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Economic Loss to the
Nation due to Meat Export Policy

According to figures released by I.T.P. Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, during 2005-06, 4,59,938 MT of buffalo meat was exported from the country and the export earnings were Rs. 2,629.57 crores. Meat export figures for 2006-07 are not yet available. However, the past trend shows an annual growth in meat export by 22% to 23%. As per this trend, meat export during 2006-07 can be estimated to be 5,61,124 MT. The effect of such large scale slaughter for export on our economy needs to be examined.

As per the Basic Animal Husbandry Statistics – 2006 released by Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairies & Fisheries, Government of India, on an average 110 kgs. of meat is available from a buffalo. The rest is the weight of its hides, skin, bone, horns, hoofs, other organs and blood. Thus to obtain 5,61,000 MT of buffalo meat 51,00,000 buffaloes would have been slaughtered.

Despite age-based restrictions in State laws or usefulness based restrictions, it is common practise that the average age of buffaloes slaughtered for export is 10 years. In order to obtain tender and healthy meat, many young buffaloes and calves also are slaughtered. The average lifespan of buffaloes is 18 to 20 years. However, even if average 15 years is considered, buffaloes are slaughtered at least 5 years before their natural life span would have ended. 

Based on the above data, we may calculate the economic loss as under:

(a) Loss to Agriculture Sector:

A buffalo yields 5.4 tons of dung per annum. Thus 51,00,000 buffaloes in 5 years at the rate of 5.4 tons p.a. would yield 51 x 5 x 5.4 = 1377 lakh tons of dung. 

When dung is converted into organic manure by composting or other process, manure obtained is double the quantity of dung. That means 1,377 lakh tons of dung would get converted into 2754 lakh tons of organic manure.

An acre of land needs three tons of organic manure in a year. Thus, 2,754 lakh tons can meet the manure requirements of 918 lakh acres of agricultural land.

For 918 lakh acres or 367.20 lakh hectare of land, the chemical fertilizer requirement @ 102.76 kg. per hectare will be 3773 lakh tons. Considering the subsidized and controlled average price of urea/ammonia fertilizer (2003 prices) of Rs. 6147 per ton, the fertilizer cost will be Rs. 2660/- crores.

The average foodgrains yield from an acre of land is 1,382 kg. Thus, from 918 lakh acres of agricultural land, in five years 918 lakh x 1.382 tons = 1268.67 lakh tones of foodgrains can be grown, saving the major/heaviest input cost of chemical fertilizer by using the free organic manure. 

If we consider the average procurement rate of Rs.6/- per kg. (what the farmers get and not the price at which the consumer finally gets the foodgrain) for foodgrains, cereals, or rice, the value of 1,268.67 lakhs tons of foodgrains in 5 years will be worth Rs. 76,120.20 crores.

The ratio of coarse foodgrains to fodder is 1:3. Thus from 1,268.67 lakh tons foodgrains, the fodder availability will be 1,268.67 x 3 i.e. 3806 lakh tons.

A buffalo needs 15 kg of fodder per day. Thus from 3806 lakh tons, 6.95 crores buffaloes can be fed for 5 years or 139 lakh buffaloes per annum. The number of buffaloes slaughtered is 51 lakh and fodder sufficient for 139 lakh buffaloes can be produced. Thus these buffaloes help in growing fodder for their entire feeding requirement.

When there is a proclaimed shortage of fodder, which is conveniently used as an excuse for slaughter of aged animals, is it in the interest of the nation to forego fodder yield of 3806 lakh tones by slaughtering buffaloes for export of meat ?

The availability of fodder very much depends on saving the cattle wealth rather than destroying the cattle wealth and add to the fodder shortage for the so-called healthy and useful animals.

If the country were to decide on growing this much quantum of fodder for the animals, not by way of a bye-product of foodgrains but as a separate product by itself, one can imagine the requirement of land, requirement of manure and other inputs. By adopting proper cropping pattern and by imposing ban on slaughter of buffaloes for export, such fodder is available without any extra cost, extra effort or extra land.

