Four years after the Food Safety Act clearly laid down the conditions in which animals meant for consumption are to be kept and transported to the slaughterhouse, the Transport Ministry has finally laid down rules for the transportation of such animals.
Earlier this month, the ministry notified changes in the Motor Vehicles Act that require animal transportation vehicles to be registered as such with the respective Road Transport Offices (RTOs) and equipped with welded cages of specified sizes for transportation of specific animals. The move comes after a series of petitions from animal rights activists about the harsh conditions in which animals are transported. The notification issued on July 8 came after Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi took the issue up with Union Minister for Road Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari.
The notification that is to come into effect from January 1, 2016, requires animal transport trucks to adhere to standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards and to have permanent cages to ensure that it cannot transport more than the allowed number of animals — six buffaloes or 40 goats per truck. It lays down cage sizes for transport of bovines, horses, sheep and goats, pig and poultry.
A motor vehicle that is registered as an animal carrying vehicle cannot carry other goods. If it does, it will lose its registration, apart from being made to pay a fine far heftier than those prescribed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Since only two states — West Bengal and Kerala — allow cow slaughter, cows from all over India are transported to these two states for slaughter.
The long distance travel makes cows among the most abused during transportation, with animals sometimes stacked one on top of the other with their noses tied upwards to leave room for breathing. Many of these animals are pregnant as there is a belief that eating a pregnant animal helps produce babies.
While regulation of transportation of animals has been a long standing demand of animal rights activists, the regulations of the Food Safety Act (FSA) issues in 2011 clearly lay down that unnecessary stress to an animal during transportation may cause the quality of meat to suffer. It also requires livestock to be certified by a veterinary expert before slaughter.
“Livestock are transported en masse from the farm to the slaughterhouse, a process called ‘live export’. Depending on the journey’s length and circumstances, this exerts stress and injuries on the animals and some may die en route. Apart from being inhumane, unnecessary stress in transport may adversely affect the quality of the meat,” read the regulations under the FSA.
Injured animals, according to the regulations, are not to be slaughtered. This rule, however, is routinely violated.