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Why We Should Be Celebrating The Government’s New Rules For Regulating Cattle Markets

Yes, even meat-eaters.

09/06/2017 12:25 PM IST | Updated 09/06/2017 12:25 PM IST
STR New / Reuters

Amidst the flurry of opinions and misinformation surrounding the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, the new legislation's objective is constantly being buried, as is the disturbing violence that occurs inside markets where animals are traded as if they were lifeless commodities. As eyewitness accounts and investigations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India reveal, traders consider it a waste of resources and time to give water and food to animals destined for slaughter water, or to handle them carefully to avoid hurting them, because they are going to be killed anyway.This unnecessary suffering is precisely what the rules are trying to protect animals from.

[C]ruelty at markets is wholly avoidable, as animals destined for slaughter can instead simply be transported from the dairy farm or other location to the slaughterhouse.

The central government legislation under which the rules are framed—the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960—allows animals to be killed for meat, on the condition that there must be no unnecessary suffering in the process. Of course, nobody needs to eat meat, so all suffering is unnecessary, if you ask me—but cruelty at markets is wholly avoidable, as animals destined for slaughter can instead simply be transported from the dairy farm or other location to the slaughterhouse. As it is, they are transported to marketplaces—superfluous intermediary locations—on dangerously overloaded trucks. Some arrive already dead, and many sustain broken bones and gaping wounds during the journey. The market traders handle cattle roughly and typically force them to jump off trucks instead of providing them with suitable ramps for unloading, often causing their legs and pelvises to shatter upon impact.

The rules also prohibit other torturous practices that are particularly prevalent at marketplaces.For example, they outlaw the shearing and painting of cattle's horns—a dangerous ploy to make old animals look younger so that the trader can make more money, even though this can cause cancer of the horn. They also ban traders from rubbing harmful chemical powders into animals' bodies as decoration, which causes irritation, allergic reactions, dermatitis, and skin infections. In addition, the rules prohibit the transportation of and trade in unfit animals, including those who are young, in advanced pregnancy, sick, injured or fatigued.

It is overwhelmingly clear that animal markets need to be regulated. The rules now ban untrained quacks from conducting crude and painful castration, an abusive procedure in which cattle who are given no pain relief are pushed to the ground, their legs are tied, and a handler crushes their testicles using a stone, while they scream in agony. Another practice now outlawed under the rules is that of sealing a mother cow's udders with tape—commonly performed by market traders—starving her calf and making her mammary glands appear engorged with milk, causing her tremendous discomfort. Middlemen hope to fetch a higher price by making cows look like they produce a lot of milk.

Meat-eaters should, in fact, be in favour of this new legislation, since it prevents the sale of unfit, unhealthy animals.

The legislation also bans other forms of cruelty that originate in local myths and are often inflicted on animals in intermediary markets, such as cutting off female buffaloes' ears in an attempt to increase milk production. Some handlers stoop so low as to feed weak animals alum water in order to make their kidneys fail and retain water, so that they look larger and can be sold for more money.

The new rules are a required subsection of the PCA Act, 1960. They don't ban raising animals for meat—although, personally, I wish that they did, as nobody needs to clog their arteries by eating meat. That said, meat-eaters should, in fact, be in favour of this new legislation, since it prevents the sale of unfit, unhealthy animals.

At a time when other countries, including China and Germany, are cutting back on meat production and consumption because they are bad for the environment and human health, respectively, the least India can do is to hold the meat and dairy industries responsible for their supply chains and reduce animals' suffering. These rules are a step in the right direction and should be celebrated.

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