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The unofficial beef ban

Even though slaughter of animals, other than the cow, is allowed in the state, Goa is today a virtual beef-free state. Traders are in a fix as activists ambush beef being transported from Karnataka and effectively block slaughter at the Goa Meat Complex, writes MICHAEL FISHER

Maharashtra has banned beef and Goa is feeling the pinch. Maharashtra laws do not extend to Goa, but a unique situation where transport and sale of beef is being thwarted by activists, has cut supply to the bare minimum.

Even though slaughter of other animals, other than the cow, is allowed in the state, conditions are so stringent that the state is virtually a no-slaughter zone. This has put beef traders in a fix.

“The supply should start,” Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza was reported saying. This has brought some hope to the beleaguered meat eaters.

Goa butchers are fed up with the meat trade and are considering closing down their shops, says Goa Muslim Forum president Shaikh Iftikar. Simultaneously, there is a general perspective that a gun is placed on the shoulders of members of an activist group instigated in harassing traders bringing certified meat of bulls and buffaloes into the state.

The impact on the shortage of beef in Goa’s markets was yet to be felt by the hospitality sector that has been hit by the sharp drop in charter flight arrivals and poor foreign tourist footfalls who are the major meat consumers in this tourist destination.

In spite of the legal and relevant doctor’s certification, activists ambush trucks laden with cattle and take them to places of shelter, saying they are illegally being transported, lament butchers of Quraishi’s Meat Traders Association of Goa.

In another mischievous operation, trucks transporting meat stock are blatantly halted and the activists throw phenol and destroy the meat. Along with the activists are veterinary doctors who are forced to confirm that the meat or the cattle are illegal, say government officials.

The Goa Meat Complex (GMC) in Usgaon is sitting idle waiting for work for the past two years. While one section of butchers say GMC has raised the cutting price to ` 400 an animal that should be brought down, another section says their stock of meat and cattle is being ambushed by activists.

The activists have little or no respect even for the court that has directed the traders to take their cattle to GMC abattoir, for even here activists have no right to stop all operations.

Attributed to these border harassments, GMC is made to lose over ` 4 crore annually, say government officials.

When police seize beef, they draw samples and refer it to the FDA laboratory for analysis. By the time it reaches the lab, its condition deteriorates and hence the FDA reports states it is not fit for analysing.

Shaikh Iftikar reminisces that during the Portuguese era there were seven abattoirs located in Vasco, Navelim, Khareband, Ponda, Sanguem, Panaji and Margao. All were demolished and instead a sophisticated Goa Meat Complex was built, he says.

In accordance with SC’s judgment some years ago, according to the Cow Slaughter Act, slaughtering of cows was banned, while bulls, buffaloes and bisons are not as these are forest animals.

Consumption of meat in Goa is roughly 30 to 50 tonnes per day. If meat reaches the market by 7 a.m. it can be marketed, however, it reaches the market at noon and retailing becomes a problem.

Since 2008, GMC has become a white elephant and butchers are fed up as they are forced to purchase meat from Belgaum. Now NGOs and activists, who are not registered with the police department, raise unnecessary issues.

In 2006, the Goa Muslim Forum filed a case in the high court attributed to Qurbani thereby the government permitted the slaughter of bulls above 12 years and to strictly follow HC guidelines in accordance with the law. For a bull, seven people can sacrifice it, whereas for a goat only one person is allowed. In 2014, the high court has specified CCTV cameras at GMC, which are yet to be installed.

President of the All Goa Cold Storage Association, Vernon Lobo, says, “As you are aware, for the last 20 days our supplies of beef from Belgaum have been stopped due to the autocratic and irresponsible behavior of Goencho Raksha Manch and the Animal Welfare Organization. Last year, after our meeting with the Director of Animal Husbandry, Dr Braganza, advised us on how to procure beef from neighbouring states as Goa Meat Complex was not in a position to supply us our required quantity of fresh bulls and bullocks. We went and met the directors of the Belgaum and Hubli abattoirs who introduced us to butchers registered with them as they slaughter all animals as per the parameters required. They carry out the ante mortem and post mortem checks on all bulls of 12 years and above after requirements. The animals are issued a fit for slaughter certificate and then slaughtered. They are then put in hygienic containers and every animal is transported with the original certificate. After adhering to all the conditions required by us we transport the beef into Goa along with the duly certified certificates. Now NGOs and activists have been harassing us. If the Animal Welfare Organisation is so concerned why don’t they check the 12 to 15 trucks that bring live chicken to Goa? These chickens are over-packed in cages and the mortality rates are high.”

“Forty to 50 goats are transported to Goa in a single van and are slaughtered at the back of the shops. Goa has no abattoir for the slaughter of pigs, goats and chickens. Is this what you call hygienic? Why are we being harassed,” he points out angrily.

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