Two nights ago, trucks transporting cattle were asked to return from the Goa-Karnataka check post. Officials at the border post said no certificate would be issued. Goa’s meat trade, which is highly dependent on cattle fairs in Karnataka’s border districts, has been severely hit by the central government notification banning the trade of cattle at animal markets for slaughter and meat.
“This is a huge hit. We reached the border and then we were told. It was futile. We took our trucks back. We called the other traders who were half-way to other fairs beyond Belgaum and stopped them,” Anwar Bepari, president of the Qureshi Meat Traders Association, said.
“For the first time, as a Goan, we are afraid. We didn’t want to take a chance,” he said.
With the state abattoir the only legal and sanctioned infrastructure to slaughter bullocks and buffaloes, this was the “first alert” for the tourist state where beef is a major culinary attraction.
Of the cattle brought for slaughter, the majority come from cattle fairs in Karnataka — Belgaum is the major market given its proximity and “better pricing”.
At the Goa Meat Complex in south Goa, no fresh cattle was brought Thursday by any trader. The facility only has animals purchased last week. Traders usually bring a truckload of cattle and keep the livestock at the Goa Meat Complex resting space, a clean facility outside the main slaughter room. Animals are treated here and physically examined after a resting period — before they are issued a “medically fit for slaughter” certificate by a group of veterinarians authorised by the Goa Animal Husbandry Board.
Of the cattle purchased from cattle farms, 25-30 bullocks are slaughtered daily. The meat is given to traders who then stock it in their supply chain, which eventually reaches the kitchens in Goa. The meat complex has 70 registered traders who are part of the supply chain.
“Currently, we have 45 bullocks in our resting facility. Each animal makes for 100 kilograms of meat, so we are talking of the last batch of 4.5 tonne of meat. We will then have to wait for directives since we cannot take any cattle without the certificate of the animal husbandry officer,” a senior official at the Goa Meat Complex said.
The complex had been revived only last year, shut for eight years. The state spent crores to raise standards and adopt clean methods of slaughter.
“Please understand we are just a service provider. We are waiting for directives from the government’s husbandry department. At this stage, doctors are present at our facility. But once the certificates stop coming with the cattle, then we will have to stop accepting the animals as it cannot be done,” Dr Uday Pednekar, Managing Director at the Goa Meat Complex, said.
Goa prohibited cow slaughter under the Goa, Daman & Diu Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1978. The ban was made more stringent with the Goa Animal Preservation Act of 1995 which doesn’t allow slaughter of bulls, bullocks, male calves, male and female buffaloes, castrated buffaloes and buffalo calves, till a certificate is procured from a state-appointed veterinarian stating that the animal is fit for transport and fit for slaughter with a medical certificate confirming that the animal doesn’t suffer from any illness and has no open wounds.
Traders say the first message they received Wednesday was that veterinary doctors, who issue these certificates, have been pulled out from cattle market fairs in Belgaum. “Without their certificates, we will not get the second bunch of papers which says fit to transport. Without these certificates, these trucks are live targets in an environment like ours today. Those documents have helped us in the past convince mobs and police that we are doing legal trade,” Bepari said.
The total cost of ferrying a bullock, arranging fee for the medical tests, and the purchase is around Rs 30,000.
Vijay Sardesai, the Goa minister in-charge of animal husbandry, said at this stage he doesn’t have any assurance he can give to people, as the notification has to be studied and measures taken. He said with the code of conduct in place until June 14 in view of the panchayat elections, the government is also not in a position to put out directives.
“This is though my personal opinion that this notification will affect us as we depend on inter-state meat trade. This will affect farmers first, as this will directly lead to their penury, affect the meat trade, the leather trade and will hit the hospitality industry which relies on this trade. This will also have an auxiliary effect in Goa as most business are connected to tourism and the hospitality sector which rely on meat. I have had a meeting with the Chief Minister on this and we are looking to study this together. At this hour, I have no concrete plan in my mind,” he said.
The tourism sector is already feeling the heat. “We have been feeling the shortage in supply for two months. Incidents of lynching have affected us badly,” Cruz Cardoza, president of the All Goa Shack Owners Association, said.
According to Cardoza, the association is assessing the impact before it goes to the government. “Russians and Europeans only ask for beef. They don’t like mutton as they hate glands, and they think our chicken is injected. Russians cannot have a meal without ordering a steak and they form our major business. They might move to other shores if this is brought to Goa.”
With a tourism footfall of 600,000 foreign tourists, Goa relies most on its culinary plates, Savio Messias, president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, said. “Last night we had a meeting with hoteliers. There is a state of confusion. The queries we got was ‘can we import beef, will that be safe’. We don’t have answers at this stage. We too are in the dark. Here, you have to look at a wider audience of different palates since we have to adhere to international eating habits too. Like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, we might have to see if our state government can put forward our stand,” he said.