In a bid to intensify its agitation against attacks on trucks transporting slaughter animals, the Kerala Cattle Merchants Association decided to keep all beef stalls in Kerala shut beginning Thursday. The sector employs around 5 lakh traders.
For the past two weeks, the association has led a protest against the against the attacks on cattle-laden trucks in Tamil Nadu.
Already, beef has almost disappeared from Kerala’s menu following the agitation that seeks “protection for safe transport of cattle”.
Due to the ongoing protest, slaughter houses across the state were facing a shortage of animals. Besides, the traders increased the price of beef from Rs 250 to Rs 300 per kg due to the scarcity. Hotels, too, were refusing to supply beef due to the shortage of meat supply. Truck loads of slaughter animals were brought to 44 cattle markets across Kerala every week before the protest began.
The president of the cattle merchants association, K H Kamaludhin, said the merchants had lost 14 truck-loads of animals after being attacked, with each consignment being worth Rs 5.5 lakh.
“Since our plea to ensure protection for safe transport of cattle was not addressed by the Tamil Nadu government, the merchants decided to go on an indefinite strike,” Kamaludhin said.
He added that the cattle abducted from the merchants were taken to various private farms near Coimbatore, which is the main entry point to Kerala. Despite getting favourable court orders, traders claimed that they failed to get their cattle released from some farms that demanded huge sums from the merchants.
The association is slated to meet its counterparts in Tamil Nadu on August 7 to chalk out the future course of action.
“We want all markets in Tamil Nadu to shut down to express solidarity with our demand. Unless the government ensures safe transportation of slaughter animals, the agitation will continue,’’ the association president said.
In Kerala, the annual demand of red meat stands at 2.3 lakh metric tonnes (MT). Since cattle are not reared in Kerala to meet the huge demand for beef, the animals are ferried from other states, sometimes illegally.
Kerala agriculture minister K P Mohanan said the state government had taken up the issue with the home and animal husbandry departments in Tamil Nadu.
“The Tamil Nadu government agencies have no role in preventing the movement of cattle trucks to Kerala. Certain elements have taken the law into their own hands. We are awaiting a reply from the Tamil Nadu government,” the minister said.
According to official statistics, Kerala requires 2,500 MT of animals every day to meet the state’s beef demand.
Around 90 MT of that demand is met by supply from other states.