As explained hereinabove, preservation of the buffaloes will not only help in growing the fodder requirement of the buffaloes saved, but also generate surplus for other animals which are younger and considered useful from the angles of milch, draught and breeding capacities.

If the annual per capita foodgrain requirement is considered as 182 kg., (500 gm per day, which in any case is more than the per capita food availability in the country), 1268.67 lakh tons of foodgrains can help 13.94 crore people every year to get foodgrains at very cheap rate because chemical fertilisers constitute bulk of the cost of agricultural production.

(b) An Alternate benefit from the dung of buffaloes from employment angle:

As mentioned earlier, 51 lakh buffaloes yield 1377 lakh tons of dung in 5 years. This dung will yield 688 lakh tons of dry matter (when dung dries up it loses 50% of its weight in moisture). Dung is used in rural areas for making dung cakes to meet household fuel needs. The average weight of a dung cake is 1 kg. Thus from 688 lakh ton dung dry matter, 6880 crore of dung cakes can be made. Dung cakes are sold at 50 to 75 paise per piece in rural areas and Rs. 1.50 to Rs.2/- in small towns. If average price of Re.1/- is taken, it yields an income of Rs.6880 crores.

In rural areas it is mainly women folk who are engaged in collecting dung and making dung cakes. If subsistence requirement of a woman in a village is taken as Rs. 500/- per month, such woman will have to make and sell 500 dung cakes in a month or 6000 in a year.

Thus, at the rate of Rs.6000/- per annum, the income of Rs.6880/- crores in five years can sustain 1,15,00,000 women or 23,00,000 a year, that too without any infrastructure or other investment and without burdening anybody !

Compared to this, how many people can be provided employment and livelihood by the meat export sector? There are hosts of other reasons for banning meat export. The above analysis is only to show that banning meat export is manifold more advantageous from the employment generation angle.

Exploding the Fodder Shortage Myth:

The categorisation of animals between ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ animals was made for the first time in the case of Mohd. Hanief Qureshi V/s. State of Bihar & Ors (the 1958 case before Supreme Court). It appears that for want of placing proper material before the Court, the concept of usefulness and uselessness was established and has been followed for last more than 49 years. 

Only three services of cattle were recognised and placed before the Court and these services are; yielding of milk, breeding and services in the draught sector. However, the most important utility of dung yielded by animals was not placed before the Court. If this utility was also taken into consideration, the categorisation of animals into ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ would never have taken place. Importance of dung in Indian life and its contribution towards prosperous economic structure will convince that,

Just as milk yielding cattle cannot be discarded as useless as long as they yield milk, because milk sustains the health of the nation,

Just as breeding animals cannot be discarded as useless animals as long as they are capable of breeding, because they continuously add to the national cattle wealth,

Just as working cattle cannot be discarded as useless animals as long as they are capable of working and toiling hard to carry out agricultural and transport operations without using petrol or diesel and thus saving huge foreign exchange and also thereby assisting in producing cheapest foodgrains for the nation,

Similarly, cattle cannot be classified as useless as long as they are capable of providing dung and urine, since dung and urine are the mainstay of our agriculture and play a prime role in producing nutritious, abundant and yet cheapest foodgrains for the nation.

It need not be emphasised that the cattle including buffaloes yield dung till their last breath and hence by virtue of this service they remain useful through out their life. There cannot be a cut off point in terms of age as regards their so-called usefulness or uselessness.

Because this concept was not clarified by placing proper arguments and material before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in 1958, because the interdependence of fodder availability and cattle population was not properly debated before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and because the activity of slaughter was sought to be protected as a fundamental right under the Constitution, a grave damage has been done to the economy of the nation in the last 49 years, using the 1958 judgement as a justification and judicial approval for slaughtering the so-called useless animals. Over the last 49 years, crores of animals have been slaughtered, majority of them even useful animals which were slaughtered in a clandestine manner, and as a result a very serious damage to the Indian economy has already been done. 

