What effect does the killing of cattle have on related industries? Our markets for milk and ghee are among the biggest in the world but, now, our import of milk powder and butter oil is rising rapidly…
India is the largest leather producer in the world. But this scenario may change because of the shortage of animals. The Central Leather Research Institute, run by the Government of India, expressed grave concern over the indiscriminate slaughter of animals for export. Let me quote what they said:
‘Livestock in India in relation to human population is much lower compared to many livestock holding countries. There is an immediate need to arrest the present practice of indiscriminate slaughter of young and productive animals. Otherwise, the problem will get further intensified and the country will have to face an acute shortage of animals and animal products. The prevailing high prices of bovine and ovine stock, milk and meat are strong indications of shortage of supply’.
This phenomenon is to be viewed as detrimental in general to a cattle economy as also to the long term prospects of hide supply. Prevailing high prices of productive animals endorse this view. Even existing slaughterhouses are not able to get their requirements. Hence, they are procuring buffaloes by illegal means as expressed in unequivocal terms by the CLRI:
‘Although certain states have imposed restrictions on the slaughter of under-aged and productive stock, in practice such regulations have no validity. The forces of supply and demand operate and, as a result, no consideration is given to age and sex of animals for slaughter. Under the circumstances, due to heavy killings of livestock, the volume of production of hides dramatically expands in a short time. But in the long run, when conditions stabilize, the supply of meat animals would become scarce and they would correspondingly reduce the availability of hides and skins in the coming years.’
Milk producers feel likewise. A milch buffalo gives 10 to 15 litres of milk per day, rich in ghee. Our markets for milk and ghee are among the biggest in the world but, now, our import of milk powder and butter oil is rising rapidly. And this started quiate a while ago. The import of skimmed milk powder rose from 19,000 tonnes in 1970-71 to 56,600 tonnes in 1980-81 and butter oil, ghee, white butter from 1,300 tonnes to 16,600 tonnes during the same period (ref: Dairy India 1992). The import of milk and cream has risen from Rs.3.38 crore in 1990-91 to Rs.44.12 crore in 1992-93. (Ref: Foreign Trade Statistics published by CMIE).
Today, prices have soared beyond the reach of the poor. All this has happened due to the non-availability of milch buffaloes which are being slaughtered for export. In Andhra Pradesh, the buffalo is the chief milk producer. Farmers and consumers in urban areas and coastal districts prefer the buffalo because of high fat content and thick milk. But the increase in its population began slowing down, again quite a while ago, to only 4 per cent a year. In numbers, this came to 3, 52,000. Of these, 1.5 per cent i.e., 1, 32,000 died. This left 2, 20,000. Of these, 50 per cent i.e. 1, 00,000 were male.Al Kabeer on the other hand was slaughtering 1, 82,400 buffaloes for export every year. The result was a sharp negative growth, crippling the milk industry. Yet Al Kabeer argued that it will not touch the milk giving buffaloes of Andhra Pradesh, bringing them instead from other parts of the country. This is a lie. The neighbouring States have banned the export of animals. In effect, the hinterland for Al Kabeer is Andhra Pradesh. The truth is that the attractive rates offered by Al Kabeer have been siphoning off animals from every Andhra district. The decline in their numbers, ranging from 6.5 per cent to 30 per cent in earlier years, showed up very fast in the statistics.
Further evidence comes from the soaring price of buffaloes and milk. In Medak district alone, the population which was 2, 95,000 in 1983, fell drastically due to Al Kabeer. The result : there are hardly any useless buffaloes in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, there were none. The view that India must maintain its livestock efficiently by systematic slaughter to eliminate unproductive animals is not tenable. Here, animals of different economic value and different productivity levels are maintained by livestock owners of different income groups. An animal which is considered unproductive or less productive by a particular farmer in relation to his cost of maintenance and his expected returns may appear to be perfectly productive to another—when acquired at a reduced price.
What is the cost to India? Even in its early years, Al Kabeer slaughtered about 1, 82,400 young and milch buffaloes to meet its export requirement based on a minimum yield of 1000 kg per buffalo per year, the milk loss to the State and the nation was 50,000 tonnes per year. Valued at the lowest market rate per litre, the loss was in crores a year! This loss will be in geometric proportion if extended over a five year period. (Ref: Handbook of Animal Husbandry, 1990, published by ICAR).
But how does Al Kabeer operate to get these milch buffaloes? After all, the law says that they can only kill ‘useless’ cattle. Simple; Al Kabeer takes advantage of the word ‘useless’. Among buffaloes there is a long gap between two pregnancies. The farmer does not want to take care of his animal once it goes dry. The usual practice is that he sells off his dry animals to agencies that maintain them till they get pregnant again—and can be sold off to another farmer at a higher price.
This age old practice has come to a halt because of Al Kabeer. The farmer is attracted by the price offered by the slaughterhouse and sells the temporarily dry animal to be killed, instead of giving it to the breeders. The company breaks the State Animal Husbandry Rules with its interpretation of ‘dry animal’ and ‘non productive’. Al Kabeer, despite its protestations, is actually interested in female buffaloes as they are fatter and yield a larger quantity or beef compared to males. Because of their indiscriminate killings, in a few years, there will be a serious depletion in the number of buffaloes because the importing countries are insisting on beef from young, healthy animals of high quality. Al Kabeer has been killing them, using loopholes in the law.
The depletion in population has brought about a steep escalation in the cost of all animals—male and female, and young ones too. The most unfortunate fallout of this has been the deleterious effect on small farmers. They are tempted to sell their animals but soon discover that it is impossible to buy fresh stock again. Those who have taken loans from financial institutions are ineligible for another loan for the same purpose!
Let us examine now the mythology of ‘useless’ cattle in Andhra Pradesh and India.
