The Centre has decided to withdraw its controversial plan of notifying a ban on sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, a senior official from the Ministry of Environment and Forests told The Indian Express.
The move comes after the Ministry sought feedback from states on its May 23 notification on changes made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017.
“We sent a file to the Ministry of Law earlier this week, stating that we are withdrawing the notification due to several issues and will be revising it,” the official said, adding that a time-frame for the process has not yet been decided.
After the notification in May, the BJP-led NDA government came under severe criticism for attempting to impose the nationwide ban on ideological grounds. Subsequently, several instances of harassment and assault by cow-protection groups were reported from various parts of the country.
Farmers, too, opposed the move to restrict trade in markets only to animals meant for agricultural use, saying they cannot directly access slaughterhouses. Farmers normally bring their redundant animals to livestock markets from where traders purchase and transport the cattle to abattoirs.
In September, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan indicated for the first time that the Centre may lift the ban. At the time, he said the rules were a “regulatory regime” for preventing cruelty to animals and the government “did not intend to directly or indirectly affect slaughterhouses or harm farmers” or “influence the food habits of people”.
It was then that the Ministry asked states to send their opinion on the notification that prohibited the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets.
The Ministry had sent two sets of letters to states — the first was soon after the Supreme Court stayed the ban — reminding them to respond. It had also attached a copy of the notification and said that a new draft would be framed based on feedback. The Ministry also held consultations with animal rights activists and traders on the issue.
The government’s decision in May had sparked outrage, notably from states such as Kerala, West Bengal and Meghalaya on the grounds that it related to an issue under their jurisdiction.
In May-end, the Madras High Court granted an interim stay on the implementation of the rules, specifically Rule 22(b)(iii) that required a person bringing cattle for sale to the market to furnish a written declaration that it would not be sold for slaughter. In July, the Supreme Court extended the stay to the entire country.