Sanity is normally not a hallmark of governments, yet citizens expect some sense, particularly from a democratic dispensation in a country. Two developments in quick succession of no grave consequences for the people could have been matter of great amusement, so missing from over serious public discourse.
First was the union environment ministry’s order that would almost kill cattle breeding, marketing, meat and leather industry, adversely impacting the rural economy. A few maverick animal rights people have prevailed upon and made the Modi government promulgate, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, traversing the parent law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
If implemented, lakhs of farmers and cattle breeders would lose their means of livelihood in India. Dairy farming and milk production would also be adversely hit. Already according to union minister Meneka Gandhi has alleged that 80 per cent of the milk in this country is fake with states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar having only “adulterated milk” in the supply.
But under these new rules, India would lose its edge on export of beef and other animal products. Already 30 per cent of leather and allied industry has been adversely hit as it can be witnessed to key centres in Jalandhar and Kanpur.
The second is judgment of Rajasthan high court that seeks to make cow a protected national animal and it has also revealed to the world that peacocks are brahmcharis and cow’s bellow destroys germs. This verdict directs the Centre to christen the cow as India’s national animal. Judge Mahesh Chandra Sharma also offered a new insight as he pontificated: “The peahen gets pregnant” only by “swallowing the tears of the peacock” and that peacocks don’t have sex. The 193-page verdict in Hindi has recommended enhanced punishment for cow slaughter from the present seven years to life imprisonment. Some states like Haryana are close to that.
Well, ask any scientist and the answer is clear. The peacock reproduces by copulation like every other bird. There is nothing scientific about this at all. In fact, India with its leaders claiming plastic surgery during period of our epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata is becoming a laughing stock of the world. They are aghast that such claims can be made by all important public men and judges.
Many states in India have banned cow slaughter, some states have also included the ‘progeny of cow’ to cover bullocks. But the new rules cover a wider area and bring within the anti-slaughter sphere ‘bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves and includes camels’. For the first time slaughter of buffalos and camels is banned.
What do these new rules that are against the original Act exactly say? Anyone selling cattle in the market has to declare that the animal was not being sold for slaughter. The purchaser who cannot resell for six months has to declare that the animal will not be slaughtered. The parent law, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, does not command this. It only bans the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering during slaughtering. Out of cattle fairs, sale and purchase of cattle stands banned.
The rules require that animal markets, which are vaguely defined, must have all facilities for the animals, like adequate water supply, shaded enclosures, lighting and bedding. There should be no objection to that. Also, the veterinary officer will examine each cattle to ensure that no sick animals are being sold at the animal market. Unfit animals will have to be kept in separate enclosures and cannot be displaced unless with the permission of the veterinary officer. Where are such facilities? Many human beings do not have such facilities.
Imagine the new rules on transportation of animals in the market. Loading after being sold, will be supervised by the veterinary inspector will ensure that animals in the market or during transport are handled with care. Carcasses of animals that die in the market or euthanised in case of irreparable severe injury will have to be incinerated and cannot be sold or flayed for leather.
These rules prohibit ‘cruel practices’ like hot branding, cold branding, shearing and painting of horns, and ear cutting in buffaloes, casting animals on hard ground without adequate bedding, use of any chemicals or colours on body parts of animals, sealing teats of the udder using any material such as adhesive tapes to prevent the calf from suckling.
Forcing animals to perform any unnatural acts such as dancing, even putting any ornaments or decorative materials on animals, use of any type of muzzle to prevent animals from suckling or eating food, injecting Oxytocin for more milk and castration of animals by quacks or traditional healers, have all been brought under the ambit of ‘cruel practices’.
Will ‘putting ornaments or decorative materials on animals’ cover the elaborate decorations on elephants during temple ceremonies?
The custody of cattle seized from a person found violating the rules will be given to infirmaries, gaushalas or animal welfare board. The owner and the accused will have to bear the cost incurred on treatment, maintenance and transport of such animals. A person found guilty shall forfeit the ownership of the animal, which will then be put up for adoption. Even a person adopting such cattle shall not sell it, slaughter it or sacrifice it for any religious purposes.
The government, now pushed to the back foot is promising reconsideration. At least two union ministers have promised reconsideration of these rules. The government has to answer from where shall people get animals for slaughter as from the cattle fair, one cannot buy. So neither skin nor hide shall be available. When a butcher or any other person engaged in such trade – these are mostly either Muslims or schedule caste or poor people- buy and transport, we known their fate. They shall be waylaid, animals snatched and the traders lynched. This is the best way to kill all dairy farming in one go. Ask any cattle breeder in Punjab and Haryana or other states and listen to their suffering. In addition, these states suffer from the stray animals Punjab has over three lakh and Haryana two lakh. Gaushalas can take care of only a small part.
It is all an economic proposition as animals were needed for farming, milk, skin and their hides. Cow’s male calf was needed as bullocks but with machines, no we longer need them. We let it die early or when it grows up, it is sold to the butchers. Same is true about buffalo’s calves. We need females for milk etc. let the male either die early or is sold to the butcher. Earlier, policy was to encourage rearing and therefore modern butcheries came up like the one in Dera Bassi.
These rules have ignited protests from many political parties and at least two high courts have stayed their operation. Congress and the Left have held protests as well TMC lead by Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal. BJP is facing protests from its own party men in Goa, and the North east. In fact, public beef eating sessions have been held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
These rules and the judgments reveal a mindset that is not only obscurantist but draconian. The government is trying to control over what people eat and how they clothe themselves [girls cannot wear jeans or use cell phones]. Or how they live and what they think.