The concept of ‘usefulness’ and ‘uselessness’ of bovines was deliberated in a case before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India when its seven judges Constitution Bench was considering the constitutional validity of a law imposing total prohibition on cow slaughter in the state of Gujarat. In its judgement dated 25-10-2005 the Hon’ble Court took note of the life long usefulness of bovines based on their dung yielding utility. The court observed :

“90. (viii) the value of dung is much more than even the famous “Kohinoor” diamond. An old bullock gives 5 tonnes of dung and 343 pounds of urine in a year which can help in the manufacture of 20 carts load of composed manure. This would be sufficient for manure need of 4 acres of land for crop production. The right to life is a fundamental right and it can be basically protected only with proper food and feeding and cheap and nutritious food grains required for feeding can be grown with the help of dung. Thus the most fundamental thing to the fundamental right of living for the human being is bovine dung. (Ref. Report of National Commission on Cattle, Vol. III, Page 1063-1064);

(ix) the dung cake as well as meat of bullock are both commercial commodities. If one bullock is slaughtered for its meat (Slaughtering activity) can sustain the butchers trade for only a day. For the next day’s trade another bullock is to be slaughtered. But if the bullock is not slaughtered, about 5000-6000 dung cakes can be made out of its dung per year, and by the sale of such dung cake one person can be sustained for the whole year. If a bullock survives even for five years after becoming otherwise useless it can provide employment to a person for five years whereas to a butcher, bullock can provide employment only for a day or two.

(x) Even utility of urine has a great role in the field of pharmaceuticals as well as in the manufacturing of pesticides. The Goseva Ayog, Govt. of Gujarat had commissioned study for “Testing insecticides properties of cow urine against various insect pests”. The study was carried out by Dr. G.M. Patel, Principal Investigator, Department of Entomology, C.P. College of Agriculture, S.D. Agricultural University, Sardar Krishi Nagar, Gujarat. The study has established that insecticides formulations prepared using cow urine emerged as the most reliable treatment for their effectiveness against sucking pest of cotton. The conclusion of study is dung & urine of even aged bullocks are also useful and have proved major effect of role in the Indian economy;”

Though the observations relate to banning cow slaughter, the utility of dung of all bovines including buffaloes is useful as organic manure.

Further, as long as this slaughter was to meet the local need for meat and mutton, for consumption by Indians, there could have been some excuse. Now with the trend to permit slaughter for export, and that too on such a large scale by a score of mega mechanized export oriented slaughter houses, the damage to the economy is at a much faster rate. 

After the 1958 judgement, the inferences have been utilised to draw negative interpretation and thereby justify large-scale slaughter of animals on the pretext of earning meager foreign exchange. Under the misguided inferences, export of animal meat has been considered as a major thrust area of export which is unwittingly adding to the problem of fodder scarcity instead of tackling the scarcity. The parties in the 1958 judgement brought to the notice of the Court the comparative figures of cattle population and fodder availability in the country at that point of time. Instead of giving directions to increase fodder availability, which could have been easily done by reverting back to traditional cropping pattern, the Court took a view that the scarcity of fodder is a stumbling block in providing protection to the cattle wealth of the nation. It is possible that the dung yielding of the cattle (which continues till its last breath) was not properly understood and elaborated before the Court by the concerned states which wanted to impose ban on slaughter of cattle in their respective states. This dimension should now be considered and it needs to be realised that the aged and otherwise useless cattle are not a burden on the scarce fodder resources. On the contrary they help in augmenting the fodder resources which take care of their requirements as also generate surplus.

The present meat export policy under which such mega abattoir projects are encouraged by the Government is not in national interest. Because of the commercial interest attached with this activity of slaughter for export, more and more animals are slaughtered for short term gains adding to the shortage of fodder and feed and thereby making the remaining animal population vulnerable to much more speedy slaughter on the pretext of non-availability of fodder to feed them. Instead of drawing a positive inference to increase fodder availability (which is possible only by preservation of the cattle wealth) the States as well as the Centre have drawn negative and short sighted inferences which add to the problem of fodder availability and make it difficult to preserve the cattle wealth.

Thus this Policy is in violation of Article 48 of the Constitution which is a positive command to attempt preservation and protection of cattle wealth of the nation.