The Sordid Truth About the BJP’s Drive Against Meat in UP

The so-called ‘illegal’ slaughterhouses are public municipal slaughterhouses across UP, which have been allowed to sink into abysmal conditions due to utter negligence.

A slaughterhouse in Choka Ghat area of Varanasi which was sealed by the authorities. Credit: PTI

A slaughterhouse in Choka Ghat area of Varanasi which was sealed by the BJP government. Credit: PTI

This is the second in a two-part series. Read the first part here.

We assumed they would confine themselves to cows and their slaughter. However, within 48 hours of the new BJP government assuming power in Uttar Pradesh, they began a crackdown on buffalo beef, executing with immediate effect their election manifesto promise of “shutting down illegal slaughter houses, and all mechanized slaughter houses”. Media reports from March 22, 2017 onwards, the day after the first two ‘illegal’ slaughterhouses were shut down, vary widely in their figures on the total number of slaughterhouses in UP (126-140), the number of ‘illegal slaughter houses’ (40-125), the number of slaughter houses recently shut down (20-40), the number of illegal meat shops shut down (upwards of 50,000) and so on. There has, however, been piecemeal and muddled media reporting regarding the issues of legality of slaughterhouses. We have to locate and understand ‘legality’ within two distinct marketing chains: the marketing chains for domestic beef production and those for international beef export.

Both marketing chains begin with buffaloes reared by small and marginal mixed-crop dairy farmers, who sell their culled/dry/non-productive female buffaloes (and male buffaloes) either in local markets or to a local livestock trader. The trader or market commission agent sells animals destined for the domestic market to a small/large-scale municipal slaughterhouse. Thus municipal slaughterhouses (public slaughterhouses) that are governed by panchayats/nagar palikas/ municipalities/corporations are the primary source of beef for domestic consumption. Butchers at the municipal slaughterhouses slaughter the animals, and the butchered meat is then sold to wholesalers or retailers. Wholesaler meat dealers and retailers have to obtain licenses from the municipal corporations for buying and selling meat on the premises of a municipal slaughterhouse. Informal backyard slaughter of buffaloes continues to occur sporadically, but this largely caters to limited consumption at home, with surpluses going to the local markets. Buffalo meat for domestic consumption is based on the production of fresh meat, which is processed and sold daily. Retail outlets generally are not equipped with cold-chain storage facilities. Crucially, it is the responsibility of the municipal corporations of cities to set up public (municipal) slaughterhouses and ensure they are run with all the required licenses.

As far as the beef export market chains go, animals from livestock markets or from traders are sold to an export-oriented processor that handles slaughter, processing, export marketing and logistics. These processing firms are also responsible for ensuring compliance with central and state government regulations. India’s export-oriented slaughter and processing facilities are relatively modern and large-scale, privately-run enterprises. Along with necessary licenses of municipal corporations, it is only export-oriented slaughterhouse processors which have to be registered with the APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority), the Government of India Export Inspection Council and under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. APEDA and its associated agencies set the export slaughter and processing facilities standards, inspect the process plants and products, renew annual registrations after inspection, enhance packaging and marketing processes, and build capacities of the export units. All export-oriented units must be certified under HACCP and ISO 9000, and be bio-secure.

There are 49 export-oriented buffalo slaughter and processing facilities, 39 exclusive processing and 11 exclusive slaughter facilities registered with the APEDA across the country. The registered integrated export slaughter units are fully equipped with lairage (accommodation for animals awaiting slaughter), stunning, slaughter line, de-hiding, splitting, washing and weighing facilities. APEDA-registered export-processing units have chilling, deboning, plate and blast freezing, modern packing and cold storage facilities.

The maximum number of municipal slaughterhouses are located in UP, where of a reported 126 slaughterhouses, 34 export-oriented slaughter-cum-processing units, six export-oriented exclusive slaughter units and 26 export-oriented exclusive processing units are registered with the APEDA. All these export units are private slaughterhouses. The remaining are not ‘illegal’ private slaughterhouses but, in fact, government-established slaughterhouses, which have to be run, maintained and regulated by the concerned panchayat, nagar palika, municipality or corporation, adhering to all required state licenses to meet domestic meat production. Under the UP Municipal Corporation Act 1959, the obligatory duties of the municipal corporation include the construction and maintenance of public slaughterhouses and regulation of all slaughterhouses in the municipality. According to another recent publication, UP has 317 registered slaughterhouses.

The so-called ‘illegal’ slaughterhouses are public municipal slaughterhouses across UP, which have been allowed to gradually sink into abysmal conditions due to the utter negligence of municipal corporation authorities, who have failed to ensure compliances of their own slaughterhouses. Lucknow’s Maulviganj municipal slaughterhouse, for example, was closed in July 2013, on orders of the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), and is still not modernised, despite a tender floated in 2016. The renewal licenses issued by the municipal corporations to meat sellers is a license to buy meat from the premises of municipal slaughterhouses. As several municipal slaughterhouses were shut down, licenses of meat shops were never renewed in UP, despite their renewal applications. In the recent crackdown, thousands of such meat shops were sealed, on grounds of not having valid licenses to sell beef. The civic authorities negligence of not re-issuing licenses is now conveniently used as a reason to punish the poor meat trader.

