the animal for purpose of slaughter. The new rules, called the Regulation of Livestock Market Rules, have been framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
These would now make it mandatory for all existing animal markets to register themselves with the Animal Market Committee to be formed in every district of the country and ensure certain minimum infrastructure and facilities for animals at these markets. Such infrastructure include provisions for housing, shade, lighting, water supply, toilets, veterinary facilities, and separate enclosures for young and pregnant animals.
The rules prohibit “cruel and harmful” practices like hot or cold branding of animals, shearing or painting of horns, ear-cutting in buffalos, forcing animals to perform “unnatural acts” like dancing, putting any ornaments or decorative materials on animals, and injecting Oxytocin in milch cattle.
A number of other restrictions on the way the animals can be treated have also been included. “Unfit” animals, including those in advanced pregnancy, or which are infirm or diseased or injured, would not be allowed to be sold at these animal markets.
To curb instances of cattle smuggling, the new rules prohibit the animal markets to be located within 25 km of state borders or within 50 km of an international border.
The new rules are likely to make it difficult for the slaughter houses, even legal ones, to source cattle for meat, especially since the definition of animal markets includes lairage as well. Lairage is a place where cattle rest while being transported to markets or slaughter-houses. Currently, a large number of cattle at the animal markets are traded for slaughter.
“The animals being sold for slaughter are generally unfit, making these markets the hub for the spread of infectious diseases. The idea behind these new rules is to ensure that only healthy animals are traded for agricultural purposes, whereas animals for slaughter must be sourced directly from farms to ensure traceability,” NG Jayasimha, a former member of the legal sub-committee of Animal Welfare Board of India, said in a statement.