Cattle sellers and the tshedar tshogpa members are at odds over the export of cattle to India for slaughter

Livestock: In what is a case of compassion and livelihoods clashing, a group of people, claiming to be members of a Tshedar tshogpa, an informal committee engaged in rescuing animals, are stopping cattle that are purchased within the country from being sold across the border in Samdrupjongkhar.

A meat vendor in the border town complained of being harassed when she was stopped with 13 cattle heads she was taking across the border. The vendor, Mon Maya, married to an Indian national, bought the cattle from Gomdar gewog for Nu 80,000.

Mon Maya said she had completed all formalities required to purchase and take the cattle out of the country. “A group of officials comprising civil servants, private and corporate employees asked me to give them the cattle,” Mon Maya said.

This was the second time she was stopped from selling cattle across the border. Mon Maya admitted that the cattle were slaughtered and the meat sold in Samdrupjongkhar.

“I was showing the documents to get the pass to cross the gate when suddenly one of the custom officials took the document and called someone over the phone,” she recalled. “Then some officials came saying they will buy the cattle.”

The meat vendor claims she lost Nu 35,000 when officials forcefully bought the cattle in a similar incident a month ago.

Mon Maya said she was not alone in the business of buying unproductive cattle from the villages and selling them in India.

The Livestock Act allows selling or culling of cattle that has become unproductive and a burden to the owner. Samdrupjongkhar’s livestock officer, Thinley Rabten said sellers should obtain a letter from the livestock and gewog offices stating the animal has been vaccinated and that it should not be tortured. The food regulatory office then checks the animal and issues a transit pass.

“Once they sell the cattle, then it’s up to them what they want to do and this has been going on for decades,” Thinley Rabten said. “If they have all the documents and are exporting legally then no one can stop them from taking it across the border.”

The officer admitted that a few people in the name of compassion had been stopping the vendors even when farmers wanted to sell the cattle. As long as the buyers follow the rules, no one can stop or harass them from taking cattle, he said.

“There are civil servants affiliated with some Tshedar Tshogpa and act as a mediator informing other members whenever a vehicle loaded with live cattle are stopped and questioned,” he said.

Like Mon Maya, vendors from across the border are complaining of people interrupting their business. Most vendors buy cattle once or twice a month. There are about nine meat suppliers who claimed that the business had been going on for a decade.

A vendor based in Darranga, Jakir said, some officials come to buy meat from him. “We understand their sentiments but what we are doing is legal,” he said.

Requesting anonymity, the officials who tried to stop Mon Maya claimed they did not belong to any tshogpa.

However, one of them said that the thought of the cattle going to a slaughterhouse could not be tolerated. “We couldn’t bear to see the cattle taken for slaughtering,” said one. “We know it will come back as meat.”

However, they denied harassing meat vendors. “We negotiate the price and try to bring it down but never forced or harassed them,” said the official. The officials saved around eight cattle heads paying Nu 115,000 a month ago.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar