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Deonar Abattoir
Catering to whose interests? Traders & Exporters?
Or the meat eating population of Bombay?

The Deonar Abattoir at Bombay functioning under the Bombay Municipal Corporation was established in the year 1971 by shift­ing the old abattoirs situated at Bandra and Kurla, two Suburbs in Bombay.

The construction of Deonar Abattoir agitated the minds of a vast majority of citizens in Bombay. Demonstrations, public meetings and such other agitation started against this construction. Ultimately a deputation consisting of prominent Hindu, Jain, Vaishnav and other leaders called upon the Mayor and the Munici­pal Commissioner to lodge their indignation against the abattoir. The Municipal authorities gave solemn assurances to the deputa­tion as contained in the report published in Times of India dated the 27th May 1971 as given below:-

1. “That the Deonar slaughter house scheme is entirely the Bombay Corporation Scheme, managed and financed by the Corporation and that the F.A.O. or Government of India have not helped financially or otherwise except advice and will not interfere with its policy of administration.

2. That the scheme is meant only to produce meat etc. under sanitary & scientific conditions to supply the needs of the local population and that there are no commercial motives to export, or in any way trade in meat, beef etc.

3. That the remnants of slaughtered animals such as blood, bone, hide, hoofs, intestines or other organs which are today wasted or used unscientifically will be treated scien­tifically and the bye-product will be profitably marketed.

4. That the number of animals slaughtered at present at Bandra & Kurla will not be increased for commercial motive except if needs were to meet increased demand for local consump­tion.

5. That there will be no other authorised place for slaughter except Deonar and no animals including goats, pigs etc. will be allowed to be slaughtered.

6. That all the cruelties connected with marketing and keeping animals in waiting for slaughter and in course of slaughter will be stopped and animal will be kept under humane condi­tions.”

From the above, the following important principles emerge;

1. Animals will be slaughtered in Deonar Abattoir only, to meet the local consumption needs of Greater Bombay.

2. The Corporation had no commercial motive to export or in any way trade in meat and beef.

3. The total number of animals slaughtered at Bandra and Kurla at the time of shifting the abattoir to Deonar would not be increased for commercial motive.

4. No slaughter activity will be permitted in any way in Great­er Bombay except at Deonar.

However, the functioning of the Deonar Abattoir for the past over two decades indicates flouting of all the above assurances and there are serious draw backs in the entire scheme which regulates the function of this abattoir. This is evident from the follow­ing;

1. Contrary to the assurance, the abattoir has been slaugh­tering large number of animals for the purpose of exports. This is supported by the figures published by Deonar Abat­toir itself and these figures for the past 10 to 15 years are enclosed.

2. The Bombay Municipal Corporation had assured production of hygienic meat under sanitary and scientific conditions. It needs to be emphasised that meat can never be hygienic. Meat and hygienic are oxymoron terms. However, leaving this aside for the time being and presuming that the Deonar Abattoir strives for production of meat under hygienic conditions, the whole system of passing the animals through the test of fitness for slaughter, the malpractices and corruption associated with this process, the absence of a foolproof scheme to avoid the slaughter of rejected animals elsewhere, and checking of adulteration of meat produced in the Deonar Abattoir, are some of the controversial subjects. The rejected animals (which are also rejected just to create records that some rejection does take place and not all the animals are passed as fit for slaughter) find their way to illegal slaughter houses, the existence of which is known to all the authorities concerned, despite legal provisions against their existence and functioning. The recent death of four children in the Kasaiwada area and the exposure about the illegal slaughter houses has proved this point.

3. Besides the above aspects the most basic flaw is that over the years, the Deonar Abattoir has functioned just as a service unit to which traders can take their animals and have them slaughtered on payment of official fee (as well as the unofficial considerations). There is no check as to what is the destination of such meat produced for private traders, whether it will be used to meet the needs of local population within the territorial limits of Greater Bombay and whether it will not be used for export, which aspects formed the basis of above stated assurances.

The ground reality is that over the years a very strong pocket of vested interests in favour of private traders has got created which is using the Deonar abattoir to amass personal profits at the cost of the exchequer (Deonar abattoir is running in huge losses), as well as at the cost of the common man’s ill-placed belief that he is being supplied with hygienic meat by the Bombay Municipal Corporation. The private trade, both to meet the local market needs as well as the export market needs, has got ready infrastructure in the form of Deonar abattoir which is being exploited for the purposes which are absolutely contrary to the concepts for which Deonar abattoir was set up.

The general public is totally ignorant about this transformed situation which works at its dis-advantage. Meat eating is injurious to health and this is a scientifically proved fact. However, food habits are personal choice of each individual and the object is not to influence such food habits. The purpose of raising the subject is to make people aware that their trust in Bombay Municipal Corporation and the meat supplied through Deonar abattoir is being seriously belied. The assurances given to the citizens are flouted wholesale and though the Deonar abattoir might be bearing the board of ‘Bombay Municipal Corporation’ it has been hijacked by the private traders and exporters of meat who are least bothered about the quality of meat and the quantum of slaughter, which affects the economy of the State and the nation, as well as observance of various laws relating to envi­ronment, pollution, public health etc.

Reverting back to the question of hygienic meat for a while, it needs to be deliberated, whether (talking in terms of corollary), production of poison in most clean and hygienic conditions can alter the character of poison? It would still remain poison, capable of killing life. Similarly, whatever be the most hygienic condition and cleanliness in the abattoir, it will not change the character of meat, which is a fatal disease causing substance and remains so in any condition. Another example is of manufacture of cigarettes and other tobacco products. These are produced by fully automatic operations with the help of latest machinery and in clean environment. However, the basic ingredi­ent i.e. tobacco is injurious to health and it does not change this characteristic irrespective of the condition of its produc­tion. Many more examples to illustrate this can be given. Thus the hollowness of the argument that modern mechanised abattoirs are needed for producing hygienic meat, should be seen through.

The cruelties at Deonar abattoir about which a hue and cry is being raised regularly would not have occurred if the Deonar abattoir would have remained purely an enterprise of the Bombay Municipal Corporation. The maiming of animals and serious in­juries afflicted on them are possible only because of attachment of personal commercial interest. If this personal commercial interest is detached, the whole operation of cruelty would auto­matically stop because, the Bombay Municipal Corporation would not (hopefully !) indulge in such cruelty. The rampant corrup­tion and malpractices would also stop if the traders are driven out of the scene. The illegal slaughter houses would not flour­ish if the Bombay Municipal Corporation would devise a scheme to properly deal with the rejected animals.

Thus, in a nutshell, the root cause of all the ills associated with the Deonar abattoir is a transformation in its character as an indifferent service unit catering to private trade, instead of being a responsible instrument purely to carry out the functions of the Bombay Municipal Corporation of supplying the (so-called) hygienic meat to the people of Bombay. The basic question to be decided is whether the Deonar abattoir has been set up to cater to the needs of a handful of profit minded traders and exporters or to meet the requirement of meat for the local population within the territorial limit of Greater Bombay in the true spirit of assurances given to the citizens. An honest answer and adher­ence to the answer may cure the situation to a large extent.