Indirect Beef Ban

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Goa CM must prove he cares for food habits of all communities  

The shortage of beef is going to haunt Goa once again as the Karnataka cabinet has decided to promulgate an ordinance to implement its anti-cow slaughter bill. Failing to get the bill cleared by the legislative council, the Karnataka government chose to adopt the ordinance route for a law that is, on the face of it, aimed at protecting cows of all ages from slaughter. Once the ordinance is approved by the Governor, there will be a total ban on slaughter of cows in the state. The state government has said that the slaughterhouses can continue to function as there would be no ban on slaughter of buffaloes whose meat is also sold as beef. Though Karnataka had a law against cow slaughter for a long time, the ban was not applicable to cows that were more than 13 years old. With the ordinance the Karnataka government will prohibit slaughter of even older cows. The new law provides for stringent punishment to those indulging in smuggling of cows, their illegal transportation, committing atrocities on cows and slaughtering them.

The decision of the Karnataka cabinet would lead to reduction in supply of fresh beef and even live animals for slaughter to Goa. The beef traders in the state see a bleak future. Concerned that their business would be suffering they want the government to act fast and keep its promise to facilitate transportation of animals and make the Goa Meat Complex abattoir operational. The traders who were just beginning to see a turnaround in their business after the crippling lockdown effect feel that with the source of supply gone they would have to shut down the shops as the alternative supply of buffalo meat may not attract the same number of clients. According to the beef traders, there was a daily demand of at least 40 tonnes of beef in Goa before the lockdown and Karnataka made up for most of the supplies. The absence of foreign tourists in view of curbs on foreign airlines has led to fall in demand of beef by nearly half.

The state had earlier this month witnessed shortage of beef after the slaughterhouses in Karnataka resorted to a strike to protest against the government’s new law. Though they restarted their business after a three-day stir, their operations may suffer as the Karnataka government has decided to promulgate an ordinance. The local beef traders are likely to face an uncertain future with the supplies being badly affected. Though Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has promised to make the GMC abattoir operational and facilitate transportation of live animals for slaughter but the abattoir continues to remain closed and no steps have been taken to facilitate transportation of live animals. Locally available cattle cannot meet Goa’s demand; the state would have to find sources of supply in other states. With both Karnataka and Maharashtra having stringent cow protection laws, Sawant may find it challenging to source live animals or fresh beef but this is a challenge he has to take up as Goa has a large number of beef consumers. The shortage in beef supply is going to cause escalation in its prices in the state. Sawant can reach out to Kerala for supply, though he would have to get the government and cow vigilante groups of Karnataka to allow smooth transportation from Kerala to Goa.

To Goan beef consumers the new Karnataka law amounts to an indirect beef ban in Goa. If Sawant does not keep his promise, it might be seen as tacit support of the indirect beef ban. The new Karnataka law provides for imprisonment for seven years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh for violation. Cattle and beef traders in Karnataka might be forced to give up their business to avoid punishment. Even Goan cattle traders would be wary of shopping for cattle in Karnataka. If the situation continues hundreds of meat shops across the state might be shut down for good, rendering thousands jobless. Beef shortage could also have a negative impact on restaurant incomes. It is time for Sawant to prove that his government respects and cares for the food habits of all communities.