Ban on Sale of Cattle for Slaughter: Pros and Cons
A bench of the Madras High Court on May 30th granted a four-week stay on the Centre’s notification banning sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets. A division bench comprising Justices M V Muralidharan and C V Karthikeyan issued the interim order on separate petitions filed by S Selvagomathi, a resident of Madurai, and Asik Elahi Baba, who hails from Kalimangalam near Madurai. The judges said a delegated power to legislate by making rules, for carrying out the purposes of the Act, was general in nature, without laying any guidelines.
The petitioners said the new Regulation of Livestock Market Rules should be quashed as the provisions went against the Constitution, “breached the cardinal principle of federalism” and were contrary to the parent legislation - Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The right to choice of food (non-vegetarian or vegetarian) is part of the right to personal liberty and conscience and privacy, they said. The petition filed by Selvagomathi said the Centre’s notification was “against the fundamental rights of citizens, and the right to food and its choice is a fundamental right.” Pros 1. Not a Blanket Ban
The new rules do not amount to a blanket ban on cattle trade or their slaughter, and license breeding remains legal. The worst hit, however, will be the meat and leather traders who have been exporting the cattle to other countries for slaughter, like Pakistan. 2. Farmland Owners Allowed to Trade
The central regulation for cattle business notified this week allows farmland owners to trade at animal markets. The notification covers bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves, as well as the camel trade.3. Regulations in Place
Before the trade, 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. 4. Not an Attack on Federalism
Regulating cattle trade is a state subject but animal welfare is overseen by the Centre. So the environment ministry notified the rules under the animal welfare law but gave district administrations the power to enforce them. The environment ministry’s eight-page rule also 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. 5. Removing the Benefits for foreign Industries
The centre has issued a nationwide ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter, startling major fashion labels who buy billions of dollars worth of leather from India every year to make high-end shoes, handbags and jackets. The ruling effectively chokes off India's supply of beef and leather, and industry groups are being given a reality check. India is the world's second-largest producer of footwear and leather garments and sold $13 billion worth of goods last year–nearly half to clients abroad who are growing skittish. Cons 1. Attack on Constitution
The petitioners contended that since the notification was related to food, it should have been approved by Parliament. The slaughtering of animals for food, the food being made out of such animal flesh and offering sacrifice of animals are part of the cultural identity of most communities in India, protected under the Constitution. The rules were a burdensome interference in the freedom of trade and business guaranteed under the Constitution. 2. No Federalism
West Bengal Chief Minister said her government would “not accept this order” and would “challenge it legally and constitutionally”. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also opposed the ban and appealed to his counterparts in all other states to object to the “covert attempt to usurp the powers of the state legislature in the guise of rules under a Central Act.” 3. Economic Hurdles
The government has banned the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter through animal markets, rules that will hurt millions of poor farmers and squeeze supplies to the country’s meat industry. This will crimp supplies to the country’s Rs 1-lakh crore meat and allied industries that source about 90% of their requirements from animal markets. 4. Meat Industry Impacted
The annual meat business in India is estimated to be around INR one lakh crore with exports worth INR 26,303 crore in 2016-17. Uttar Pradesh is the market leader followed by Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Telangana. Most states in India hold weekly animal markets and many states operate them near borders to attract traders from neighbouring states. The meat industry worries it will come to a “standstill”.
Is the cow ban slaughter an attack on federalism and the constitution? While that is a question which is still debatable, what is clear is that the economic impact of this cattle slaughter ban would have been catastrophic. Madras HC's stay is a reflection of the deeper concerns of industry groups and livelihoods supported by cattle culling. At the close of it all, the universal question is are animal lives more valuable than human? Cutting off the supply to those in the meat and leather industry is tantamount to a death certificate for them.