- Centre bans sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets
- Now it may exclude buffaloes from the new ban
- Meat traders say they will take centre to Supreme Court
In the latest setback to the Muslim-dominated meat industry, the government decreed last week that animal markets will only be able to trade cattle for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and dairy production.
Forbidding the sale of cattle - including buffaloes, cows and camels - comes as right-wing hardliners and cow vigilante groups have been increasingly asserting themselves with attacks on those they accuse of slaughtering cows, which are sacred to Hindus.
Most of India's beef comes from buffaloes rather than cows and the new ban is expected to threaten $4 billion in annual beef exports. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his counterpart in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, have said the new diktat seriously impinges on the rights of state governments. "Beef fests" have been held as a mark of protest in some states.
Sources in the Environment Ministry, which framed the new ban, defended the process followed by the department by claiming that the proposal was posted online in January for public review. 13 comments were received, all supporting the new rules and restrictions," they said, asking not to be named.
"In the garb of the order that prohibits the trading of cattle at organised markets, the government has tried to impose a ban on the meat industry," Abdul Faheem Qureshi, head of the Muslim All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee, told news agency Reuters.
"Meat supplies will very soon grind to a halt in India and abroad if either the government does not repeal this draconian order or a court does not step in," he said.
Meat traders, under the aegis of the Quresh Action Committee and other trade and industry associations, plan to petition the Supreme Court in the next couple of days to get the government order rescinded.
"Exports will come to a halt because slaughterhouses will find it extremely difficult to buy cattle and we also apprehend widespread job losses in the sector, which supports millions of people," said Mr Qureshi.
Abattoirs across India on March 31 called off a strike after four days when the state of Uttar Pradesh, gave assurances that it would renew the licences of slaughterhouses and protect them against the attacks from cow vigilante groups.
India exported 1.33 million tonnes of buffalo meat in the 2016/17 fiscal year to March 31, worth about $3.9 billion.