With the opening up of Russian markets to Indian buffalo meat, India’s export is expected to touch ₹ 30000 crore during the current financial year from ₹ 11400 crore of 2010-11 and ₹ 13800 crore of 2012-13. India exports buffalo meat to 64 countries from the 27 export oriented abattoirs which strictly follow world class sanitary, phyto-sanitary measures. These mechanized abattoirs strictly follow the Codex Alimentarius standards and the guidelines of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health code besides having accreditations as HACCP for food safety, ISO: 14001 for environment management, ISO 9001:2000 for quality systems, and ISO 18001 for occupational health and safety management. No incidence of outbreak of animal diseases were reported in any country consequent to the import of meat.
Indian exports commenced in 1969 and are growing fast. The Indian exports may cross 15 lakh tonnes during the current year as compared to 1449759 tonnes of the previous financial year and the lead over Brazil, India’s biggest competitor is way ahead. Vietnam is the biggest importer of Indian meat and accounts to 40%. India exports only buffalo meat and the recent slaughter of cows by some states will not anyway affect India’s meat exports. The domestic price of buffalo meat may rise sequel to the ban of legal and illegal slaughter of cows, calves and bullocks.
During the last Lok Sabha elections, the then UPA Government was under attack for its policies of tax breaks for meat exports and subsidies for slaughter houses.
But from April 2014 to February 2015, the first ten months of the present NDA Government, about 13,56,794 tons of buffalo meat valued at ₹ 26,965 crore was exported from India recording a 11 per cent rise in quantity and 13 per cent jump in value terms. In India, the meat from buffaloes, cows and bullocks are usually marketed as beef. This growth is achieved despite the ban of cow slaughter by Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Delhi, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra joining the fray quite recently. Incidentally, Uttar Pradesh tops the production of buffalo meat for export.
Though the President of India has given assent to Maharashtra Government’s 19 year old legislation banning slaughter of cows and sale & possession of beef, the meat export scene was not adversely affected. But new development led to a lot of socio-political discussions. The judiciary too intervened in the matter and sought explanation from the government for the logic of banning meat from cows and bulls alone. Public demonstrations are taking place for and against the policies of the Maharashtra Government as some other states too are reported to be thinking on similar line. According to media reports, many BJP leaders are supporting ban on slaughter of cow and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister advised the people eating beef to migrate to Pakistan. Retired Justice Markandey Katju tweeted that more than 90% of people worldwide eat beef and Mr Naqvi’s remarks are simply absurd.
The situation led a few veterinarians of Kerala airing out their differences of opinion in public. Dr B Ashok, Vice Chancellor of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University opened his article dated 15th March in ‘Malayala Manorama’ with a statement that ‘Maharashtra’s ban on cow slaughter may be politically motivated’ but was quick to list out the ‘dangers’ of beef eating. He warned the public that a daily consumption of just 50 grams of beef could cause six to ten fatal diseases. According to him, ‘Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis leading to heart diseases, Intestinal cancer, type 2 diabetes, mad cow disease, endometriosis, autism, damage to immune system and infertility
in women. (Click here for article: Many reasons why you should chuck beef Dr B Ashok )
He also cited a few research findings of some organizations including University of California. He concluded that eating beef is more dangerous than smoking and drinking.He found that ‘red meat is for political reasons’ and ‘it is pointless to organize ‘beef festivals’. He was referring to the ‘mass consumption of meat’ termed as ‘beef festivals’ organized by leftist organizations in Kerala. He condemned the conduct of such festivals at the Veterinary College premises by some students and teachers skipping the ’convocation’ ceremony of Veterinary University.
Many readers were sceptical about Dr Ashok’s article. Some wanted to scrap the syllabus on meat and beef from the academic programme and to dissolve the ‘Meat Technology Department’ under the Veterinary University where Dr Ashok is functioning as Vice Chancellor. Some readers asked him not to mislead public and suggested a few publications for him to read. Some comments were too critical of his ‘ignorance’ and his ‘Hindutva agenda’.
Even when a vice-chancellor turned veterinarian has come out openly against beef-eating and was subjected to harsh criticism by general public, no one from veterinary profession came forward with any comment or clarification on the merits or hazards of beef eating. And after a few weeks, Dr J Abraham (former Director, Centre of Excellence in Meat Technology, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University) has come out with an article in the same newspaper with some ‘counter arguments’. He pointed out that people in US or Brazil whose average consumption of beef around 56 Kg. per annum remained healthy and away from ‘dangerous diseases’. He mentioned about the positive traits of vitamins and minerals as iron, zinc and selenium, protein and fat contained in the beef. (Click here for article: Beef has many good qualities Dr J Abraham )
If the findings of University of California found the iron content in beef, a potential causative agent to memory loss, why US Government not banning beef, Dr J Abraham asked. He ruled out the theory of beef as a major cause to colon cancer and asserted that beef and other meat do not contain ‘dioxin’ which according to Dr B Ashok can cause cancer, endometriosis and autism and damage to immune system. Dr Abraham mentions on the presence of Vitamin B12 in beef which is capable of control of Homocysteine playing a major role in causing heart disease, Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc which may develop memory and prevent disease.
However, both Dr Ashok and Dr Abraham agreed that ‘Mad Cow Disease’ is not reported in India. And the Vice-Chancellor has not come out with further comments over Dr Abraham’s counter arguments. And it is saddening to note that no other veterinarian or academician has openly come forward with comments or research findings on this topic. The Department of Meat Technology, a Centre of Excellence of the Veterinary University too has nothing to say, even as the general public is still at large on who is right and who is wrong.
It is the moral and social obligation of the Government of Kerala, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Meat Products of India and Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University to come out openly with convincing data to shed the doubts inflicted upon the poor citizens by a Vice-Chancellor and the retired ‘Director, Centre of Excellence in Meat Technology’ of the reputed Veterinary university.