Dravidian Traffickers And Beef’s Own Country
On Thursday the 11th of October, early in the morning at 5.30 am, a truck from Andhra Pradesh carrying two dozen cattle (cows, buffalos and oxen), bound for Kerala, met with an accident at a place called Maraimalai Nagar, some 30 kms from Chennai. The cattle were not visible as they were covered completely with tarpaulin. Local people informed Blue Cross of India after noticing blood oozing out from the truck. Blue Cross staff rushed to the spot and took the cattle to their shelter after registering a police complaint.
Two cows died in the accident and half a dozen cattle were seriously injured. Four personnel (all from Andhra Pradesh), who travelled in the truck were also seriously injured and hospitalised. Police took immediate action and brought the owner of the truck to book. He is cooling his heels in the prison now.
Dawn Williams, General Manager of Blue Cross, said, “I rushed to the spot and found only one vehicle AP16TB 9529 standing off the road after meeting with an accident. There was a crane trying to toe the vehicle away. I stopped the crane and climbed into the vehicle that was covered with tarpaulin. After removing the tarpaulin I found all the cattle hanging from the ropes that were tied around their necks almost getting strangled. Along with volunteer Mr. Surjit I had to cut the ropes and set them free. There were cattle with head injuries, cut wounds and cattle that were not able to get to their feet. Two of the cattle died. They were sent to Madras Veterinary College for an autopsy.”
Truck loads of cattle (cows, calves, buffalos, buffalo calves and oxen) being trafficked to Kerala is a common sight in Tamil Nadu. Cattle not only from Tamil Nadu, but also from Andhra Pradesh, South Odisha and even Maharashtra are being trafficked 24X7.
While the transportation from Tamil Nadu to Kerala takes only a night or two, the transportation of cattle from other states, mentioned above, takes between four and seven days. During the entire journey they are starved without food and water. When the available space in a truck can hold only seven to eight cattle, not less than 30 to 40 cattle, with front legs and neck tied, are tightly packed and transported without food and water. They are not provided space to move even a little bit!
“The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, unambiguously states that when cattle are transported by road or rail, each animal should be provided with two square meter space. That means only seven or eight animals may be loaded for transport in one truck” says Dawn Williams.
Animal welfare organisations like Blue Cross and other animal activists are terribly unhappy about the total disregard shown by SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Unlike the Animal Welfare Board of India, the SPCA is vested with the authority to stop and search these trucks. The SPCA can not only take protective custody of the traumatised animals but also seize these vehicles for violating animal transportation laws. But unfortunately, the SPCA is not to be seen at all!
“We have been fighting against all odds,” says Williams. “Now we have a ray of hope in the sense that a lot more people are coming forward for the cause of animal welfare and safety. We had an opportunity to contribute something, for the making of a documentary on cattle trafficking to Kerala, undertaken by an organisation by name Temple Worshippers Society. The documentary was released and screened for public very recently and we are hopeful that itself would not only create awareness among the general pubic but also would have a lasting impact on the government and the government departments concerned” said Williams.
Dawn Williams and his colleagues were on the roads for five days (three days in June and two days in July) between 9pm and 9am taking a survey of number of trucks (entered through Gummidipoondi from Andhra) trafficking cattle, between Kavarapettai and Thindivanam. After their study they came to a conclusion that 45 cattle trucks with 40 cattle each on a truck carry 1800 cattle per day per route.
“The numbers are mindboggling”, says Temple Worshippers Society’s SV Badri, who had directed the documentary which is titled, Their Last Journey: Cattle Trafficking to Kerala. Badri says, “For a five-day working week—9000 cattle per route are being trafficked and on all five-routes it is a huge number of 45,000 cattle. That is 180,000 cattle per month totaling to a slaughter of 21, 60,000 cattle per year.”
While Vellore, Pudukottai, Namakkal, Dindukkal, Manapparai, Pollachi, Theni and Senkottai serve as transit and collection points, cattle from these collection centres exit Tamil Nadu through Kaliakavalai, Sencottai, Theni and Pollachi.
Cattle trafficked through Kaliakavilai caters to Tiruvananthapuram and Kollam butchers. The Senkottai centre caters to Kollam and Pathanamthitta. Theni caters to Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki. Pollachi caters to Mallappuram, Palakkad, Trichur, Kannur, Kasargod and Wayanad.
While the finding by Temple Worshippers Society through Blue Cross pertains to only one entry point through one route, the official figure of Kerala government authenticates that finding. Mr Vijayakumar, Director, Animal Husbandry, Kerala, as quoted by News One dated September 4, 2012, says, “In the fiscal year 2009-10, a record 6.1 million cattle came into the state through various check posts. Another 1.8 million are estimated to have entered unchecked.”
The cattle are smuggled into Kerala, for both consumption and export of meat and also for leather industries. The global meat production is expected to increase from 229 million tonnes (1999-2001) to 450 million tonnes by 2050. India is among the three largest meat-producing countries in the world!
