In a significant rollback, the Centre is all set to remove any reference to the term “slaughter” in its new version of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017, according to a draft of the notification being vetted by the Union Law Ministry.
The original version, dated May 23, 2017, had notified a ban on sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, triggering an outcry over its effect on trade across the country. The diluted version is being vetted by the Law Ministry prior to its notification by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The Indian Express had first reported in November, 2017, the Centre’s intention to withdraw its controversial plan. According to the new version, “no unfit animal or young animal shall be sold in an animal market”. Further, it states that “no person shall permit an animal to be offered or displayed for sale in an animal market if it is likely to give birth while it is there or during its transportation to or from such animal market”.
In its notification last May, the Environment Ministry had restricted the sale of cattle and stated that “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 market for sale for slaughter”.
Further, it had stated that the “purchaser of the cattle shall… not sell the animal for purpose of slaughter”.
However, the rules invited controversy with the NDA government coming under criticism for attempting to impose a nationwide ban on ideological grounds. Farmers opposed the move to restrict trade in markets 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.
The decision had also sparked outrage in states such as Kerala, West Bengal and Meghalaya on the grounds that it related to an issue under their jurisdiction.
The MoEF’s plan to rollback the controversial rules followed its move to seek feedback from states. The ministry had sent two sets of letters to states, the first after the Supreme Court had stayed the ban. The ministry also held consultations with animal rights activists and traders on the issue.
The new version sets down rules to constitute what is now “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Committee”, replacing what was earlier referred to as “district animal market monitoring committee” or “animal market committee”.
The committee, which will comprise of the District Magistrate, a representative of the State Animal Welfare Board and the district Superintendent of Police among others, will “take all necessary steps to ensure that no unnecessary pain and suffering is caused to animals in animal markets in its jurisdiction”.
The other regulations listed in the new rules include: “Take all necessary steps to maintain a register of animal sales at animal markets in its jurisdiction…”; “Make necessary arrangements to provide a certificate of compliance for purchaser of animal at an animal market in its jurisdiction…”
Soon after the original notification last year, 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.