Only one of the six meat shops had a licence to operate — to sell, not butcher

A rancid stench pervades the road to Karikottai Kothandanagar in Chromepet.

Here the earth is filled with blood and bone dust that trail off with rainwater, while horns and hooves lie dumped in one corner. Carcasses covered in tarpaulin lie on one side, a stunned calf too lies there, almost dead, while two men work on a slaughtered cow with knives.

The centre of these activities is an almost 80-year-old open slaughterhouse. On Sunday, around 5 a.m., when the Chromepet police, egged by animal activists, entered the place, activity was at its peak.

Only one of the six meat shops had a licence to operate, and that too, only to sell meat. After the raid, the Chromepet police registered a case against three persons who ran the slaughter business, under various offences of Tamil Nadu Animal Prevention Act.

The carcasses were confiscated and sent for post-mortem. “Meat shops cannot be used to slaughter animals,” said S. Muralitharan, an animal activist.  

The Tamil Nadu Animal Prevention Act mandates all animals be certified with ‘fit-for-slaughter’ certificate before slaughter. The certificate is given if the animal is over 10 years of age and unfit for work and breeding.

On Sunday, at least six calves and twenty cows lay bound in various rooms. The way meat is stored here and disposed as waste completely violates the rules laid down by the municipality, said G. Arun of the People for Cattle in India, the organisation that spearheaded the Sunday morning crackdown.

The sights at the venue are a testimony to his observation. Animal parts overflow from small buckets kept on the sides, and are sent to markets whenever needed. Discarded parts are dumped on the other side of the wall.

Dogs, crows and barefooted children roam nearby. The waste is cleared just once in six months when the stench gets unbearable, residents say.

Nearly 200 butcher families reside in the area. “We have been here all our lives, for almost four generations. There is nothing else we can do to earn a livelihood,” says Anandamma (62), a resident. 

Wednesday and Saturday nights are when the maximum quantity of cattle, mostly from Kancheepuram, are slaughtered. Carcasses hang from giant hooks on the ceiling of a dingy store room.

“We supply to almost nine Tasmac shops and 25 chicken centres in the area. With a lot of migrant construction workers coming to this area, beef is in much demand. Price of chicken has gone up,” says a butcher.  

Chromepet municipality health officials say checks had been carried out at the slaughter house a few months ago. Those who violated safety and hygiene norms were warned. There was also a recent notification from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

“Officials may fear the backlash from butchers’ families. But that does not mean they turn a blind eye to the gross violations here,” says an activist.

Another activist S.V. Badri said, “It is unfortunate that in a State where cows are given for free as a welfare measure, they are also being illegally transported and slaughtered.”

Besides quick arrests of those responsible, the activists have also demanded a thorough investigation in the case. “We saw at least 28 animals there in the morning but by noon, they had been taken away. Only immediate action can ensure some of them are rescued,” says Mr. Arun.

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