No decoration of livestock, no nose-cutting or ear splitting for identification without veterinarians are among the new rules aimed at preventing cruelty to livestock, but there might be challenges in implementing the law, according to an IndiaSpend analysis.
On 23 May 2017, a new notification aimed at regulating and managing animal markets, the “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017”, mandated the creation of agricultural market committees to regulate and monitor the sale of animals and the space used for the sale, and prohibited “cruel and harmful” practices such as using chemicals on body parts, shearing and painting of horns, sealing teats to prevent a calf from suckling.
These rules apply to bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers, calves and camels, and would affect the nearly 300 million cattle in India and their owners, based on the 2012 livestock census.
Of those in rural India, 43.58% of households reported farming animals between January and June 2013, according to a survey by the National Sample Survey Office.
Even the landless, marginal and small farmer depend on livestock with 1,586, 1,518, and 2,575 bovines (including cattle and buffalo), respectively, per 1,000 households, the survey found.
If Certain Practices for Identification of Cattle Banned, Need Alternative Options
“The common cruel practices in cattle markets prohibited by this rule have strong scientific, legal and animal welfare reasons,” said Nikunj Sharma, the public policy lead at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an advocacy.
For example, hot branding, used as a method for animal identification, causes permanent hair loss and burns on the skin enough to leave a scar, he told IndiaSpend through email.
Horn-shearing and painting (which contain chemicals like lead) could lead to cancer in cattle while putting ornaments and decorative materials cause a lot of distress and discomfort to animals, he added.
It is important to stop the use of harmful chemicals on cattle which could affect their health, said Prabhakar Kelkar, National President of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, a farmer union, affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He also supported rules which would ensure better treatment of animals at animal markets, where often sellers don’t care enough about the animals to even feed them properly, he said.
The new rules say that it is the duty of the person in charge of an animal in an animal market to ensure that the animal is not, or is not likely to be, caused injury or unnecessary pain or suffering because of exposure to the weather or inadequate ventilation, and that the animal should not be hit or prodded with any instrument, hurt by nose ropes or nose pegs, tethered on a short rope for an unreasonable period, or suffer from thirst or starvation.
But “some of these provisions are laughable”, said Kelkar. For instance, he explained, decorating cattle shouldn’t be seen as cruelty and is a tradition related to certain festivals such as Diwali and shows the love and affection of the cattle owner.
“When cattle are decorated so well, you feel like taking a picture of them!” he said.
For other rules such as those banning the use of paint, which some farmers use to identify cattle, Kelkar said:
How will someone identify cattle that are lost or, if a village has 1,000 cows how will people identify which one is theirs? If you say these shouldn’t be done, give us an alternative and tell us what can be done.
For the rule that mandates that only veterinarians perform procedures such as ear-cutting to make an identification mark on the animal, Kelkar said that there is limited access to veterinarians in rural areas.
There are more veterinarians in India than needed, with 67,784 registered veterinary practitioners against the 67,200 required, according to government data, but the number of doctors currently operating is unavailable.
Still, “cattle owners would have to spend money and time to reach an animal doctor”, Kelkar said. “These rules are impractical. What does it matter what is on paper. Do we have the machinery to implement something like this?”
'Only Way to Change Things Is Make the Law and Hope State Catches up'
There is a lot of government inertia with regard to updating or making new laws and the last updation of the law was in 2001, said Nuggehalli Jayasimha, lawyer and India Managing Director of Humane Society International.
When we were writing the draft, we thought we want it to be incremental but not make such a law that will become obsolete very soon.
“The only way to change things in India is by making the law, and hope that the infrastructure and state machinery will catch up,” said Jayasimha. “Whether we are right or wrong only time will tell.”
Two New Committees Empowered to Regulate, Monitor Animal Markets
In addition to the already existing State Animal Welfare Board, mandated by the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the new rules ask for the creation of two new committees – one for regulation of the animal market and one for its management.
The District Animal Market Monitoring Committee – whose members would be the district collector or magistrate, chief veterinary officer, jurisdictional divisional forest office, two representatives from animal welfare organisations, and a representative of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) – would, among other things, ensure that an animal market has adequate shade, lighting, toilets, non-slippery flooring and sand pits for rolling of equines, before any new animal markets are registered.
The second committee, called the Animal Market Committee, would include the chairman of the local authority, the chief municipal officer, a tahasildar member, the jurisdictional policy inspector, a veterinary officer, a representative of the SPCA, and two representatives from animal welfare organisation, and is responsible for the “upkeep of a market or for the provision of fixed facilities there and for ensuring the welfare of the animals being traded”.
“For effective implementation of this Rule, both these committees have to function efficiently,” said Sharma of PETA.
The rules empower the state board and local committees to enter at any reasonable time into any market, ask for any record from any person with respect to the market, seize any animal they have reason to believe is being treated cruelly, and take photographic and video proof of the cruelty to animals.
“The rules could allow some abuse and by the committee,” said Darshana Mitra, an advocate with the Alternate Law Forum, but that it depends on how the law would be implemented. Further, “the scale and diversity of animal markets might make it tough to regulate and monitor them”, said Mitra.
“Having elected representatives and members from different departments reduces the chance that any one of them could misuse the law,” said Jayasimha.
Questions on the Constitutionality of the Law
“The Centre is not empowered to make laws on livestock markets” which is a state subject, said Mitra.
Jayasimha said that prevention of cruelty against animals comes under the concurrent list, and as all rules under the new notification are related to the prevention of cruelty they do not infringe on state’s rights.
'New Law Meant to Create Pressure on Big Slaughterhouses and Markets, Not Village Markets'
The government said the new guidelines were a response to a Supreme Court order, passed in a case filed by an animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, to frame guidelines to prevent animals from “being smuggled out of India for the Gadhimai Festival held in Nepal where large scale animal sacrifices took place”.
These animals would be stopped by police or border security forces and no one would know what to do, as it wasn’t the role of security forces to take care of these animals, said Jayasimha of Humane Society International, who was also involved in drafting the rules as part of a member of the Animal Welfare Board of India. “The solution to this problem was regulating livestock markets.”
He said one of the main aims of the law was to create pressure on big slaughterhouses, which have the power to create backward linkages for the animals they buy and improve traceability of cattle and prevent abuse.
The aim of the rules was not to manage the small farmer markets in villages, but the big intermediary markets run by commission agents where the abuse of animals takes place, he added.
(Shreya Shah is a reporter/writer with IndiaSpend. You can follow her on Twitter @ShreyaShah26. Delna Abraham, a public relations major from Symbiosis Centre for Media & Communication, contributed to this story. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was published on IndiaSpend.)