A lot of air was cleared yesterday, when members of the government, including the Prime Minister, said that the government had never planned to set up slaughterhouses in the country.
The government is even willing to stop the meat-processing unit, which is nearing completion, if people are against the idea. This will come as a relief to the people, who expressed strong resentment against the idea.
Most confused a meat-processing unit for a slaughterhouse. To be fair, a mention of “slaughtering animals professionally” when this paper ran a story on the meat-processing unit at Serbithang made people believe that animals would be slaughtered in the country.
The idea of the processing unit is good. It aims to provide hygienic meat and in quantities that would suit the consumer’s needs. Like the agriculture minister said, meat available in the country today is not the healthiest and has to be bought in large quantities, to be precise, by the leg. We are already consuming a lot of packaged and frozen meat.
The government should not stop the meat-processing unit. The reasons are convincing and stopping it would be giving in to public pressure, in others words taking a populist decision. They must weigh the pros and cons. With or without the processing unit, people that consume meat will consume. The difference is we will have better choices.
However, if the idea is also to curb import of meat, there seems to be some contradiction. We will still be importing meat to be processed. If the plan is to process only imported meat, import figures will still be alarming. We imported meat worth Nu 1.37B in 2014.
In trying to find a way out from public sentiment, government cannot only resort to importing meat to be processed. Where will the 2,000 pigs at the fattening farm planned in Yusipang go? Should we wait for them to die to be processed in to bacon and ham? That would be more unhygienic.
What about the several broiler farms and those planned to supply chicken? Should we wait for them to die a natural death? And what about the acres of fish farms planned? Where will they go?
Food self-sufficiency is an important mandate. Meat is an integral part of our food and, without domestic productions, we will not achieve this dream. There is pressure from the public, but the view is not representative of the mass.
Slaughtering animal is a sensitive issue, because our religion discourages it. A government can lose credibility going against the will of the people. And others, including the opposition, can take advantage of this situation.
What matters is the reality. And the reality is meat will have to be produced or imported, unless each one of us turns to a vegetable-only diet. It will be a miracle if we can produce meat without killing.