Bengaluru’s slaughterhouse dilemma

Illegal slaughtering of animals thrives in the city while the BBMP tries to comply with court orders and KSPCB’s strictures with no practical solution to the problem.
Last Updated : 05 August 2023, 09:55 IST
Last Updated : 05 August 2023, 09:55 IST

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A gang of four YouTubers was arrested for extorting money from a meat seller this week in Bengaluru, claiming that they knew he slaughtered animals illegally. This is just a pointer to the city’s underbelly, where an informal system thrives because there are no viable, practical alternatives for stakeholders involved in the meat trade.

The city, spanning more than 900 km, has three official slaughterhouses: One on Tannery Road, another on Pottery Road and another in K R Market. The Pottery Road slaughterhouse caters to pork, but officials say only a countable number of animals are slaughtered there.

Credit: DH Graphic
Credit: DH Graphic

The slaughterhouse in K R Market produces sheep and goat meat. The British-era slaughterhouse on Tannery Road produces the meat of large animals (buffaloes) and small animals (sheep,goats and pigs). This slaughterhouse has come under the radar repeatedly, with litigations and bans against it, amid the lack of modern facilities to manage it well.

The pollution caused by the slaughterhouse and the hesitance of people to buy properties around the area led to litigations. B Krishna Bhat filed litigation in 1996 against the Bangalore City Corporation and the state government in the high court, seeking to set up abattoirs or slaughterhouses away from the residential areas.

The city commissioner and the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department representatives told the court that the slaughterhouse must be shifted from Tannery Road to an alternative location. Officials admitted that efforts were being made since 1976-77 to move the slaughterhouses but could not be done for “one or the other reason”.

The Karnataka Meat and Poultry Marketing Corporation (KMPMC), under the state Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department, ran the slaughterhouse despite the land lease having expired in 1994. KMPMC paid no fee to the city corporation.

The high court, in its order of 2002, concluded that “all these slaughterhouses are causing great risk to the health of the residents of the city” and directed that the “slaughterhouses/abattoirs which are being run in the territorial limits of the Bangalore City Corporation should be shifted to the outskirts of the city limits.” It gave a deadline of six months for this.

However, this order and subsequent closure orders proved unrealistic as the state and the city corporation could not find suitable land for a new abattoir. Meanwhile, the slaughterhouses inside the city kept running, with poorly maintained effluent treatment mechanisms.

Following more complaints, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) cancelled the slaughterhouse licence in 2009. However, the slaughterhouses kept running for the lack of an alternative. The BBMP decided to modernise the ETP at Tannery Road at Rs 40 lakh in 2011, which did not happen due to a lack of political will.

A submission of BBMP to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in January 2022 over a suo moto litigation over fishkill in Ulsoor Lake shows KSPCB’s many short-term measures and permanent solutions to eliminate discharge into the stormwater drains.

KSPCB’s permanent solution involved installing four modernised abattoirs equipped with ETPs in Tannery Road and other parts of the city.

The short-term solution was to collect the effluent from Tannery Road and K R Market slaughterhouses and treat it at the ETP belonging to Leather Industries Development Corporation Ltd (LIDKAR). However, this did not work as a part of LIDKAR’s ETP was acquired for a metro line, and the machinery had been dysfunctional.

The BBMP agreed to take emergency measures to fix the effluent treatment mechanism, as the closure of the slaughterhouse without an alternative would lead to illegal slaughtering. It added that tenders were floated to carry the effluent from the Tannery Road slaughterhouse and K R Market slaughterhouse to ETPs.

It added that the effluent discharge outlet had been plugged at Tannery Road, and arrangements will be made to make biogas from the waste while a service provider will carry the wastewater to ETP. However, the KSPCB issued a new closure order for all slaughterhouses in the city and sought the disconnection of electricity and water supply to these.

In March 2022, BBMP awarded short-term tenders to a private firm entrusting it with the responsibility of collecting and transporting the effluents from both slaughterhouses.

