Given how last year’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) rules hit the livestock/leather industry, apart from giving a lease of life to thugs who called themselves gaurakshaks, the government has done well to dilute the more egregious parts of the rules.
Given how last year’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) rules hit the livestock/leather industry, apart from giving a lease of life to thugs who called themselves gaurakshaks, the government has done well to dilute the more egregious parts of the rules. While the slaughter of cows is prohibited in most states, the 2017 rules banned trade in animal markets of bulls, buffaloes, steer, heifers and even camels if they were going to be slaughtered afterwards. Never mind that culling is an integral part of livestock economics—that is why, for instance, the share of male buffaloes fell from an already low 19% of the total buffalo population in 2007 to 15% in 2012. Given the ban would have saddled farmers with 15 million cattle—which would otherwise have been killed—this would imply an additional feeding cost of Rs 33,000 per year, apart from not getting money from the sale of animals. In addition, had the Supreme Court not extended the Madras High Court stay on the rules to the rest of the country, India’s Rs 21,000 crore buffalo-meat exports would also have taken a hit.
The new rules no longer define ‘cattle’, much less include buffaloes or camels in the definition. They also drop terms like ‘slaughter’, implying that commercial slaughter can be safely kept out of the purview of the animal cruelty law; it also, therefore, does away with restrictions on animal-trading in markets. The new rules, instead, provide protection where most needed, banning the sale of unfit and young animals, respectively defined as animals that are in advanced pregnancy, infirm, diseased, ill, injured or fatigued and animals below the age of six months. It also lifts the need for additional regulation for animal markets near border areas, making only the transport of animals across international borders a violation of specific provisions of the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Transport of Animals on Foot) Rules, 2001. Withdrawing the draconian restrictions will not only give cattle trade the much-needed boost—and help supplement farm income—but also be a strong signal to the self-styled gaurakshaks that the government, and the ruling party, doesn’t stand with them.