Professional Mechanism of Animal Slaughter: Enhance Sustainable Development

By A. W. M. Buhari | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 16 2020

By A. W. M. Buhari

Given is a brief analysis of the impact on the economy by imposing the ban on cattle slaughter.

The average life span of cattle is around 20 years. Both indigenous and exotic breeds give less milk after the 6th lactation that is when the cow is about 10- 12 years. After that it is not economical to maintain a cow. Hence the farmer disposes of it. Some animal gets sick even before this age and become unproductive. Mastitis is one such disease. If the ban is to be imposed the farmer will have to maintain the cow for at least for 8 years without any productivity. 

Sri Lanka being a small country does not have enough pasture land even for the existing cattle population. In fact, this is one reason why the dairy industry is not in a position to thrive well and be self-sufficient in milk production. Increasing unproductive cattle population will not only be a burden to farmers but also to the country. Because the competition for food between productive and unproductive animals will result in productive 

animals getting less food than usual resulting in less milk production.Hence the necessity to import more milk powder. A blanket ban on cattle slaughter would mean the farmers or state would have to continue to pay for their upkeep – a financially unsustainable option. Even if farmers let loose the cattle in a jungle there will be another conflict between wild elephants and cattle for fodder. This will further aggravate the human elephant conflict.  When the natural bio diversity is disturbed it will have its own consequences. 

Accommodating aging cattle

Accommodating aging cattle population until they die naturally is a gargantuan task. Let’s calculate it in this way. As per the livestock statistical bulletin of the Department of Animal Production and Health for 2019 there are 1.52 million cattle and 0.47 million buffalos totaling to 1.97 million.  Out of 1.97M, 10 per cent will become unproductive and aged annually that means 197,000 cattle per year. For 8 years 1.57 Million aging cattle, almost double the size of the existing cattle population. Where are we going to find the space to accommodate such a large number  and where are we going to find pasture land to feed them. A simple calculation of 10 kg fodder per animal will require 15.70 Million kg /day. To get this we need a minimum  of 50,000 acres pasture land of hybrid grass with irrigating facility and fertiliser input. 

The cost of production per day will require minimum 157 Million rupees and 57 billion rupees per annum. If it is normal grass the land requirement will be double or triple. This will be a heavy burden on feeding productive dairy cattle. Apart from feed the maintenance and medical cost will also be huge. Who will bear this cost? Environmental and health hazards of dead animals if not properly buried is another concern. If they are not properly housed, they will become stray cattle on the roads and in urban areas causing a public nuisance. There will be starvation due to scarcity and competition for food and the cattle will slowly and painfully die this will be a worse form of animal cruelty. Some states in India are already experiencing stray cattle problems owing to the ban on cattle slaughter. 

Cattle Export

Exporting of cattle is also not possible. Because 51per cent of the cattle are indigenous,  Zebu type and cross breed and the average live weight is about 200 kgs. If slaughtered the yield percentage is very less. Most countries that export beef have breeds that weigh around 700 Kg with higher yield. Even in India where buffalos are slaughtered, they weigh around 400 Kgs. It is this kind of beef that has a demand in the world market. Competing in the world market is almost impossible. Besides exporting live cattle requires lot of quarantine procedure and is a costly affair.

Foreign exchange drain

As per statistic, per capita consumption of beef is 1.4 kgs in 2017. If we assume the same figure even now, we need 29.4 M. kgs beef per annum. It will cost 5378 USD per MT as per 2017 figure. For 29.4 M kgs our foreign exchange drain would be more than 158 M. USD (equivalent of 30 Billion LKR). This is a gigantic amount which a country like ours cannot afford.

Cattle considered as living banks

Considering the approximately 400,000 small scale dairy farmers and their dependency in cattle rearing which is an integral part of rural economy it is pertinent that unproductive females and bull calves are culled to maintain bio diversity and generate income that will sustain dairy industry at large. In rural economy the cattle are considered as a ‘living bank’ where most urgent needs are met by selling them.   

The way forward to sustain and develop dairy industry is to focus on a good breeding programme, introducing latest technology to get maximum yield from hybrid grass varieties and veterinary input. This will result in increased milk production. The average milk production per cow per day varies from province to province from 1 to 6 liters and the overall average is a mere 2 liters (DAP&H 2008/2009) whereas India through their breeding programme and good management practices has the following average yield. Exotic cow 11.67 cross bred 7.85 indigenous cow 3.85 and buffalo 6.34 liters/day.(2019 statistics).

Negligence of breeding programmes

Negligence of breeding programmes in the past coupled with poor feeding and management practices have led to this precarious situation. If the national level average milk production can be increased to 5 liters/ day we can be self-sufficient in our milk production with the existing cattle population size because currently with the average 2 liters / day production we are meeting 40per cent of our requirement.

Tannery and Leather industry which heavily depends on hides from slaughtered cattle will also be severely affected where there are nearly 100000 people employed in footwear and leather good accessories. If cattle slaughter is banned the leather industry will have to import leather draining our valuable foreign exchange.

Most of all no investor will think of investing in the dairy industry in future. That will be a major blow. 

Cattle slaughter ban counterproductive

In the best interest of the country economy and to sustain dairy sector we propose the following for your consideration.

Well-designed breeding programme to increase milk production, introduction of incentive to manage hybrid pasture land, better veterinary and extension services. Indian model is one such success story.

Centralise and establish a modern environmentally friendly abattoir: This will help easy monitoring, stop dwindling cattle population due to slaughtering of cows and heifers resulting in less milk production. One per district or province is ideal where a strict screening of cattle is possible by government agencies.

A stringent screening of cattle for slaughter is possible only if it is centralised. Currently each local council has their own slaughter house without basic facilities that makes the monitoring difficult.

This will also prevent inhuman way of slaughtering of cattle in unhygienic environment. Almost all existing slaughter houses are not well designed. hygienic condition is very poor. No mitigation to protect environment. Establish a modern environmentally friendly abattoir where the humane handling of cattle is ensured. Set criteria and requirement for humane handling of animals and maintenance of quality and hygiene. Get private companies involved.

Investment on modern abattoir is big and each council cannot afford to have their own one. It is also not economical to invest such a huge amount for each and every councils. Hence one for a district is viable. 

Standardise beef stall: selling beef in an unhygienic environment is an eye sore. Most of the beef stalls in the country are unhygienic and unpleasant. There should be a national standard for a beef stall that ensure hygiene and quality. Local councils should provide those facilities in their respective areas for every stall as they earn huge amount through tenders.

Enact law on animal welfare.

Seylan Farm Ltd realising the environmental degradation and inhumane and primitive way slaughtering in unhygienic slaughter houses and other places in the country has established a modern environmentally friendly abattoir for the Trincomalee district where hygiene and humane handling of animals are ensured. This is done in collaboration with the office of the Commissioner of Local Government of Eastern Province and some local councils.Obtaining Environmental Protection License (EPL) is in process. This is the first of its kind in the country and this can be duplicated in other districts as well. This project also incorporates usage of renewable energy through Biogas and compost making from the wastes and liquid fertiliser production to use as an eco-friendly fertiliser.  In a sense this project supports the initiative of the Government to promote organic farming.

This private public partnership ship venture is successfully implemented in Kerala state in India.

By A. W. M. Buhari | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 16 2020

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