Vol. 5 Num 514 Mon. November 07, 2005  

Enacting a new law on slaughter of animals

It is learnt from newspaper reports that the government is working to enact a new law on the control of slaughter of animals and inspection of meat to replace the existing half-century-old Animals Slaughter (Restriction) and Meat Control Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as the existing Act). The existing Act as amended up to 1983 and extending to the whole of Bangladesh is inadequate to meet the needs of the present time and this has necessitated its replacement by the new law.

Available information reveals that the draft of the new law now under review of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock may have, inter alia, the following provisions.

  • Emphasis on safe and disease-free meat consumption from poultry, bull, bullock, cow, ox, buffalo, sheep and goat.
  • Flexibility in terms of age restriction on the slaughter of animals.
  • Three meatless days a week to protect cattle population.
  • Slaughtering of animals namely bull, bullock, cow, buffalo, goat, sheep only in abattoirs.
  • Setting up standards of abattoirs, effluent processing and waste management to check environmental degradation, maximum residue level in terms of pesticides or antibiotics found in meat.
  • Ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections of slaughtered animals by veterinary surgeons to help determine the existence of any disease in such animals that is likely to be transmitted to human body.
  • Measures to expedite meat exports.
  • Creating scope for processing and use of slaughter waste such as cow dung, horns, bone and artery or veins to derive maximum economic return.

A closer look into the above provisions of the proposed law helps arrive at the following conclusions:

First, the existing Act has not put much emphasis on safe and disease-free meat from animals defined in the Act. The inclusion of provision of safe and disease-free meat and its proper implementation may ensure consumption of safe meat and meat products in the country and remove any type of obstacles in exporting meat and meat products.

Second, the existing Act restricts the slaughter of (a) a she-goat or ewe below the age of two years or any other female animal below the age of three years; (b) a he-goat, ram or lamb of or below the age one year or any other male animal of or below the age of seven years if such animal is used or is capable of being used for draught or breeding purposes; (c) a she-goat or ewe of or below the age of five years or any other female animal of or below the age of ten years, if such animal is not unsuitable for bearing offspring and is capable of producing milk; and (d) any female animal which is pregnant or is in milk. Flexibility in terms of age restriction on the slaughter of those cattle that are under fattening programmes and are not suitable to provide the necessary draft power for ploughing may help increase the availability of meat.

Third, the rate of growth in the livestock sector is far from satisfactory. Available data reveal that the country's cattle population showed an annual growth rate of 0. 25 percent between 1960 and 1990 while the population grew at about 3 percent annually during the same period. The recent growth rate is reported to be much lower than the annual rate of growth required to meeting the increasing demand for livestock products, especially meat and milk. A Bangla daily has reported that at the moment, there is a shortfall of 123 crore 20 lakh 60 thousand tonnes of milk, 50 lakh 10 thousand tonnes of meat and 929 crore pieces of eggs in comparison with the demands (The Ittefaq, July 12, 2005). Thus, introduction of three meatless days a week appears to be a difficult proposition in view of the fact that the production of alternative protein such as fish, eggs and some vegetables is also equally unsatisfactory.

Fourth, slaughtering of animals namely bull, bullock, cow, buffalo, goat, sheep only in abattoirs is an environment friendly proposition. But this will first require development of adequate infrastructural facilities.

Fifth, now the people are at risk of consumption of meats of any type selling in the markets, as there is no provision of checking animal diseases likely to be transmitted to human body. We often come across media reports about the slaughter of diseased animals and the sale of meat of dead cows. There are also media reports about the sale of dead chickens in the hotels and restaurants. The daily Ittefaq (October, 29) has carried a detailed report on the slaughter of diseased cow, ox, buffalo, goat and sheep in the capital in unhygienic conditions. Slaughtering of animals on the roadside and other open spaces even in the capital is not uncommon. The meat of buffalo is regularly sold in the name of beef. The Daily Star (October 29) has carried a report which shows that a mobile court filed cases on October 28 against 20 unscrupulous traders for selling buffalo meat in the name of beef in different city markets. Ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections of slaughtered animals particularly in the cities and towns by veterinary surgeons are of utmost importance to ensure availability of safe meat. But there are media reports that even in the capital the veterinary surgeons appointed by the Dhaka City Corporation hardly examine any animals before they are slaughtered. They are in the pay roll of the unscrupulous meat traders. Regular monitoring of the activities of the veterinary surgeons by the higher authority and punishing the corrupt ones may help improve the situation.

Sixth, we have seen above that there is a huge shortfall of meat against our requirement. The proposition for the export of animal meat thus requires a close examination.

Seventh, the existing law prescribes punishment that may extend to six months' imprisonment or fine of Tk 1000 or both for contravening any of its provisions. Considering the importance of animal meat and meat products in human health, the fine of Tk 1000 may be increased to act as a deterrence to violate the law.

Last but not the least, the existing Act extends to the whole of Bangladesh. The exception is that nothing in the Act applies to animals slaughtered or to be slaughtered on the day of Id-uz-Zoha and Id-ul-Fitre and the two days succeeding each of those festivals. So will the proposed law. The question arises as to how the law will work in the rural areas including the growth centres that constitute more than 80 percent of the country in the absence of facilities like abattoirs and necessary manpower such as veterinary inspectors. Along with the creation of the necessary infrastructure, vigorous campaign should be launched to create awareness among the people about the hazardous effects of slaughtering animals outside the designated places on environment in general and human health in particular.

To conclude, meat is an important item of food. The law on the slaughter of animals and inspection of meat encompasses all strata of the society. The government may, therefore, solicit opinion of the people and the media on the draft law disclosing it to the print media before placing it in the cabinet meeting. This will set a good example of people's participation in the process of decision-making on important public issue.

M. Abdul Latif Monda is al former Secretary to government.