The people of Lahore consume tons of meat every day but little do they know where this meat is coming from, as the five government-run slaughterhouses in the city have been closed in order to encourage the butchers to get animals from the Punjab Agriculture and Meat Company (PAMCO) slaughterhouse in Shahpur Kanjran.
Unfortunately, the closure of the abovementioned abattoirs has only led to the butchers in and around the city to have a field day. The practice of slaughtering animals at private places is on the rise. The shops selling meat got from private slaughterhouses far outnumber those offering meat of animals slaughtered at the government-run PAMCO abattoir. Eventually, all these meat shops are illegal and the meat they are selling has not been approved and certified by the PAMCO and its officials (magistrates and veterinary doctors).
The veterinary doctors examine the animals before cutting them and supervise their slaughtering, but in private places there is neither a magistrate nor a veterinary doctor to okay an animal.
There are nine towns in Lahore and every town has been tasked to check the sale of meat coming from private places. But the town officials let the butchers carry on with their illegal business by asking for money (a monthly amount) in return. The amount of money varies with the quantity of the meat.
Livestock Deputy District Officer Dr Khalid Saleem tells TNS that all the government-run slaughterhouses in the city premises have been closed except those in Cantonment and Raiwind. “The Punjab government means to provide the consumers with quality meat and, therefore, it urges the butchers to go to the PAMCO slaughterhouse.”
Dr Saleem says the Punjab Livestock and the City District Government teams have conducted joint raids on the illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops running in the city. Unfortunately, all raids have not been successful as the presence of corrupt elements in the area police foils the attempts every time.
“When we raid an illegal slaughterhouse, we sometimes find nothing there. I don’t know who informs the butchers of the raid beforehand,” he adds.
However, not all raids have been unsuccessful. Dr Saleem speaks of having sealed a number of illegal abattoirs.
There’s a rub. The butchers who are based far away from the PAMCO abattoir face problems commuting to the slaughterhouse. In order to facilitate them, Dr Saleem says, the government plans to set up PAMCO distribution points in remote areas.
In response to a query, the DDO Livestock says setting up state-of-the art abattoirs in every town of the city (as is the demand of the private butchers) may be difficult “as it involves huge amounts of money.”
Slaughtering animals manually should not be allowed in any case “because here you cannot ensure hygiene. The idea is to put a stop to the sale of unhealthy and water-mixed meat.”
On the other hand, Lahore Qasab Bradri Welfare Society (LQBWS) President Iftikhar Waseem alleges that the Livestock and the City District Government personnel have destroyed the meat worth Rs900 million in different raids over the past two years. There were five government-run slaughterhouses in the city and now all these have been closed just to promote the PAMCO abattoir, at the cost of the butchers’ livelihood.
“When the population of Lahore was only two million, we had five slaughterhouses in the city and now the population has crossed the figure of 11 million but there is no abattoir within the city,” he adds.
“About 12,000 chhota jaanwar (mutton) and 10,000 barra jaanwar (beef) are slaughtered daily in the city and the PAMCO abattoir does not have the capacity for such huge number of animals,” Waseem reveals.
“The PAMCO abattoir is 35 kms from my shop on Ferozpur Road and it costs me up to Rs5,000 to carry an animal there and fetch it back. A rickshaw charges me Rs1,500 to collect meat from a PAMCO distribution point at Kot Kamboh. How would those [butchers] who are based in remoter towns operate?”
Waseem demands setting up “two slaughterhouses in every town, if the government really means to check the sale of the so-called unhygienic and substandard meat.”
Defending the quality of meat offered by private butchers, he says, “It is fresh, compared to the meat at the PAMCO. The animals there are slaughtered at evening time which means 14 to 16 hours ahead of the supply to markets. But the animals at the butchers’ are slaughtered only an hour or two before it is put up for sale.”
Punjab Halal Development Agency (PHDA) Chairman Justice (retd) Khalil-ur-Rehman stresses on the need for “a concerted effort to stop the sale and purchase of unhealthy and unhygienic meat” and “a strict law to punish the sellers of Haram meat.”
Talking to TNS, he says the government should set up a taskforce to check fake stamps imprinted on meat by the butchers. A DNA test can help to detect which animal the meat is of.
Justice (retd) Khalil-ur-Rehman says Halal trade is expanding in the world and Pakistan has a capacity to capture a lion’s share. To this end, the PHDA has planned an International Halal Festival in May this year.
According to the PAMCO Chairman Mumtaz Khan Manais, the Shahpur Kanjran slaughterhouse is currently charging a butcher Rs500/- for beef and Rs200/- for mutton. These are package deals and include removing the hide, medical checkup, chopping the meat, transporting it to the main distribution centre at Kot Kamboh, old Bakar Mandi. Whereas it costs the PAMCO between Rs1,600-2,000 to slaughter a big animal.
“The government has given this subsidy to encourage the sale and purchase of healthy and hygienic meat,” he declares. “Yet, the private butchers are not willing to take advantage of the facility.”
Manais also says the PAMCO Lahore Meat Processing Complex provides meat processing facilities to exporters and local butchers and it has the processing capacity of 1,500 large animals and 18,000 small animals a day.
A PAMCO official, on condition of anonymity, says there are many illegal slaughterhouses in the city and the employees of the Livestock department and the City District Government know about them too. “But instead of closing these illegal abattoirs, they only raid shops and confiscate the meat on show, just to prove to the world that they checked the sale of unhygienic stuff.
“A vigorous operation should be launched against such dubious entities which supply unhealthy meat to the city in numbers greater than those produced by the certified PAMCO.”
In the final analysis, there is no law in place to check the sale of unhygienic and unhealthy meat. If a butcher is caught selling such meat, a measly amount of money is imposed on him, followed by a brief jail sentence (only 72 hours).