The UP authorities are citing a National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruling of May 12, 2015, for the closure of slaughterhouses and meat shops. This particular NGT ruling is not available on the NGT or UPPCB’s websites. An NGT ruling of December 2015, (original application No 173/2015) refers to the closure of only four slaughterhouse units in different parts of UP. The UPPCB in 2015, identified 129 industrial units (including 44 slaughterhouses) deemed very hazardous for the environment. However, the BJP government chose to only go after slaughterhouses, leaving the textile and yarn units, aluminium smelter units, metal surface treatment units and pulp and paper units to continue to pollute unchecked.

The UP government’s drive is really about a shutdown of government slaughterhouses, the only beef source for domestic consumption, affecting the entire market chain comprising workers, meat sellers and consumers. In the name of ‘illegality’, their actions are clearly communal, directed to economically cripple the Muslim community, many of whom depend on the sector for their livelihood, as also force a closure of domestic beef consumption, because it does not fit in with the Sangh parivar‘s vision of ‘swacch Bharat’.

Of total Indian buffalo beef exports, 67% originates from UP. Despite this export activity, UP’s buffalo populations increased by 29% between 2007 and 2012, and female buffaloes increased by 40%. In 2015, of the total buffalo beef produced in the country, nearly 47% was domestically consumed and the remaining 53% exported. A clampdown on buffalo beef production in UP, as is currently underway, will severely impact the market chains for buffalo-rearing farmers, who will no longer have an avenue to sell their dry/culled dairy females to traders, workers, meat sellers or domestic consumers, whose cultural rights to food are under grievous threat. In the financial year 2015-16, carabeef was India’s highest earning agri-export commodity (Rs 26685.41 crore). While most export units in UP seem to have been spared closure, the BJP government’s manifesto to shut down “all mechanized slaughterhouses”, if carried through, will directly impact the entire spectrum of export units, leading to a complete collapse of India’s buffalo beef exports, dairy markets and livelihoods of marginal and small farmers.

It’s time for India’s small and marginal farmers to organise and voice their protests against this complete destruction of their agriculture livelihoods happening in the name of saving India’s ‘holy cow’ and Hindu culture. Before long, they will find all cattle becoming the monopoly of gaushalaas, who will be laughing all the way to the banks with their ‘Made in India’ fast-moving consumer goods products of cow urine and cow dung, retailed back to farmers and other gullible citizen consumers.

Sagari R. Ramdas is a trained veterinarian and works with the Food Sovereignty Alliance, India.

  • Rohini

    what a garbled article that seeks to excuse ‘abysmal conditions’ in slaughter houses and shops selling meat without the required licences.
    Is India forever destined, nay condemned, to be a country that has no respect for public health and safety regulations? Is this author suggesting that given the conditions of the meat houses, they should continue to function, and that people withut required licences continue to sell that meat from these abysmally filthy slaughterhouses…because they are poor?

    • Deepak

      I think the author makes a valid point hinting at a better solution of a ‘temporary suspension’ of such facilities on the grounds of public health safety until a later time when they are revamped to be made suitable for ‘safe meat produce consumption’ as opposed to “shutting down” permanently.

      • Rohini

        That’s fair enough though I believe it is time to just start all over again with modern facilities rather than sink money into horribly filthy, unfit facilities

    • man!l

      If your cry was about public health and safety and about illegal businesses, then what about the zillions of illegal dhabas that sell snacks & food prepared in the most unhygienic conditions and about those trillions of illegal shops that are run on road sides of every cities and towns in India? All it needs is a bit of common sense to figure out what exactly this ‘Rogi’ and his admin is doing..

      • Rohini

        Of course, they all need to be regulated…should I be commenting on each and everything I find filthy about India in this comment to satisfy people like you? How about I also talk about our Indian habits of tossing garbage just anywhere, spitting, not having a spirit of public cleanliness or ownership of public places, of scribbling on old monuments how “‘x’ loves ‘y” and “‘a’ was here”, of the habit of peeing in public, pooing on the roadside….of throwing things into the rivers, lakes, ocean…of how we claim to worship nature but respect it not…
        shall I go on? for it can run into a few dozen pages…to talk about ourselves and how filthy we are….if Indian cannot demand cleanliness, and follow it themselves, no govt will bother about it.
        Please be sensible when you comment because you cannot know anything about what the commentator feels about the topic. I will need a whole book to express what I feel..ok?

