Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi: In a decision that is bound to trigger a fresh round of controversy, the Union Environment Ministry on Friday banned the sale of cattle at animal markets for the purpose of slaughter, a move that’s expected to have huge repercussions on export and the domestic trade in beef and buffalo meat. The ministry clarified that cattle means “a bovine animal including bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves, including camels”.

Cattle buyers will now have to give an undertaking that the animals are not for slaughter and the market committees will have to check the buyers’ bonafides and keep records of all sale. The documents should be preserved for six months, said the government notification which is effective from Friday.  The new rule also says cattle buyers cannot sell the animals outside the state without permission.

Over the last year, rumours of cow slaughter and the sale of beef have triggered violence in parts of the country. In Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government, which came to power in March, had cracked down on illegal slaughterhouses as promised in the BJP’s election manifesto.  While cow slaughter is banned in Uttar Pradesh, it has a flourishing buffalo meat export industry. India is one of the largest exporters of buffalo meat, selling $4 billion worth of beef in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The sale of beef is allowed in Bengal, Kerala and parts of the North-East, including Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. While cow slaughter was banned in 1939 in Manipur, beef is now  consumed by its people.

The BJP, which is trying to expand its footprint in the North-East after winning Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, had earlier indicated that it would not interfere in people’s food habit. Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was the architect of its victory, had said the party knows that the North-East has different culture and traditions.  “Our aim is the economic development of the region, so we do not want to be bogged down by an issue which has no economic, political and cultural consequence,” he had said.

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