Animal Slaughter Ban Sale of beef by herders from Merak and Sakteng gewogs has now become a rare sight in Phongmey, Radhi and Shongphu gewogs of Trashigang.
Dzongkhag officials said this is because the gewog tshogdes (GT) and dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) decided to ban the slaughter of animals. “Now we don’t have herders selling beef like before,” Phongmey gup, Palden Dorji said.
Sakteng gewog, in its DT, banned killing of animals from 2012; a couple of years earlier, the DT banned the butchering of animals across the district.
“Slaughter was banned for religious sentiments, social stigma and to prevent the spread of livestock diseases,” Sakten mangmi Yeshey Tshering said.
It was also to save the community from being labelled butchers, because no matter where the meat came from, people always credited Brokpas for it, he said.
However, Bhutan agriculture and food regulatory authority (BAFRA) allows slaughter of animals for meat under strict provisions. “Although BAFRA permits sale of meat, it can’t in Trashigang, because of the ban from DT,” BAFRA’s livestock inspector, KB Mongar said.
The dzongkhag livestock officer, Tenzin Dorji, said the lack of a designated abattoir didn’t allow meat to be produced locally, and conventional slaughter methods weren’t merciful. “It involved crude methods, like pushing the tethered cattle over the cliff,” he said.
Which is why the people wanted DT to ban slaughter of animals altogether, he said, adding that people also refused to give both social clearance and land to construct an abattoir.
But Sakteng’s livestock extension agent, Tashi Norbu, said that doesn’t mean the amount of meat production in Sakteng has dropped. “It’s just that the herders stopped selling meat in the villages of Radhi and Phongmey, sensing legal actions,” Tashi Norbu said. He said herders now prefer to trade live cattle across the border to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India.
What has dropped is the amount of meat produced by slaughtering animals, he said.
Only around 312kg of the total 6,245kg beef produced in 2012 was from slaughter of animals. The rest came from accidental deaths, or deaths from wild dog attacks, Tashi Norbu said.
With buyers from Tawang also on the wane for a couple of years now, herders worry that losing the market across the border would make a huge dent in cash income, as butter and cheese aren’t as good as meat.
BAFRA also fines people if they sell meat without availing clearance from its office.
A villager from Rongthung was fined Nu 10,000 for illegal sale of meat in 2012.
The ban on slaughter of animals has increased dependency on imported meat from India, as well as intensified the ongoing Rupee crunch.
Seven meat shops in Trashigang imported beef, pork and chicken worth Nu 39.89M since 2011. That comes to over 292.2MT (metric tonnes) of meat items. Import of beef increased to 25,397kg last year, from 21,042kg in 2011. The import of chicken also shot up to 39,936kg from 36,746kg in 2011.
The demand for meat is evident, usually on Losar’s eve, when Trashigang residents almost fistfight to grab a few kilograms of meat from the only meat shop in town. Besides Trashigang, the meat shop also caters to parts of Trashiyangtse and Mongar dzongkhags.
“Even villagers, who once produced meat, are now consuming imported meat, because of the ban, for compassionate reasons,” Phongmey gup, Palden Dorji said .
Dzongkhag livestock officer Tenzin Dorji said banning slaughter and releasing animals also crowded limited pastureland.
Meanwhile, some people suggest that, instead of banning the slaughter, those willing should be allowed to take up meat production with licenses. “Or else, religious figures should preach on not eating meat because, if people have to consume, production for economic reasons should be encouraged,” Palden Dorji said.
By Tempa Wangdi/Trashigang