The government’s decision to ban the sale of cattle at fairs for slaughter is seen as a step to protect the cow, but the side-effects of this ban should have merited equal attention. Apart from the religious sentiments involved, the fact remains that such cattle are treated extremely cruelly during and of course after such sales. Those who feel that the government is interfering with their eating habits should keep in mind that this law does not prevent the sale of cattle to government registered slaughterhouses, where quality and other issues can be better monitored.
However, the government should have considered the impact this will have not just on the export of beef, but also the leather industry, which earns around $6 billion in exports annually. Mounting protests from the leather industry is snowballing into a hot potato and the Centre may be forced to remove buffaloes from the ban-on-sale list. Since most of the cattle trade for slaughter takes place through markets, the new rules make it difficult for farmers to dispose off their aged cattle.
Traders usually buy buffaloes from cattle markets and then transport them to slaughter houses. State governments including Kerala, Bengal and Karnataka have termed the order a violation of the spirit of federalism, and it appears the issue is headed to the courts, with the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday staying the notification.
The other aspect is the increasing number of cow vigilantes running amok, even in states where cow slaughter is not an issue. The manner in which a group of self-appointed gau rakhshaks beat up two men of a New Delhi-based firm which was legally transporting milch cows at the Bhubaneswar Railway Station last week is just one example. While Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu insists that cow vigilantism is neither a policy of the government, nor the BJP, the state governments need to back that up by taking strict action against any such acts.