The Al Kabeer slaughterhouse, while applying for its license, specifically stipulated that it will kill only ‘old and useless’ cattle from the state of Andhra Pradesh. The conditions listed in the letter of intent issued by the Government of India were:
- Only old and useless buffaloes shall be slaughtered and, for this purpose, their production and processing shall be subject to continuous inspection by Municipal authorities.
- Slaughter of cows of all ages and calves of cows and buffaloes, male or female, shall be prohibited. If only old and useless buffaloes can be killed by Al Kabeer, what is the total number of such animals available in Andhra Pradesh?
As per sections 5 and 6 of the Andhra Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter and Animals Preservation Act 1977, the following types of cattle cannot be slaughtered in any case:
Young stock, that is any calf (male or female) of cow or she buffalo;
Any animal which is or is likely to become economical for the purpose of:
- draught (or any kind of agricultural use);
- giving milk;
- bearing offspring.
As per the LOI dated 18.7.89 granted to Al Kabeer, only old and useless buffaloes were to be slaughtered. In other words, if any animal is useful for any purpose, including dung and pesticides, it cannot be killed.
Now let us look at, say, one Andhra district, Medak.
Census shows that in Medak there were:
- 84,749 male buffaloes in 1983
- 64,671 male buffaloes in 1987.
- 2,384 were over 3 years and used for neither work nor breeding in 1983.
- 1,340 were over 3 years and used for neither work nor breeding in 1987.
- What does this show? That useless male buffaloes decreased by 1,044 between 1983 and 1987.
What about female buffaloes?
The same census showed that there were:
- 2, 10,125 she buffaloes in 1983.
- 2, 09,803 she buffaloes in 1987.
- 2,190 were over 3 years and used for neither work nor breeding in 1983.
- 3,086 were over 3 years and used for neither work nor breeding in 1987.
Therefore, the total number of useless buffaloes in Medak in 1987 was 4,426. This would be sufficient for just two days of killing by Al Kabeer!
In Al Kabeer, 1, 82,400 buffaloes were killed every year. As per the figures of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, the total number of useless buffaloes (male and female) in the entire State was 84,070 in 1987. These are the only animals legally available for slaughter for the entire requirements of all the slaughterhouses in Andhra Pradesh.
So how did Al Kabeer bridge the shortfall? It had two choices. One is to slaughter milch buffaloes clandestinely to meet its export commitments. As Al Kabeer has no useless animals to buy in Andhra Pradesh, it can buy only useful animals by illegal means. Consequently, the cases of theft of animals and distress sale during drought were bound to multiply abnormally.
The second alternative is to get its animals from neighbouring States. Now, this is strictly prohibited by law. Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Madhya Pradesh and Goa forbid interstate trafficking for slaughter.
Sections of the press reported that this was happening. That Al Kabeer was breaking the law, to import animals from neighbouring States for slaughter. The Food and Agriculture Department pointed out to the Krishnan Committee constituted by the Andhra Pradesh Government that the cattle population in the State has been showing a steep downward trend over the years. It further pointed out that 2,01,000 buffaloes are killed every year in existing slaughterhouses and the commencement of killings in Al Kabeer will mean a perennial (and disastrous) loss of 3,83,400 cattle every year.
The department also stated that:
‘Under the provisions of the Animal Husbandry Manual and Cow Slaughter Act, calves below 3 years of age are not allowed to be slaughtered. Similarly, healthy animals from 3 to 10 years are not allowed to be slaughtered. This means only sick and old animals should be permitted to be killed. Importing countries will not normally accept beef from these animals. To ensure quality beef, the Company would be forced to circumvent provisions of the rules and Act by buying inter-calving dry females and dubbing them non-productive. The likely tendency will be to maim the animals and render them useless to escape the provisions of the Animal Husbandry Manual and the Cow Slaughter and Animal Preservation Act, 1977—and then resort to slaughter. Without cutting corners and effectively violating the provisions of the Rules and Act, the Company cannot hope to obtain adequate input material for the plant under construction’.
Regarding the NOC granted by the Animal Husbandry Department to Al Kabeer, the Food and Agriculture Department submitted that the said certificate was issued ‘without consulting us and without examining in detail the deleterious effect of the setting up of the Al Kabeer plant with such enormous capacity and economic consequences thereof’. It said emphatically that ‘the proposed plant cannot run their export business without violating the conditions in the No Objection Certificate. Therefore, the NOC is inoperable in practice and issued routinely without considering its implications and even competence of Director of Animal Husbandry to do so’. In fact, Al Kabeer had no intention of ever obeying the law. The trial period commenced on 12.4.93. On 29.5.93, Dr M Jithender Reddy, Special Officer (Meat), visited Al Kabeer along with the Member Secretary of the Board and noted: ‘It was observed that some good and useful animals are also being passed in the ante-mortem examination for slaughtering’. Does Al Kabeer even intend to honour the law? Its claim that it would slaughter only ‘aged, useless animals’ does not hold any sanctity because its own brochure describes the sale of veal! Veal is the meat of young calves between 3 to 14 weeks old. There is also no doubt that milch buffaloes were killed in the Al Kabeer slaughterhouse, violating the conditions stipulated in the LOI issued by the Government of India in 1989. Such killing will further bring down our buffalo population in future years. A chain process will occur and, to keep its export commitment, Al Kabeer will again have to slaughter milch and useful buffaloes. Thus, one day Al Kabeer will end up killing only milch and useful animals.
What is worse, as a result of so many animals being killed by Al Kabeer for export, the existing slaughterhouses within the State were unable to meet their requirements of animals for killing. So they were forced, by the sheer pressure of Al Kabeer’s illegal killings, to slaughter more and more healthy and useful animals.