The Union Cabinet's decision approving a bill banning cow slaughter has put India's largest beef-producing state Kerala in a predicament.
Fearing that the proposed legislation -- Prevention of Cruelty to Cow Bill 2003 -- will create social and economic tensions, Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony will soon submit a report on why Kerala cannot implement the ban.
But Kerala's Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister K R Gowri says the state will not implement the proposed ban. "Beef constitutes a large chunk of total meat consumed in Kerala and exported from the state. While a ban on cow slaughter is considered religious and holy in some states, the move will be detrimental to Kerala," Gowri told rediff.com
"The animal husbandry department is preparing a detailed report on how the prohibition of cow slaughter will socially and economically affect the state," she said. "Chief Minister Antony will submit the report to Prime Minister Vajpayee."
According to statistics from the animal husbandry department, beef constitutes 40 per cent of the total meat consumed in Kerala. Last year, the total consumption of beef in Kerala was 2,49,000 tonnes, the highest in the country.
Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura are the only states that permit cow slaughter.
Kerala produces the most beef mainly because it exports the meat and also sells it to other states where cow slaughter is banned. An estimated one million cows from neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are brought to Kerala every year for slaughter.
MPI director Ani S Das said: "Beef is the staple diet of an overwhelming majority of people in Kerala. A ban on it will be disastrous because it will even affect the state's public health system."
He said the cow slaughter legislation will hit the state government's ambitious plan to explore new export markets for beef. The government is setting up a project to create a disease-free zone for the cattle population across Kerala.
The beef market in Kerala is estimated to be worth Rs 170 crore [approximately US $37.04 million]. "A ban on cow slaughter will create unprecedented social and economic problems in Kerala as lakhs of people directly or indirectly depend on the trade," Das added.