News One quotes Vijayakumar, “Kerala consumes 5,034.96 tonnes of meat every day. 80 per cent of state’s population and residents are meat eaters and Kerala produces only 264 tonnes. Everyday’s deficit is 4,780 tonnes and goats, sheep, chicken, cows and buffaloes come from other states.”
Radha Rajan, who researched and scripted the documentary says, “We have been focusing on the depleting cattle wealth which deeply affects our agricultural progress. In course of our study and research, we found that the regression of agriculture is directly proportional to the progression of meat industry, and that the successive governments have failed this nation on the issue of banning cattle slaughter. Shocking facts revealed by our research forced us to make this documentary.”
Livestock breeding for meat hurts land and water resources and causes pollution and eco-degradation. Cattle trafficking to Kerala is depleting Tamil Nadu’s cattle and livestock wealth. This has a negative impact on Tamil Nadu’s agriculture. Kerala provides the best example that when meat production increases, agricultural production decreases.
“Let us have a look at the Food Grain production per year per person”, says Radha Rajan. “The world average is 300 kgs; Asian average is 250 kgs; Our national average is 180 kgs. In our country, Punjab and Haryana stand number one with 600 kgs of food grains produced per year per person. While Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh fare between 110 and 130 kgs, Kerala is at the bottom of the table with just 20 kgs (as of 2004).”
The documentary, which runs for about 35 minutes, is a poignant journey full of tragic sequences of history, sufferings of hapless animals and the reckless form of governance.
The politics played by the successive governments on this issue is strongly projected in the documentary. All the three most popular Prime Ministers have had their share of fooling the people on this significant issue. The First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru deliberately failed to take action on Sardar Datar Singh Expert Committee’s recommendations for total ban on cattle slaughter in 1947. While the UP state government supported the recommendations of Sardar Datar Singh, Nehru wrote to all the states to oppose the ban on cattle slaughter. In 1954, he even goes to the extent of threatening that he would resign from the post of Prime Minister if the Bill was passed. As a result the Bill was withdrawn!
Indhra Gandhi went a step further. When thousands of sadhus and sanyasis marched towards the Capital Delhi demanding immediate ban on cow slaughter, on November 7, 1966, she ordered Home Minister, GulzariLal Nanda to open fire on the protesters. Several sadhus were killed! As a result, when Puri Sankaracharya and Acharya Vinoba Bhave went on an indefinite fast demanding ban on cow slaughter, she also constituted a high profile committee only with an intention of dousing the people’s anger. The high profile committee was headed by Justice AK Sarkar, Former Chief Justice of India, and included Swami Niranjan Dev Teerth, Sankaracharya of Puri, RSS Chief Guruji Golwalkar, two serving chief ministers, Chowdhury Charan Singh and DP Mishra, Animal Husbandry and Agricultural Ministers of all States. Indira followed in her father’s footsteps and didn’t bother to publish the Committee’s report.
Then in the year 1976, when the National Commission on Agriculture recommended that the buffalo should be developed not only for enhancement of milk production but also for production of quality meat, with a deliberate and energetic drive to develop export trade in buffalo meat, by improving the meat characteristics of the buffalo and fattening “unwanted” male buffalo calves, it became the policy of Government of India.
At last, having waited for four years during the NDA regime headed by the BJP, Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati Swamikal warned the NDA government that he would go on a fast unto death if cow slaughter was not banned. Following his predecessors, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee also constituted the National Commission on Cattle and the commission submitted its report in 2002. The NDA government also failed to take action on the report.
Radha Rajan says, “We want to liberate the suppressed debate on cow and cattle slaughter and the related issue of how this ancient civilization which did agriculture as dharma today takes pride in being the world’s third largest meat-producing country. We want Parliament to debate this issue again and this time we want a total ban on cow and cattle slaughter.”
The numbers in which Tamil Nadu is depleting its cattle wealth for meat will certainly have a long-term negative and almost irreversible impact on its agriculture and environment. Chief Minister Dr Jayalalithaa, who has a good grasp of things at a glance, can bring in a revolution in the state and show the path to the rest of the country by formulating policies linking agriculture and dairy industry with cattle, thus showcasing the multifarious uses to which cow and cattle dung can be put, including power generation using bio-gas and reducing our crippling dependence on chemical fertilisers and insecticides.
The Chief Minister, must take immediate steps to stop cattle trafficking to Kerala, bring the cattle smuggling mafia to book and to put an end to the torture and suffering being undergone by the hapless animals.
“This gives an opportunity to the Tamil Nadu government that through the HR & CE Department it should start the resurrection of the depleting cattle wealth,” says TR Ramesh, President of Temple Worshippers Society. “The Chief Minister can issue immediate orders for the impounding of vehicles used for cattle trafficking and to construct cattle shelters on a war footing on lands owned by temples under the purview of HR & CE Department, wherein the rescued cattle could be kept and maintained,” he added.
This one act from the Chief Minister, in all likelihood, may put Tamil Nadu’s agriculture on the path of progress.
By BR Haran from Chennai