Cattle sold in animal markets cannot be used for slaughter, the government says.
Cows and buffaloes sold at animal markets across India can no longer be used for slaughter, says a new rule from the environment ministry that came into effect today. The rule - which practically stops largescale slaughter of cattle -- is expected to have huge repercussions on export and the domestic trade in beef and buffalo meat.
Till now, cattle sold at markets was could be used for dairy, farming or abattoirs. But now, while purchasing cattle, buyers will now have to give an undertaking that the animals are not for slaughter. The market committees will have to check the buyers' bonafides and keep records of sale for at least six months. The new rule also says cattle buyers cannot sell the animals outside the state without permission.
Indian states have the power to pass their own laws on beef, which is why beef is allowed in Bengal, Kerala and parts of the northeast -- Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. But the new rule comes under the stringent Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which applies across the country.
Union minister Harsh Vardhan said the rule is meant to "regulate the animal market".
India is one of the largest exporters of buffalo meat, selling $4 billion worth of beef in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Uttar Pradesh, where cow slaughter is banned, is the biggest supplier of buffalo meat.
Kerala minister A Raju said cattle slaughter is a state subject. "The Central government cannot infringe these state rights. No one can tell anyone who eats beef, to stop eating or that slaughter will not be allowed," he said.
Over the last year, rumours of cow slaughter and the sale of beef have triggered violence in parts of the country. In Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government which came to power in March, had cracked down on illegal slaughterhouses as promised in its election manifesto.
The BJP, which is trying to expand its footprint in the northeast after winning Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, had earlier indicated that it would not interfere in people's food habit. Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said the party knows that the northeast has "different culture and traditions". "Our aim is the economic development of region, so we do not want to bogged down by an issue which has no economic, political and cultural consequence in here," he had said.