    • Abhinav

      people are prone to lose jobs during a transfer (be it of any kind) that’s the first thing , secondly there are no exact accounts of the these unofficial slaughterhouses must be in 100’s if you keep on clamping on them there will only be a handful of slaughterhouses left so the question next arises will those handful of slaughterhouses cater the mass Muslim population in UP , then again is the up government equipped enough to handle these kind of questions that you are posing about safety and regulations do they even have proper guidelines for meat packing and processing and can they really answer that these rules are even followed in licences-ed slaughterhouses , your point is absolutely right but when you see this kind of a crackdown when people’s livelihood are at stake in a country plagued by all kinds of unemployment its hard to tell governments real motive becoz it certainly could have been done in a much better way

      • Rohini

        You know, all I want is for our country to progress in the areas of health and hygiene. When export houses that slaughter cows for carabeef export can be state of the art (because if they are NOT, they will NEVER EVER pass the inspections of the avrious countries that they export to), I don’t see ANy reason why our Indian population has to suffer with such filthy facilities.
        yes, it will be pain in the short term. But we must demand state-of-the-art facilities for local consumption as well.
        That is what my entire argument has been for.

  • Rohini

    This argument of ‘targettign MUslims’ as an excuse to turn a blind eye to unhealthy abbatoirs is bunkum. As is the argument of ‘what about all the other industries’. You seem to believe that only Muslims eat meat in India and are involved in the meat trade. Surprising…because that;s not reality.

  • Rohini

    The ARE already in abysmal condition and the crime would be to let people consume the meat that comes from it. It can have devastating effects on one’s health and the community that consumes such meat – also consider the water sources around the slaughterhouses that would be polluted by the filth coming out of there. HUGE consequences…isn’t it time this country started to handle food with respect and fear of health consequences?

  • Rohini

    “But one has to admit that Muslims are largely involved in meat consumption and trading and as such it is Muslims who are going to get affected largely due to shutting down of slaughterhouses, its strange that I had to spell this fact out for you.”

    If you did a simple back of the envelope calculation, you will realise your statement is rubbish and does not stand the test of logic. Muslims constitute only about 19 % of India. About 80% are Hindus. VERY few HIndus are PURE vegetarian. Even if we assume about 60% of HIndus to be meat consumers of some sort, we get 720 million HIndus . 100% muslims are meat consumers, so that makes it about 190 million.
    Going by global consumption data, which says Indians consume about 3 kg of meat per capita. Do the calculation. you will see approx what the consumption levels are.

  • Rohini

    ” Reality is not hidden from the unprejudiced one.”
    It is indeed a sorrry state of your mindset that you believe it is a prejudiced mindset that can say ‘unclean meat is dangerous to health’. Now, if my same were Salma Khan, you wouldn’t say that, would you? That shows who has a jaundiced and bigoted way of thinking.
    This kind of thinking – along communal lines for anything- is why this country has been unable to achieve its millenium development goals – who do you think all this affects the most? Not you or me because we have posh options for our food. It is the poorest of the poor.
    You seriously need to rejig the way you think – along religious lines. When there was and is a drive against plaster of Paris Ganeshas on which millions of HIndu artisans depend for a livelihood, did Hindus cry ‘my religion is being targetted’? Or when Begalis are prohibited from making PoP Durgas (artisans depend on these idols) and immersing them in lakes, are Hindus crying ‘targetting’? Or when there is a drive against adulterated Holi colours or when the height of Dahi Handis are regulated for safety, are HIndus crying ‘religion and HIndus are being targetted’? Come on – let’s get real. India cannot progress with this tribal mentality that you are displaying. Think logically and not communally.

  • Rohini

    “Copy paste this to your dear Modi, do this much favor to country and humanity.”

    My dear Zaid Khan..I suggest you go and troll someone else. And do yourself a favour – be a good citizen and make a real point on such boards.- an original opinion. Try it, it’s not too hard.
    As for Mr Modi – I assume you are an Indian citizen, so he is as much your PM as mine. Why don’t YOU talk to him? He has a twitter account and some other means of suggesting stuff via email etc, I believe….do something more useful than trolling people like me on the internet with your hate.

  • Rohini

    Sorry, didn’t realise I had not linked the resource as a reference. here is the data – look it up.
    The consumption of meat across conutries by type of meat is available.


    You can play around with the graphs – so please use it. But, you will need some more modelling on your own to get some useful approximations, as I have done. The base data is on this resource.

    good luck with thinking it through to the final outcome 🙂

  • Rohini

    “hat it is not only consumption we are talking about, it is more importantly trade which happens to be the serious concern, which is going to cripple Muslim community, not consumption”
    rade encompasses consumption, right? because it has to be traded to be consumed! So what’s the issue?

  • Rohini

    really? What does the government intend? I am not aware…

    • Matty

      What happened Rohini? I was waiting for your reply!

  • Rohini

    Since you are the one implying that YOU know, please enlighten me. I support any move that improves health & hygiene. I am not given to speculation.

  • Rohini

    “Don’t pretend that you don’t!”

    Badgering isn’t going to get you a different answer, Matty.
    you sound like you do – please enlighten me. I, for one, do not believe in speculation.