Goa beef traders demand protection against cow vigilantes

Panaji, (IANS): Beef traders in Goa on Wednesday demanded police protection, alleging they were being attacked while transporting beef or beef waste by self-styled local “gau rakshaks” (cow vigilantes).

Addressing a press conference here, Manna Bepari, President of the Qureshi Meat Traders Association of Goa, said that the association had also appealed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, requesting him to put such vigilante groups under surveillance.

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“We have FDA (Food and Drugs Administration), health and municipality licences, unlike in Uttar Pradesh. Despite this, they are trying to replicate what is happening in that state. We will never allow this to happen. We want Goa government…Chief Minister to protect us,” Bepari told reporters.

Last week, traders transporting a consignment of beef waste to a government-endorsed disposal centre located at the only legal abattoir here — Goa Meat Complex — were stopped allegedly by gau rakshaks after stoning the vehicle and attacking its inmates.

Bepari claimed that such incidents were on the rise in Goa.

“They stone our vehicles and beat up our workers. We are requesting Goa government for protection, especially police protection. Those who are illegally attacking us should be kept under surveillance and we should be given police protection,” Bepari said, adding that names of the gau rakshak organisations had been submitted to the authorities.

Beef is normally consumed in the form of stew, curries, roasts, soups and is an essential protein, and one of the cheapest meats in most Christian and Muslim homes in the state. Minorities comprise nearly 30 per cent of the state’s 1.5 million population.

Cheaper than mutton, beef is also commonly consumed in the tourism-oriented coastal belt, which sees nearly three million tourists, half a million of which are foreigners.

According to official statistics from the Goa Meat Complex, the state’s only abattoir facility allowed to slaughter cattle and buffaloes, the state consumes more than 40 tonnes of beef every day.

Last month Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy and a senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary had demanded a ban on consumption of beef in the state, which is currently ruled by a BJP-led coalition.

Bepari said that nearly “5,000-6,000” people were involved in Goa’s meat industry and that there were around 70-80 beef traders in the state.

The only legal slaughtering facility, the Goa Meat Complex, Bepari said, only slaughters cattle which are certified fit for slaughter by a government veterinarian and under CCTV surveillance.

“All the beef which is sold in our stores is legally obtained from the complex,” Qureshi added.