Parliament panel deliberates plea to ban meat exports

Petition to Parliament panel draws attention to severe cattle depletion in the country affecting agricultural economy; public comments invited

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Thursday 11 July 2013

image A Jain spiritual leader along with two co-petitioners, one of whom is a stock broker, has sought a ban on meat exports from India, terming it to be a loss to national wealth. The trio’s petition which was submitted to the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions has been accepted and public comments on it have been invited. An advertisement regarding the same was published in the last week of June asking public to send their suggestions/comments within 15 days of publication of the advertisement.

The decision on reviewing the petition was taken by the petitions committee chairperson, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, following an appeal by Jain acharya Vijay Ratnasundarsuri and two others asking for banning meat exports from India. The petition is also endorsed by former Rajya Sabha member of Parliament S S Ahluwalia.

Petitioners' five basic demands
  1. Meat export involves catering to the economic ambitions of a few and in the process creates an irreversible situation of depletion of national animal wealth. Meat export caters to the need of other countries at the cost of our young and healthy animals
  2. Claim of Fundamental Right by the butchers negates the Fundamental Right of a much larger section of the society which depends on cattle for their livelihood. The acute shortage of useful animals has by and large affected the availability and prices of essential commodities such as foodgrains, milk and ghee.
  3. The protection of Fundamental Right of meat sector by the government runs contrary to the Fundamental duty in the constitution to have compassion for all living creatures. Can the government which has to be a role model for observing Fundamental Duties, be seen as the violator of the Fundamental Duties?
  4. The freedom of occupation cannot give freedom of killing any animal or any number of animals. If earning a few crumbs of foreign exchange is the only criteria, then anything and everything which yields profits is liable to be slaughtered and exported.
  5. The freedom of trade, business and occupation of the meat industry is destructive to environment and animal kingdom
Lead petitioner Acharya Ratnasundarisuri says the slaughtering of animals in such large numbers deprive the nation of their dung availability which affects agriculture and increase the uses of chemical fertilizers which damages the soil, pollutes agricultural farms, water, air and food grains and increases cost in agricultural sector.  This violates the provisions of Article 48 in the Constitution that deal with the Directive Principles of State Policy that among other things calls for compassion for all living creatures.

Rising subsidy burden

The petition states that because of rising input costs of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides, there is enormous burden of subsidy on the Central government. Lakhs of crores of rupees of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on food and fertilizers subsidies in the past five decades. He argues that due to export meat policy, there has been severe cattle depletion and cattle to human ratio is constantly falling as a result of which India now ranks very poor in this ratio as compared to other agricultural economies.

The petitioners state that due to acute shortage of foreign exchange, meat export was considered as one of the thrust areas and hence meat export policy was introduced by the Central government in 1991-92. Following this a lot of export-oriented slaughter houses have been set up all over the country.

The government’s meat export policy was also challenged in High Court and the Supreme Court during setting up of initial meat export units—Al-Kabeer Exports Limited in Andhra Pradesh. Following this the Supreme Court in March 2006 had asked the Central government to review its meat export policy. The apex court had asked for “review of the meat export policy in the light of the Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution of India, and also in the light of the policy’s potential harmful effects on livestock population, and on the economy of the country.”

However, the Union commerce ministry continued its existing policy following an official memorandum in May 2007. It defended its decision stating that ban on export of meat will lead to unemployment, loss of foreign exchange and will affect farmers' income. It will lead to rise in number of unproductive animals which would be environmentally degrading, the ministry said.

The petitioners allege that commerce ministry had failed to conduct the review exercise sought by the Supreme Court. They say that the bulk of meat consumed all over the country in any case is produced in unhygienic conditions. Even condition of authorized slaughter houses all over the country are is deplorable condition and can be seen only on a surprise inspections.

Talking to Down to Earth, an official from Rajya Sabha secretariat said that after the committee finalises its report, the document will be submitted to Parliament for further action by the department concerned.

The petitioners state that the country earns foreign exchange of US $ 300 billion from meat export. In 2005-06 459,938 tonnes of buffalo meat was exported which meant that approximately 500,000 young and healthy buffaloes were butchered.

Notably, the issue of slaughter houses was earlier also raised before the petitions committee in 2010 stating that the slaughter houses were polluting the Kali river in Uttar Pradesh.

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