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MEAT & SEAFOOD

Legality of slaughter and quality meat production
Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr N Kondaiah
Animal Products and Quality Assurance
Indian livestock production is unique in that it is production by masses rather than mass production observed in Western countries. Thus, the production of animal products and their safety problems are different than those seen in other countries. While production, processing and utilisation are of small scale and rich with traditional practices but monitoring quality and safety aspects have been a problem of multi-dimensions.

Constraints in Indian Situation for Quality Assurance
1.    Small-scale production with multi-million units distributed over a range of agro-climatic and economic zones resulting in sampling problems.
2.    Inadequate means for adopting quality control aspects by primary producers.
3.    Unreasonable economics of quality control programmes.
4.    Inability to demonstrate investments on quality aspects would fetch beneficial returns.
5.    Lack of modernisation in production and processing of livestock products particularly in meat sector due to socio-economic reasons.
6.  Inadequate and poor quality infrastructure for monitoring food safety aspects
     particularly microbes and residues.

Improvement / Modernisation of Municipal Slaughterhouses
The problem of improving slaughterhouses and slaughter practices was realised as early as 1930 in the country. Developmental programmes for improvement of slaughterhouses have been initiated by Government of India since 1950 and schemes were initiated since Third Five Year Plan without much success. Some constraints: -Difficulty in finding suitable location due to local resistance and vested interests; -Low priority given by municipalities for investment in slaughterhouses; -Non-availability of machinery and consultants; -Resistance to increase slaughter fees; -Demand for quick slaughter by individual butcher and unwillingness for orderly line operations; -Continuing willingness of consumers to buy meat from unauthorised slaughter places; -Lack of effective monitoring of the slaughterhouses by the local bodies.
Improving domestic slaughterhouses and meat marketing system need to be given greater emphasis if the purpose of FSS Act  (The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006) has to be achieved. The Supreme Court has been monitoring the improvement of slaughterhouses with appointment of committees and so on at state level. The FSSAI needs to join their efforts and provide suitable support. The estimated costs for improvement of all the slaughterhouses in the country are as under:
Table: Estimated cost of modernisation of domestic slaughterhouses

I. Cities and Town

(Rs in million)


a)

Class I cities with population of 1 lakh and above – 300


i)

Cost of abattoirs for 20 large cities (above 1 m) except Mumbai and New Delhi @ Rs 500m each

10000

ii)

Balance 280 cities @ Rs 150 m for each town

42000

b)

Class II towns (50,000-99,999): 345 @ Rs 60 m for each town

20700

c)

Class III towns (20,000 to 49,999) – 947 @ Rs 30 m for each town

28400

d)

Class IV towns (10,000 to 19,999) – 1,167 @ Rs 10 m for each town

11670

e)

Class V towns (5,000 to 9,999) : 740 @ Rs 6 m for each town

4400

f)

Class VI towns (less than 5,000): 197 @ Rs 4 m for each town

790

II. Villages


a)

Villages with 10,000 and above population – 1,830 @ Rs 3 m for each village

5490

b)

Villages with 5,000 to 9,999 population – 7,202 @ Rs 1.5 m

10800

c)

Villages with 2,000 to 4,999 population – 46,892 @ Rs 0.4 m each

18760


Total Rs 15,301 crore

153010


The above costs may have to be revised upwards up to Rs 20,000 crore and FSSAI needs to make its proposals to the Planning Commission and relevant ministries for taking up hygienic meat production in the country as a national programme and different socio-economic factors affecting programmes related to hygienic meat production in the country for the last 50 years need to be addressed sternly.

The UP Illegal Meat Episode
The meat sector in the country comprises of domestic meat market including family slaughter for non-commercial purpose and export meat market. The export market is facilitated by most modern integrated meat plants that are well regulated by APEDA (Agricultural Processed Food Products Development Authority), a Government of India organisation under ministry of commerce. They have all the required facilities and compete in the world market with developed countries.

For the domestic market it is the duty of the local body (municipality/ corporation) to provide hygienic place for slaughter of permitted animals. These are called authorised or recognised slaughterhouses. These may be of small floor slaughter facilities with some carcass hanging facilities (municipalities and smaller towns) or mechanised larger abattoirs such as at Delhi (Ghazipur) or Mumbai (Deonar) or Hyderabad and so on. Most of the municipal slaughter facilities are 50-80 years old, which used to serve the needs of much smaller population when established.
With increasing urbanisation, rising incomes and better awareness of meat in food and nutrition, the demand for slaughter facilities has increased enormously but the facilities have neither been improved nor modernised for very many reasons working against the meat sector. The condition of much of these slaughterhouses has deteriorated decade after decade. Thus the need for finding alternate places has arisen leading to establishment of unauthorised or unrecognised slaughter facilities in the entire country and these are termed as illegal slaughter houses/places. It may not be appropriate to term them as illegal as slaughter of permitted animals is being done because municipal facilities are not maintaining required animal handling and sanitary conditions. However, at some places, animals that are banned from slaughter by the Animal Preservation Act may be  slaughtered. These are illegal, function secretly and against the regulations.

