Meat-starved Goa looks to High Court for relief (Goa Newsletter)

Panaji, April 28 (IANS) For a land known for using copious amounts of beef for curry, roasts or steaks for every meal, a week without red meat feels like forever.

A High Court-imposed temporary ban on the slaughter of animals at a government-run abattoir Tuesday last has left the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government scurrying to file a report before the court that no illegalities are taking place at the complex.

The government has also sought that slaughter of bulls and he-buffaloes be resumed, at the earliest, at Goa Meat Complex, the government-run abattoir.

According to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the government would assert before the court that it would rein in illegalities, both inside and outside the meat complex, by Monday.

“We will request the court on Monday to allow the state-run meat complex to slaughter bulls and he-buffaloes,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said, during a discussion in the house which was initiated through a calling-attention motion brought on by the shortage of beef during the ongoing budget session.

Parrikar said the High Court’s order took the state government by surprise, especially since it came even as the court did not issue prior notice to the government in the case.

The High Court order followed a petition filed by the Govansh Raksha Abhiyan Goa, alleging illegal slaughtering of animals at the Goa Meat Complex.

Evidence submitted to the court by the petitioners partly suggests that young healthy bulls were sanctioned for slaughter by the government veterinarians posted at the meat complex.

The High Court bench has appointed a three-member committee to look into the allegations and the committee has been asked to submit a report by April 30.

The stoppage of Goa’s sole legally functioning abattoir has kept beef off the counters and off the menu in restaurants in the state.

“Beef is staple food for many Christian families. For many poor families it’s a cheap source of protein, a good way of filling your stomach. A little bit of beef makes you feel full and it is nourishing,” says Josh Pereira, who heads Goan Christian Youth Welfare Association.

Beef is staple meat for the minority communities, which account for more than 30 percent of the population here, as well as the staple for Western tourists, who arrive here by the hundreds of thousands, annually.

The demand for beef is constant and rises during festival time and during wedding celebrations where a minimum of two beef dishes are the norm.

There are three laws that govern the slaughter of animals in the state.

The Goa, Daman and Diu Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act 1978 prohibits slaughter of cows in Goa; the Goa Animal Preservation Act 1995 bans the slaughter of scheduled animals; the third is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which among other things, forbids the slaughter of cattle which have not been certified by a veterinary doctor.

The government-appointed committee will now examine the allegations in light of these three laws and see whether any violations have taken place.

The Goa Meat Complex usually slaughters about 150 animals a day, sourced from various parts of the state.

While the exact nature of the illegalities alleged by the petitioners has not come to light, the urgency of the matter has been stressed by beef sellers who say that the order has put them out of business.

“There is simply no supply of beef. We are waiting for what happens on Monday in the court,” says Hussain Bepari, who runs a beef shop in Mapusa, 12 km from here.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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