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India
01 Dec 2017

Six months after controversial cow-slaughter laws, Centre considers amending them

The government backtracking on cow slaughter rules?

Six months after the NDA government introduced controversial cattle slaughter laws, it's mulling amending them after drawing massive flak.

An animal welfare board member said it is considering removing buffalos from the definition of 'cattle' and easing transport of bovines, reported HT.

There were "several issues" with the notification, an official told Indian Express.

Here's what's happened since new rules were issued in May.

In context

The government backtracking on cow slaughter rules?
What did the new rules say?

Laws

What did the new rules say?

In May, the Centre notified the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, banning sale of cattle for slaughter.

'Cattle' included all bovines like bulls, bullocks, buffalos, cows, steers and camels.

Trade of the animal is allowed only for farmland owners; buyers and sellers have to produce documents proving identity and purpose.

Animal markets need official approval too.

Problems

But these negative repercussions were probably not expected

The new law created certain problems, including an increase in cow vigilantism attacks as 'gau rakshaks' targeted even those with legal permits.

Farmers, most of whom can't access slaughterhouses, were forced to let their cattle loose, leading to destruction by strays and attacks on cows.

Poor farmers who don't own land were left helpless.

Supply to dairy farming and leather production was severely hit.

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'Beef fests' emerged as a common mode of protest

Protests

'Beef fests' emerged as a common mode of protest

The Centre's decision came in for widespread criticism. 'Beef fests' emerged as a form of protest across TN, Kerala and Meghalaya, where cow slaughter isn't banned.

Though animal welfare comes under the Centre, regulation of cattle trade is a matter for the states.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to PM Modi urging him to reconsider. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee rejected the laws outright.

The judiciary had to intervene to check the situation

The Madras HC then stayed the Centre's notification in late May; a PIL claimed choice of food is the individual's right and not a state matter. Later, the SC too put it on hold for three months, observing "livelihoods cannot be subjected to uncertainties".

Status

So what's happening now?

The Centre had asked states for their feedback and had discussions with animals rights activists, traders and other stakeholders.

Now an environment ministry official says they are "withdrawing the notification due to several issues and will be revising it".

A time-frame hasn't been mentioned, but the new rules will have to be approved by the animal board, whose next meeting is in January.

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