The construction and maintenance of public markets and slaughterhouses, tanneries and the regulations of all markets and slaughterhouses is the obligatory duty of Municipal Corporation in UP.
[The Uttar Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1959-1  [U P Act No. 2 of 1959]

Definitions: (42) “Corporation slaughter-house” means a slaughter-house vested in or managed by the Corporation; Chapter V - Duties and Powers of the Corporation  and Corporation Authorities

Section 114. Obligatory duties of the Corporation. - It shall be incumbent on the Corporation to make reasonable and adequate provision, by any means or measures which it is lawfully competent to it to use or to take, for each of the following matters, namely, -
……….
(xxi) The construction and maintenance of public markets and slaughterhouses, [tanneries] 45 and the regulation of all markets and slaughterhouses; (45 Ins. by U P Act 12 of 1994 (w e f May 30, 1994).

Thus, for the prevalence of unauthorised slaughter in UP as well as in the country is due to the failure of the local bodies and the successive state governments in performing their obligations to provide hygienic place for slaughter of animals and provide the consumers with quality meat. Quality may be defined as the sum of the properties and characteristics of a product or service which enable it to satisfy explicit or implicit needs.

The recent efforts in the closure of all the recognised slaughterhouses (of municipality) as well as unauthorised slaughter places without making alternate arrangements is against the interest of not only the people dependent on the trade of meat animals and meat production and sale but also the large number of meat loving consumers which form majority of the population as per the recent National Sample Survey. The municipalities failed over the decades in providing hygienic slaughterhouses for the increasing population which alone can be attributed for the mushrooming of unauthorised slaughter facilities. A planned approach is expected from UP government for providing adequate hygienic slaughterhouses to contain the unauthorised slaughter and to become a model state for hygienic meat production.

Role of Mechanised Abattoirs and Meat Exports in UP
During the period 2003 to 2012, when the abattoirs were established in Uttar Pradesh and buffalo meat exports increased with sustained growth, though the arable land availability decreased by 1.23 per cent buffalo population increased by 28.61 per cent after mortality and utilisation for domestic meat market and export market. During the same period, total livestock increased by 14 per cent. This has been doubtlessly possible for the mechanised abattoirs contributing to increased prosperity of buffalo species through demand-driven sustained production with economic incentive available from meat exports to farmers. A very large proportion of meat export earnings goes back to farmers for sustaining their interest in buffalo production.

Mechanised abattoirs and meat exports have played an important role in the sustained production of buffaloes by complementing dairy sector – both contributing for increased milk productivity, efficient utilisation of culled buffaloes after productive lactations. A number of other associated sectors’ development such as feed sector, leather sector, and poultry sector has played its role in the sustained production of buffaloes both direct and indirect nature. Thus, buffalo prosperity has been observed in UP during the era of mechanised abattoirs and meat export. A very large proportion of farmers, weaker section people, women are getting benefited with mechanised abattoirs and meat exports and associated buffalo prosperity.

Mechanised Slaughterhouses                                                       
         The term mechanised slaughterhouses is often misunderstood as a factory where a  large number of animals are slaughtered contributing to depletion of livestock population.   Critics of animal slaughter and meat consumption make a propaganda against mechanised slaughterhouses in particular. Slaughterhouse or abattoir is an authorised place where approved meat animals are slaughtered for producing wholesome meat for human  consumption. Depending  on the  capacity  (number  of animals  slaughtered  per day), it may be small, medium or  large. Based  on  the  level of technology adopted it could  be  a  floor slaughter  (manual),  improvised  floor slaughter  (slaughter and partial  dressing on floor and complete dressing and evisceration in a hung position using some mechanical means), semi-mechanised (on rail dressing with manual movement of carcasses) and fully mechanised or automatic slaughterhouses (with large number of operations performed mechanically).         

    Mechanical slaughterhouses essentially have a number of facilities for organised undertaking of different operations in a convenient manner to follow animal welfare measures, prevent contamination of carcasses; conduct ante-mortem and post-mortem operations; effluent treatment, pet food and rendering facilities for processing inedible byproducts. Additionally meat processing, chilling and freezing, frozen storage facilities, workers amenities and so on may be there depending on the level of integration of the slaughterhouses.

