A new set of rules aimed at regulating animal markets, popularly known as pashu haats or pashu melas in many parts of the country, could potentially restrict supplies of cow and buffalo meat even in states where it is not illegal. The Environment Ministry Friday issued new rules to regulate these animal markets with the stated objective of preventing cruelty to animals and streamlining trade in cattle. But these rules also seek to ensure that these animal markets can no longer be used to sell or purchase cattle for slaughtering them for meat. The new rules would apply to bulls, cows, buffaloes and camels.
The rules, called the Regulation of Livestock Market Rules and framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, also require Animal Market Committees to be formed in every district to ensure that the purchaser of the cattle does not further sell the animal for purpose of slaughter. So these rules are likely to make it difficult for slaughter houses, even legal ones, to source cattle for meat, especially since the definition of animal markets includes lairage as well. Lairage is a place where cattle rest while being transported to markets or slaughter-houses. Currently, a large number of cattle at the animal markets are traded for slaughter.
The new rules require the seller as well as purchaser to give an undertaking that the cattle being sold or bought was not meant for slaughter. “…no person shall bring a cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle or his duly authorised agent….stating that the cattle has not been brought to the market for sale for slaughter,” says one of the provisions.
“…where an animal has been sold and before its removal from the animal market, the Animal Market Committee (to be formed in every district) shall… take an undertaking that the animals are brought for agriculture purposes and not for slaughter,” says another provision.
A statement issued by the Environment Ministry sought to dispel the impression that the rules were aimed at curbing cow slaughter. “The aim of these rules is only to regulate the animal market and sale of cattle in these markets, and ensure welfare of cattle dealt with in the market… Under these rules the seller and buyer have to ensure that cattle has not been bought or sold in the market for slaughter purpose and an undertaking to this effect has to be obtained by the member-secretary of the Animal Market Committee from seller and buyer,” it said in the statement.
Environment Minister Harshvardhan said nothing much should be read into the rules. “The rules will only strengthen the hands of the government, at the state level as well, in preventing cruelty against animals. There is nothing else to it,” he said.
The ministry said these rules had a parallel in existing provisions of Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animal Rules which specify that people intending to adopt seized animals from infirmary or animal welfare organisations must furnish an undertaking that the animals are being adopted for agricultural purposes and not for slaughter.
It said the specific provisions in the livestock market rules applied only to animals being traded in these markets and not others.
The new rules would now make it mandatory for all existing animal markets to register themselves with the Animal Market Committee and ensure certain minimum infrastructure and facilities for animals at these markets. Such infrastructure include provisions for housing, shade, lighting, water supply, toilets, veterinary facilities, and separate enclosures for young and pregnant animals.
The rules prohibit “cruel and harmful” practices like hot or cold branding of animals, shearing or painting of horns, ear-cutting in buffaloes, forcing animals to perform “unnatural acts” like dancing, putting any ornaments or decorative materials on animals, and injecting Oxytocin in milch cattle.
A number of other restrictions on the way the animals can be treated have also been included. “Unfit” animals, including those in advanced pregnancy, or which are infirm or diseased or injured, would not be allowed to be sold at these animal markets.
To curb instances of cattle smuggling, the new rules prohibit animal markets to be located within 25 km of state borders or within 50 km of an international border.
“The animals being sold for slaughter are generally unfit, making these markets the hub for the spread of infectious diseases. The idea behind these new rules is to ensure that only healthy animals are traded for agricultural purposes, whereas animals for slaughter must be sourced directly from farms to ensure traceability,” N G Jayasimha, a former member of the legal sub-committee of Animal Welfare Board of India said in a statement.