MUMBAI: Beef-steak and beef chilli fry are going to be off the menus in this world city with Maharashtra’s new law which extends the existing ban on cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks. This means that across the state only buffalo meat can be eaten or served, whether it is in the privacy of your home or in a five-star hotel. Those who violate the law face up to five years in jail and fines up to Rs 10,000.
The fine print of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1995, which received presidential assent this week, shows just how stringent the ban is. It prohibits the very possession of these meats. Their import and export is banned. So is the transport, sale or purchase of cows, bulls and bullocks for the purpose of slaughter.
Beef is priced at just half the rate of mutton and is the most affordable red meat. It enjoys a large market with roughly 9 lakh kilograms consumed in the city daily. Of this roughly 80% is beef and 20% is buffalo meat, beef traders say. Around 450 large animals are slaughtered daily at the Deonar abbatoir in the city.
The state contributes around 25% to the country’s beef and buffalo meat market. Less beef in the market could drive up prices of mutton and chicken, traders say.
Maharashtra had banned the slaughter of cows and calves in 1976. The new law extends the ban to bulls and bullocks. It only excludes female buffaloes and their calves which need a fit-for-slaughter certificate before being butchered. Several states have already enacted similar laws.
With the “protection of cows and their progeny” on the BJP’s manifesto, the Devendra Fadnavis government actively pushed to get the law enacted. It had been passed by the Maharashtra assembly 19 years ago and was awaiting presidential assent.
Beef trade to be hit:
The new law is set to cripple the beef trade on which roughly 1.5 crore people in Maharashtra depend. The trade is mainly controlled by the Muslim Querishi community. Dalits are involved in the hide business and also in the transportation of the bovines.
Mumbai has 900 licensed beef stalls and an equal number of unlicensed ones. “Each stall employs at least four people. Add to that, the thousands associated with the transport of the animals. All of them will be hit by the ban,” says Mohammed Ali Qureishi, president of the Mumbai Beef Dealers Association.
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Traders say the ban could also impact farmers who sell aged cattle to abattoirs. Even spin-off businesses like the leather trade could be affected since buffalo skin is considered inferior, says Qureishi.
Traders mull court intervention:
A section of the beef-trading community is thinking of challenging the law in the high court. “We are consulting lawyers,” says Mahfooz Qureishi, president, Mumbai Beef Wholesale and Retail Association. Recently beef traders in Mumbai went on a one-month strike to protest against right-wing groups who were allegedly obstructing the transport of cattle from rural Maharashtra to the Deonar abattoir.
Community leaders are worried that the law will affect festivals like Bakri Id which involve animal sacrifice. Since goats are expensive, many Muslim families prefer to sacrifice bullocks for the festival, says ex MLA Bashir Patel.
Christian groups protest too:
Christian groups too have protested against the new law. Gordon D’souza, president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, points out that beef is an important part of the non-vegetarian diet of the poor. “Religion is personal and the government should not impose their dictates,” he says.