Uneasy calm prevails at Bengaluru beef market
Bengaluru: The famed beef market at Russel Market, still ensconsed in its ramshackle blue building in the heart of Shivajinagar, is bustling on a Wednesday afternoon. Stalls line the long, dimly-lit interiors as customers shuffle between them, haggling and making their purchases. In here, it’s business as usual for the butchers, although the Central government’s gazette notification from May 23 has resulted in a marginal, but significant decrease in supply.
Outside, uncertainty prevails over the Central government’s new gazette notification, titled Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017, which were announced on May 23 have met with nationwide criticism since. The interim stay on the implementation of these rules, however, granted by the Madurai High Court, has brought some measure of relief.
Farmers and beef merchants, the communities that will feel the earliest and perhaps the hardest impact, are confused over what this entails. Multiple explanations of the new notification have been offered of the new notification, which has spelled out fresh rules aimed at the protection and welfare of cattle. On ground, it has resulted in a 10% decrease in the supply of cattle to Bengaluru’s only licensed slaughterhouse on Tannery Road and thereby, in a shortage of meat at the 1000-odd stalls that lie scattered across the city.
“On an average, 180 animals are slaughtered each day, with this number rising to around 200 on Fridays,” an employee at the slaughterhouse told DC. “The meat is supplied to all stalls in the city, including Bannerghatta Park. With a shortage in the supply of cattle, around 160 animals are now being slaughtered,” he explained, adding that this number is likely to stay on the decline over the next few days, leading to a rise in prices.
A veterinary doctor at the slaughterhouse says that bull and buffalo brought to slaughterhouse are above 12 years of age, as the animal husbandry department is very specific about the age of the cattle. “Cows and other animals which don't fit the criteria are not slaughtered here under any circumstances,” he said.
Fuelled by short supply, rise in prices likely
With the conflict in demand and supply of beef, sources in the beef merchant community are of the opinion that price of beef may shoot up from coming week. Beef which is sold at Rs 200-220 per kg may be available for Rs 250-270 if the situation continues to remain the same. “Short supply of animals will lead to short supply of meat to shops. There are high chances of variations in beef prices,” said a source.
They should be made to clean dung first
The ban on cattle sales in live markets for the purpose of slaughter continues to draw debate and criticism, with even High Courts differing in their stands.
The farmer community, likely to be one of the worst-hit if the ban is brought into place, is in a quandary, left with no choice but to retain even unproductive cattle.
Farmers, who rear cattle for dairy, sell unproductive animals to slaughterhouses to do away with the burden of having to care for them. They fear that they might have to devote their income to tending for aging, or male cattle if restrictions clamp down on slaughterhouse sales.
Nanjappa, a farmer, says a cow becomes unproductive after a certain age, when it can no longer bear calves and produce milk. Likewise, bulls and buffalo are a burden too, with the former sometimes sold as soon as they are born, or utilised for laborious tasks. “They lose their ability for hard labour too and as our survival is dependent on produce, the fate of which is uncertain due to drought, no farmer can afford to keep unproductive animals. No other farmer is going to want to buy them either,” he said.
“Each cattle requires around Rs 100 worth of fodder each day. With the agriculture sector reeling under severe drought for the last couple of years, a farmer cannot afford to keep non-milking and unproductive cattle with him,” he added.
Citing the new rule which had banned the sale of cattle to a slaughterhouse in live market, a market expert pointed that no farmer would purchase aged, handicapped or unproductive cattle from another farmer in the market. “The new rule lacks logic,” he said.
Opposing the new regulation, minister of state for Mines and Geology Vinay Kulkarni, who owns a dairy of 3,000 heads of cattle, had said that those who were pressing for anti-cow slaughter laws should learn the ropes of animal husbandry and dairy farming. They should be made to clean dung first, only then will they know the problems that come with cattle rearing.
Vigilantism a real threat, say merchants
Beef merchants in Shivajinagar and Johnson Market appeared largely unaware of the centre’s new gazette notification when DC spoke with them on Wednesday. However, cow vigilantism is a very real threat, with reports of violence in UP dominating mainstream media. “Reports of a group of vigilantes lynching innocents to death have left me completely shaken,” said a beef merchant, on condition of anonymity. “I fear for such occurrences here, too, if the new rule is implemented. However, we are sure that the Siddaramaiah-led government will oppose the new rule as people of all communities eat beef and do so of their own accord. Nobody is being forcibly fed.”
10 lakh jobs at stake
As many as 10 lakh people, the majority of whom belong to minority and Dalit communities are currently employed in the state beef industry. According to members of the community, this is also their only source of income. If the slaughter of cattle is banned, he said, most of the people would be left with no jobs and their families’ future hang in the balance. Jameel, a shop-owner in Shivajinagar, says, "Whatever I am today is because of this shop. I feed my family with what I earn from this job and have no other source of income. I can't imagine my future and that of my family, if this shop were to be shut."