The slaughterhouse continues to operate today, but locals say the problem of stench has decreased though the mechanism remains the same. When DH visited, officials showed the dilapidated office building with a leaking roof for which they had requested an urgent repair, and proposals had been sent.

Reliable sources say that today, the 25-foot-deep ETP pit is covered with animal dung, significantly covering up the effluent’s stench. Biogas is being collected from the pit. The reddish-brown effluent is discharged into a stormwater drain, and a sewerage line, but no stench emanates exclusively from wastewater. Meat waste is collected separately and is carried for processing as animal feed.

The K R Market slaughterhouse has no effluent treatment facility. The effluent is collected in a tank and taken to an ETP. The BBMP plans to build an ETP, and a consultant is preparing the DPR, said officials. The project might need about Rs 35 lakh, they say.

The Harohalli story

The government allotted 40 acres in Harohalli Industrial Area off Kanakapura Road in 2009 for a modern abattoir. It wrested the responsibility of building and maintaining it with a Chennai-based private party through a private-public partnership. The project will have modern facilities to slaughter all types of animals and an ETP with the latest technology.

The locals protested against this project initially, while many Hindu organisations and seers joined them in 2018, mainly because the abattoir would allow large animal (cattle) slaughter. Such protests petered out with the state’s ban on cow slaughter, though local land losers are still unhappy.

Mahantesh Guranpur, executive engineer (Projects), BBMP South, told DH that the project would take some more time to get finalised as a part of the land acquired is under litigation.

The BBMP has taken land for the project from Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) under lease for 30 years and has written to KIADB asking them to clear the dues of farmers, solve litigations and clear encroachments. The area has now been reduced to 36 acres, and a compound wall demolished by unhappy land-losers needs to be rebuilt, after compensating them.

When illegality is inevitable

As per data from April, May and June 2023, the number of animals killed in the city (buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs) per month was 52,835, 44,014 and 46,064, respectively.

In a note from March 2022, BBMP puts the consumption of red meat in Bengaluru at 33,312 tonnes and about 5,825 tonnes of poultry meat, with average daily consumption at 91 tonnes.

Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, Karnataka Prevention of Animal Sacrifices Act and Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act ban the slaughtering of animals and illegal sale of meat which can attract criminal charges.

However, DH saw mutton stalls with just trade licences in many parts of the city where slaughtering is also done. The reasons for the so-called illegality are systemic. The illegality solves some issues for the people involved, in the absence of a formal solution.

The owner of one such meat stall, preferring anonymity, explained the problem. “Bengaluru is vast; two slaughterhouses cannot cater to the meat demand. Establishing one giant abattoir in Harohalli will not solve the problem. Some animals will die during the transportation to Kanakapura Road amid this traffic, and transporting the meat back to the city will be another headache, especially for the city’s northern parts.”

It is common to see animals dying during transportation, even in the Tannery Road slaughterhouse. These carcasses are directly disposed of along with animal waste. “Tannery Road slaughterhouse is just 6-7 kms from where I live. But I don’t want to go there as the traffic kills a lot of time and eats into my profit,” he says, adding that he slaughters about 9-10 animals daily, catering to the local demand.

However, this leads to a lack of certification on the meat quality by veterinary doctors, which legal slaughterhouses are mandated to do. And the effluents go to sewerage lines or storm water drains, though in lesser quantity.

The trader says big slaughterhouses or abattoirs are always tricky to manage, and problems will also be significant. According to him, smaller slaughterhouses operating in various parts of the city could be standardised with set health and safety procedures and legalised. With this, he says people can get fresh meat quickly, as the demand for fresh meat is increasing in the city.

There are no plans to install more abattoirs right now, says K V Thrilok Chandra, Special Commissioner (Health). Shutting down Tannery Road slaughterhouse for modernisation will lead to increased illegal slaughtering as there are no alternatives. He says people who slaughter meat illegally should go to designated slaughterhouses, or else action will be taken against them. He adds that the effluent treatment at Tannery Road is being taken care of, and water quality is checked regularly to ensure compliance.

Published 04 August 2023, 18:30 IST

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