The Commerce Ministry’s project to export roughly one lakh goats and sheep from Nagpur to Sharjah, UAE, has come to a halt before it could even leave the barn. The export was supposed to beef up income for farmers in the Vidarbha region, which is infamous for a high rate of farmer suicides. But just a day before the first batch of livestock was to fly out from Nagpur airport on June 30, the plan was dropped after a delegation of Jains and Hindus protested against it.

‘Ban all animal exports’
On June 29, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and non-profit organisations, Save Speechless and Vegan India Movement, held protests in Nagpur. Post their victory, FIAPO’s Varda Mehrotra said that they were “relieved”, but “stopping it one time does not help in the whole scheme of things. We want a complete ban on the export of animals.”

Shaina NC appeals to Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao to stop the export of livestock
Shaina NC appeals to Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao to stop the export of livestock

When asked whether one has the right to tell others to stop eating meat, Mehrotra said, “We don’t ask anyone to change their lifestyles or stop doing what they identify with, but we do want people to make informed and educated decisions. So, we make the information available for all those who are open to change, and provide an option to all those who are looking.”

Here in Mumbai…
This city, too, has become part of the battleground, as BJP’s Mangal Prabhat Lodha and Shaina NC took a delegation of Jains to Raj Bhavan on June 29, to seek Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao’s intervention.

Shaina NC cited “sentiments attached to the issue”, speaking in favour of stopping exports. When it was pointed out that people eat mutton in India too, she replied, “But such huge numbers of animals to be exported? That is not on.” Lodha was more combative, responding to the same question with: “Do not divert from the issue. This is not about India, we are talking about export to UAE. This is a positive development, and I hope you will see it that way too.”

Asked to react on farmers of Vidarbha losing a source of income, he retorted, “How much? They would have been paid Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per animal, or much less.”

‘Farmers need this’
“I would estimate that a farmer would make Rs 5,000 per animal. This is a business model that works in volumes,” said Dr Vikas Mahatme, Rajya Sabha MP and Dhangar (shepherd community) leader, who spearheaded the export project.

“The farmers of Vidarbha are struggling, and this would have eased their financial burden. I had dubbed this project ATM – any time money,” said the ophthalmologist who also breeds sheep at his farm in Nagpur. He added, “The export was called off because a section of the Jain community objected. Now the ministry officials have asked us to first hold talks with the community before going ahead. I do not agree with the decision to call off the exports, but in a democracy it is always good to have a consensus, so it is important that we talk to those who are opposed to it.”

Not just Jains
Atul Shah, a trustee of the Mumbai-based Akhil Bharat Kristi Goseva Sangh, a non-profit with its head office at Opera House, added, “We are not aware about forthcoming talks. I went with the delegation to the Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to point to out our concerns about the export.”

Shah insisted that the delegation against exports was not Jain-specific but comprised, “lovers of Ahimsa… Increasing numbers of people are turning vegetarian in the world.” He said that farmers of Vidarbha would not earn much, “only R2,000 per goat or sheep.” Instead, he added, “The animals will bring in money. We get wool from sheep, goat milk is sold at Rs 200 a litre.”

Date: 3-Jul-2018