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Chicken Wins In Cock And Bull Saga
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Poultry firms expect demand to pick up after a ban on beef in Maharashtra, with other states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also aiming to toughen laws on slaughter of livestock.
India is the world's second biggest beef exporter, although its majority Hindu community considers cows to be sacred, and Modi's BJP, in power for 10 months, is pushing for legal measures to "protect and promote the cow".
Maharashtra, which has a population of about 110 million, and sprawls over an area roughly the size of Italy, widened its ban this month to cover meat from bulls and bullocks. The states of Jharkhand and Haryana, also ruled by the BJP, are looking for ways to discourage slaughter of livestock.
Such curbs, which critics call the outcome of Modi loyalists pushing a Hindu agenda, will cost jobs and hit India's exports, but spell good news for many poultry farms. "We are expecting chicken consumption to increase in Maharashtra after a month, as it is a direct alternative to beef," said Prasanna Pedgaonkar, deputy general manager at chicken processor Venky's.
Pedgaonkar expects the measure to push up sales 5 per cent for his firm, which owns the English football club Blackburn Rovers, from a daily figure of 1,500 tonnes now.
Overall consumption in the state could rise 5 per cent to 8 per cent within a month, said Dinesh Bhosale, the South Asia sales head of AB Vista, an animal feed supplier based in Britain.
Even without a beef ban, India's poultry output has been scaling annual records, as higher incomes boost demand for meat in the world's second-most populous country.
Broiler production will hit a new high of 3.9 million tonnes in 2015, the US Department of Agriculture estimated in October.
Owners of Mumbai shops that sell chicken say the effect of the beef ban has yet to show up in prices, although demand is starting to pick up despite the onset of summer, when consumption usually slows.
"Usually (demand and prices) drop during summer months, but this year they may not, due to the ban on beef," said Abdul Azar, as he cleaned his small chicken shop.
Urging the people not to make a "religious and prestige issue" out of the ban, the Bombay High Court on Monday refused to grant relief to beef dealers in the city.
The division bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and A.R. Joshi said Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act had come into effect as it had been notified in the official gazette.
"Since the law has come into effect, now the authorities are duty-bound to take action if slaughter is carried out. Please do not make this a religious and prestige issue," Justice Kanade said.
The Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers' Welfare Association had approached the court seeking to intervene in a petition filed by Bhartiya Gauvansh Rakshan Sanvardhan Parishad which has sought enforcement of the new law.
The association's lawyer had earlier claimed that the new law would come into effect only after it is notified.
The state government submitted the notification, following which the court said it cannot grant any relief.
Under the new law, which has received the President's assent, anyone found to be selling beef or possessing it can be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000.