Guwahati: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi wants the Centre to end the illegal trade and consumption of dog meat in the Northeast, particularly Nagaland and Mizoram, but in a region where it is a delicacy, concerns expressed against cruelty to animals may not only be misplaced but may also go unheard.
In a letter to DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh, Gandhi cited the Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011 which does not allow dogs, cats and other animals to be slaughtered for food. She argued that the consumption of dog meat was both illegal and cruel. But the Nagas say they cannot and will not stop eating something which they have been eating for centuries.
“The Indian laws, whether they are related to religion or food habits, cannot be imposed in Nagaland. Nobody can stop us from eating dog meat. We have been eating it since the time of our forefathers. We view it as medicines,” retorted Chuba Ozukum, president of Nagaland’s apex social organisation, Naga Hoho. “Enforcing a ban on its sale and consumption will not be possible. We will oppose it. The entire Naga population will oppose it,” he warned.
The Nagaland government too feels that enforcing a ban will be difficult. “I personally feel that even if there is a ban on its sale and consumption, enforcement will be very difficult,” the state’s Additional Chief Secretary RB Thong told Express. The state’s health department said it was looking into the aspect of cruelty. “As regards butchering, instructions have been already passed on to the traders on the process to be followed. They have also been told how they should treat dogs and other animals,” Commissioner-Secretary in the department, Abhijit Sinha, said.
But he was quick to add that the people in Nagaland had been eating the meat of dog for centuries. In March, the Nagaland government had asked senior officials to look at the feasibility of banning the sale and consumption of dog meat. This followed the receipt of a legal notice from an Assam-based petitioner against the illegal sale. But nothing has moved since.
Dog meat is not farmed in the state. Dogs are smuggled from neighbouring states, particularly Assam. The meat is sold for around Rs.300 a kilo in Nagaland. Some restaurants and hotels sell a variety of dishes made from dog meat. According to Assam wildlife activist Sangeeta Goswami, the smuggling of dogs is illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The concerns of the activists are often about the cruel transportation, starvation and thirsting of the dogs. Dogs have also been a part of traditional Naga therapy. The Nagas believe that dog meat cures tuberculosis and gives strength to people who eat it.