“All urban slaughter-houses as well as the butchers and flayers working there should be licensed, and entry to slaughter-houses strictly regulated. Greater proportion of the income derived from slaughter-houses should be spent on their upkeep, efficient running and improvement.” I can quote much more in the same vein. This isn’t something NGT (National Green Tribunal) has said. It is a quote from a Committee set up in 1955 (report submitted in 1957) by the ministry of food and agriculture, on slaughter-houses and meat inspection practices. Under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), there are the 2001 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules. Section 3(1) states, “No person shall slaughter any animal within a municipal area except in a slaughter-house recognized or licensed by the concerned authority empowered under the law for the time being in force.” The Rules go on to specify amenities in slaughterhouses and lairages and processes for slaughter. Under the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, we also have the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations of 2011. From Schedule 1 of this, a Central license will be required for “all slaughter-houses equipped to slaughter more than 50 large animals or 150 or more small animals including sheep and goats or 1000 or more poultry birds per day.” We thus have a dual FSSAI (the Authority under FSSA) and municipal registration/licence for the high-end and only a municipal registration/licence for others.
There is no getting away for some kind of registration/licence—with slaughterhouses divided into ovine (sheep), caprine (goats), suilline (pigs), bovine (cattle), poultry and fish. Those are actually FSSAI registration heads, not municipal. We have FSSAI data from last year, when the health minister gave a written reply to Rajya Sabha. Sixty-two slaughterhouses are registered with FSSAI. Twenty are from UP. Every other state has less than ten. Assuming all those who should get registered under FSSAI do so, this is a remarkably small number. Through department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, because of a RTI query, we also have data (for 2014) on number of registered slaughterhouses. This is “as reported by states/UT governments” and is therefore about municipal ones. The total number comes to 1,623, with more than 100 in Andhra Pradesh (183), Maharashtra (316), Tamil Nadu (130) and UP (285). Bengal has a mere 11. We want registration because amenities and conditions improve and clearly, these are gross under-estimates.
There have been writ petitions and special leave petitions in the Supreme Court since 2001. To quote from a 2014 Order of the Supreme Court, “We notice that there is no periodical supervision or inspection of the various slaughter houses functioning in various parts of the country. Action Taken Reports would indicate that, in many States, slaughter houses are functioning without any licence and even the licenced slaughter houses are also not following the various provisions as well as the guidelines issued by the MoEF, which we have already referred to in our earlier orders.” There is also Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which tell us there are 3,600 authorised slaughterhouses, compared to that other figure of 1,623. If we go back to something like 1992, that 3,600 figure becomes more specific, because we have a CPCB industry document on slaughterhouses, meat and sea-food processing. This tells us, “As reported by the Ministry of Food Processing, a total of 3,616 recognized slaughter-houses” exist. With that cut-off of 100, there are 343 in Andhra Pradesh, 633 in Karnataka, 715 in Kerala, 261 in MP, 282 in Maharashtra, 380 in Rajasthan, 183 in Tamil Nadu and 407 UP. Rather remarkably, Bengal still has 11. These are recognised/registered slaughterhouses. Therefore, the two sets of numbers (from 1992 and 2014) should be comparable.
With the exception of Bengal, where the figure 11 is frozen in time, the story is one of decline in numbers, across states. Unless slaughterhouses are deliberately de-registering themselves, and an explanation can be advanced for that, what’s probably occurred is that some have simply closed down, unable to comply with better standards and enforcement. It is no different from the pharmaceutical firms story. Indeed, there should be fewer small slaughterhouses and more large ones. But the picture gets muddier if you bring in cases before National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench or otherwise. That happens because environmental clearances and pollution control norms are required. (By the way, some NGT cases involve not just municipal bodies, but panchayats too.) One such case was for UP and CPCB told NGT out of 126 slaughter-houses in UP, only one possessed all requisite clearances. In the same case, UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) reported 58 slaughterhouses. Even on recognised/registered ones, we seem to have no clear handle on the numbers. It gets worse if you bring in unregistered ones. Unless it is a slaughterhouse outside a municipal area, unlike other segments of the economy where informal doesn’t necessarily mean illegal, in this case unregistered is identical with illegal. I have seen figures that there are 40,000 slaughterhouses. They are not only illegal, some are ancient.
There is one in Tangra Kolkata Municipal Corporation is now modernising and it is more than 150 years old. For all one knows, the one Robert Clive constructed in 1760 still exists. The Tannery Road/Pottery Road complex in Bengaluru is also ancient. We do have a municipal governance problem.
The author is member, NITI Aayog. Views are personal