DRAVIDIAN TRAFFICKERS AND BEEF'S OWN COUNTRY
By BR Haran from Chennai
On Thursday the 11th of October, early in the morning at 5.30 am, a truck from Andhra Pradesh carrying two dozen cattle (cows, buffalos and oxen), bound for Kerala, met with an accident at a place called Maraimalai Nagar, some 30 kms from Chennai. The cattle were not visible as they were covered completely with tarpaulin. Local people informed Blue Cross of India after noticing blood oozing out from the truck. Blue Cross staff rushed to the spot and took the cattle to their shelter after registering a police complaint.
Two cows died in the accident and half a dozen cattle were seriously injured. Four personnel (all from Andhra Pradesh), who travelled in the truck were also seriously injured and hospitalised. Police took immediate action and brought the owner of the truck to book. He is cooling his heels in the prison now.
Dawn Williams, General Manager of Blue Cross, said, "I rushed to the spot and found only one vehicle AP16TB 9529 standing off the road after meeting with an accident. There was a crane trying to toe the vehicle away. I stopped the crane and climbed into the vehicle that was covered with tarpaulin. After removing the tarpaulin I found all the cattle hanging from the ropes that were tied around their necks almost getting strangled. Along with volunteer Mr. Surjit I had to cut the ropes and set them free. There were cattle with head injuries, cut wounds and cattle that were not able to get to their feet. Two of the cattle died. They were sent to Madras Veterinary College for an autopsy."
Truck loads of cattle (cows, calves, buffalos, buffalo calves and oxen) being trafficked to Kerala is a common sight in Tamil Nadu. Cattle not only from Tamil Nadu, but also from Andhra Pradesh, South Odisha and even Maharashtra are being trafficked 24X7.
While the transportation from Tamil Nadu to Kerala takes only a night or two, the transportation of cattle from other states, mentioned above, takes between four and seven days. During the entire journey they are starved without food and water. When the available space in a truck can hold only seven to eight cattle, not less than 30 to 40 cattle, with front legs and neck tied, are tightly packed and transported without food and water. They are not provided space to move even a little bit!
"The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, unambiguously states that when cattle are transported by road or rail, each animal should be provided with two square meter space. That means only seven or eight animals may be loaded for transport in one truck" says Dawn Williams.
Animal welfare organisations like Blue Cross and other animal activists are terribly unhappy about the total disregard shown by SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Unlike the Animal Welfare Board of India, the SPCA is vested with the authority to stop and search these trucks. The SPCA can not only take protective custody of the traumatised animals but also seize these vehicles for violating animal transportation laws. But unfortunately, the SPCA is not to be seen at all!
"We have been fighting against all odds," says Williams. "Now we have a ray of hope in the sense that a lot more people are coming forward for the cause of animal welfare and safety. We had an opportunity to contribute something, for the making of a documentary on cattle trafficking to Kerala, undertaken by an organisation by name Temple Worshippers Society. The documentary was released and screened for public very recently and we are hopeful that itself would not only create awareness among the general pubic but also would have a lasting impact on the government and the government departments concerned" said Williams.
Dawn Williams and his colleagues were on the roads for five days (three days in June and two days in July) between 9pm and 9am taking a survey of number of trucks (entered through Gummidipoondi from Andhra) trafficking cattle, between Kavarapettai and Thindivanam. After their study they came to a conclusion that 45 cattle trucks with 40 cattle each on a truck carry 1800 cattle per day per route.