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Cattle smuggling for slaughter unchecked

Cattle smuggling for slaughter unchecked

Author: Rashme Sehgal
Publication: Deccan Chronicle
Date: January 27, 2007

NGOs, including People For Animals (PFA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) India, are up in arms against the police and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for failing to stop the large-scale smuggling of animals into the capital for purposes of slaughter. Activists from Peta and PFA believe several thousand animals are being crammed into lorries and being brought into the capital every night. Most of these animals are taken to illegal abattoirs where they are often cut open with dirty, blunt knives in full view of one another. Some animals are being skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious, these NGOs claim.

Entry points into the city have been identified as Badarpur, Nangloi, Punjabi Bagh and Rajokri, with much of the illegal slaughtering taking place around Kasatpura, in the heart of the city. Activists Gaurav Gupta and Saurabh Gupta of the PFA, who have been involved in trying to stop these trucks from entering the city for the last three years, point out, "We believe that over 300 trucks are entering Delhi every night We try and stop these trucks with the help of the police but what we are doing is really the tip of the iceberg. Animals are crammed in these trucks and many are severely injured by the time they are taken out."

Delhi's joint commissioner of police P.R. Meena admits that large-scale smuggling of animals is taking place from the neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan but claims helplessness in addressing this problem. "Delhi has only one licensed abattoir, the 100-year-old Idgah. This is licensed to kill just 2,500 animals per day. But the city's population has crossed 1.5 crore. With requirement having outstripped production, thousands of illegal slaughter houses are now functioning across the city, some of them in the most unhygienic manner possible."

Mr Meena adds: "Last year, we booked 114 cases in the northern district of Delhi." But ACP Nikhil Kumar, also from the northern range, believes most of this slaughtering is not being done for domestic consumption. "Our information is that most of this illegal slaughtering is being done for the purposes of export," he says. The reason why exporters prefer to use the facilities of the Idgah is because it costs Re 1 to cut, wash and clean an animal. "All this is done at the government's expense. No wonder the Idgah is showing a loss of around Rs 10 crores per annum," a PFA activist pointed out.

A PIL filed in the Supreme Court by respondent M.T. Siddiqui to improve the conditions under which animals are being slaughtered had the court order the Delhi MCD file a site plan to indicate the different entry points from which animals were being smuggled. It also demanded a list of licensed butchers.

The Supreme Court also appointed a special judge, C.K. Chaturvedi, to prepare a report on this entire matter. Justice Chaturvedi's report highlighted the existence of 11,000 illegal slaughter houses operating in the city. It also highlighted how "both the MCD and police department are under statutory obligation to prevent illegal slaughter". Mr Meena pointed out that the MCD had promised to complete building of a new slaughter house at Gazipur by 2006, but had failed to do so.

The Delhi chapter of the SPCA also pleads complete helplessness in curbing this illegal smuggling. SPCA chairman Khajuria says: "The courts are currently imposing a fine of Rs 50 per animal from the truck drivers of the impounded vehicles. During the last three years, we have collected fines of Rs 3 crores. But it is for the government to impose tough measures against this widespread abuse of animals."

Sirajuddin Quereshi, a meat exporter and Hind Agro Industries chairman, believes the lack of modern slaughtering houses has compounded the problem. "We have been insisting that the MCD build three separate enclosures with separate entrances for the Gazipur slaughter house. One building would be for the animals, the second for the brokers and the third would be the place where the slaughtering took place. Each of these must have their separate enclosures. The MCD has refused to heed our request. They have already spent Rs 25 crores but have come up with a completely inadequate structure." Mr Quereshi bemoans the government's complete indifference to this industry.

"Meat exports fetch Rs 3,000 crores per annum but we remain an unlicensed industry. We need to be given industry status before things will improve on the ground," he says. Ninety per cent of meat is exported by sea in refrigerated containers with the remaining 10 per cent being sent by air.

Purnima Kapil, wife of minister of state for science and technology Kapil Sibal, is also a major meat exporter. "I am no longer exporting meat directly but am selling to exporters who are exporting on my behalf," she pointed out.

But she does not believe that exporters are slaughtering animals under barbarous conditions. She insists, "Most of the big exporters have set up their own integrated plants where they do their slaughtering." Peta India had also petitioned the Supreme Court to ban cruelty to animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

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