Non-mechanised (Floor) Slaughter Places
Floor slaughter is a primitive method of slaughter and is practiced at some places in the country for production of meat for domestic market. In  floor slaughter the animal is cast on the floor, legs are tied and slaughtered (neck cut) for bleeding. Skinning, removal of feet,  head, evisceration, carcass splitting and quartering are performed using skin of the animal  as platform. Risks to the butchers, cruelty in handling of animals, contamination of the  carcass, unaesthetic appeal of the surroundings are common. Due to fresh meat consumption on the same day without any storage and thorough cooking practices followed the food safety risks are not commonly reported.
                                                                                          
The capacity of the slaughterhouse largely depends on the requirement for slaughter of animals  in  a  particular area  (service  slaughterhouse) or particular factory  (dealing with trade of meat).                                
                                                                                          
Slaughterhouses are owned by local bodies and provide slaughter facility against certain fees to the butchers or meat traders. Private slaughterhouses operate mostly for export purpose. The criticism and propaganda against mechanised slaughterhouses is only a   motivated attempt against slaughter of animals and meat consumption. Mechanised slaughterhouses are of social requirement as they contribute to the following desirable functions: -    Production of wholesome and hygienic meat; -    Practice of meat inspection regulations; -    Prevention of cruelty to animals by better handling and practice of humane slaughter; -    Prevention of environmental pollution and public health risks; -    Better utilisation of by-products; -    Aesthetic appeal of slaughter operations; -    Better environment management; -    Promotion of meat exports to fetch better returns to farmer animals; -     Essential in the post-WTO scenario to protect farmers interest and national image.                   
                                                                                         
Animal Welfare and Mechanised Slaughterhouses                                    
In the mechanised slaughterhouse, proper facilities for livestock receiving, holding, lairage, slaughter and dressing are available. Animal handling before slaughter is organised and animals are made comfortable as compared to the traditional slaughterhouses where animals may not be handled properly due to inadequate facilities. Thus, prevention of cruelty to animals is better practiced in mechanised / modern slaughterhouses. There is no reason for the activists to be against the mechanised slaughterhouses rather they should promote the cause of improvement/ modernisation of slaughterhouse.                                               

Modern Meat Plants for Complete Utility of Culled Animals
The slaughtered animal yields one-third of its live weight as meat and the rest is byproducts of edible and inedible types. Mechanised slaughterhouses having facilities such as rendering unit, pet food unit and effluent plant utilise all the edible and inedible byproducts in addition to the meat for realising maximum earnings to pay adequately to the farmer for his unproductive culled animal so that his interest in sustained production of animals is retained for continuity of the value chain approach in buffalo production and utility. Thus, there are no alternatives to mechanised slaughterhouses and have been recommended for establishment by a number of expert committees.

Slaughter of Animals - The Reasons
It is an inevitable aspect of livestock utility for ensuring food and nutrition security to the consumers and economic livelihood for millions of farmers dependent on livestock production activities. Slaughter utility is an important aspect of sustained livestock production through disposal of culled animals in order to maintain productive herd of better  producing animals.

Effective utilisation of livestock resources including slaughter of animals is essential for  sustaining livestock production more particularly under the present economic pressures where the input costs are significant of production costs and need to be recovered for  continuing with the livestock production activities. The propaganda against meat sector is not based on larger social requirements or scientific or economic facts.             

Thus, slaughter of animals is in farmers' interest and unfettered right to practice animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines as envisaged in Article 48 of Directive Principles of State Policy - to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. In the present period of crop failures and non-remunerative agriculture for various reasons, protection of farmers’ interest deserves high priority and all means for sustained income to farmers to continue their livelihood interest needs to be promoted, or else the farmer suicides may not be prevented. The meat sector with better organisation would contribute significantly to the government’s doubling of farmers’ income programme.

Restrictions on Mechanised Slaughterhouses and Consequences to Farmers                                           
    The consequences of restrictions on mechanised slaughterhouses would affect farmers with economic losses on account of diminished demand for the culled animals. The adverse effect on buffalo farmers would be severe as buffalo meat export forms 95 per cent of total meat export. It is essential and mandatory as per domestic and international regulations to produce meat for export in mechanised slaughter facilities. Sheep production prospects also get adversely affected resulting in decrease of returns to sheep farmers. As mechanised slaughterhouses have all the facilities for better animal handling, byproducts handling and processing, effluent treatment and waste disposal contribute positively to public health and environment in addition to providing benefits to a number of associated sectors and employment. Thus, any restrictions on mechanised slaughterhouses are neither in the interest of the livestock producers nor in national interest. When correctly understood, mechanised slaughterhouses are only essential and desirable components of rural agro-livestock value chain system to benefit farmers.       
                                                            
Conclusion
The Indian meat sector is a complex one associated with livelihood of many farmers and other stakeholders in addition to contribution to food and nutrition security and national economy. Hence stakeholders must have a say in the development of the sector and dogmatic approaches must be curtailed with priority for pragmatic approaches as enshrined in Articles 47 and 48 of Directive Principles of State Policy. Resource-poor farmers need to be facilitated for sustainable livelihood earning to practice mixed farming with advantage of promoting better returns to his culled and unproductive animals. It may be noted that when regulations are made with dogmatism, they are bound to cause adverse effects and would not be in national interest.

(The author is former joint commissioner (meat and meat products), department of animal husbandry dairying & fisheries (DADF), Government of India, and former director, National Research Centre on Meat (ICAR). He can be contacted at k_napa50@yahoo.co.in)
 
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