Butchers’ strike leads to meat shortage in Chakwal

Chakwal’s Chhapar Bazaar meat market appeared deserted on Monday, due to the butchers’ strike. — Dawn
Chakwal’s Chhapar Bazaar meat market appeared deserted on Monday, due to the butchers’ strike. — Dawn

CHAKWAL: Despite a shortage of female cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep, Chakwal’s butchers are unwilling to obey a law banning the slaughter of female livestock.

Butchers from the Chakwal and Choa Saidan Shah tehsils have been striking against the ban for a week, which has led to an acute shortage of meat for residents. People arranging events, such as marriage or death ceremonies, have not been able to buy beef or mutton, leaving many with no option but to turn to chicken – the sale of which has multiplied in the area.

The Punjab Animals Slaughter Control Act 1963 bans the slaughter of female goats, sheep, buffaloes and cows that are fit for breeding. However, authorities have looked away when it comes to the violation of this law, and only started paying attention in 2014, when a survey report revealed a 40pc decline in the number of female animals in the province.

Quoting Livestock and Dairy Development Secretary Nasim Sadiq, a report published last year stated that the Punjab government surveyed all 36 districts of the province in 2014, reached 2.6 million farming families and concluded that the reinvigoration of the ban was overdue. A 2002 survey had disputed the federal government’s figures and asked for a ban on the slaughter of female animals.

In 2015, the government reinvigorated the dormant law, and since then has tried to enforce the law. Butchers involved in violating the ban have been arrested and fined heavily over the last year.

Chakwal’s authorities recently registered 10 cases against butchers who went on strike.

“A female animal is very dear to a farmer. When a female animal is pregnant, the owner prays for a female calf or lamb so he can keep it for milk,” said Butchers Union President Mohammad Kamran Akhtar.

“The farmers only sell female animals that are not fit for breeding,” he said. Farmers say the authorities have punished them without checking whether the slaughter animals in question were fit for breeding.

“Besides punishing us for the slaughter of female animals, the official rates for meat are also very law which is causing us heavy losses,” Mr Kamran added. He said the butchers have demanded the ban be repealed. “If our demand is not met, we will extend our strike to the whole district and come out onto the roads,” he warned.

The officials, in turn, have rejected the demand and call in unreasonable.

“The continued smuggling of animals to Iran and Afghanistan from Punjab has led to a big drop in the population of female animals. Meat in Iran and Afghanistan is costlier than in Punjab, so smugglers make most of the situation,” said Dr Mohsin Raza Malik, the district officer of the Livestock and Dairy Development Department. He called the butchers’ demand and strike “absurd”, but added that they are “trying to resolve the issue through dialogue”.

District Coordination Officer Mehmood Javed Bhatti said that it is only farmers from the Chakwal tehsil – in the whole province – who are not obeying the law.

“It is our duty to increase the population of our livestock, and for this the government is trying its best. Butchers and farmers should cooperate with the government,” he said, and added that the district administration is doing its best to resolve the matter.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2016

Courtesy DAWN