Meat Export

Unfortunately, agricultural export statistics of India includes all plantation crops, meat, poultry, dairy, and marine products. This should obviously not be so: breeding and feeding to kill living creatures can not and must not fall under agriculture. If separated from actual agricultural export produce, people would get a clear picture of actual exports of both categories. The fact is that buffalo meat per unit of output requires 25x feed as input, and 15.4 litres water is needed for 1 kg meat as against only 2.5 litres to grow 1 kg of rice.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD – headquartered in France, having 34 member countries), during 1913 people in the following countries ate the most meat worldwide resulting in a detrimental effect on the environment and our health despite the revenue it generated. Australia topped the list with the average person consuming around 250 grams of meat every day.

Country  Kilograms per person
Australia 93
USA 91.1
Israel  86
Argentina 84.7
Uruguay 82.9
Brazil 78.1
New Zealand 73.5
Chile 72.5
Canada 70.5
Malaysia 54.9
South Africa 50.7
Saudi Arabia 50.5
Russia 50.2
South Korea  50.2
China 48.8


In 4 years between 2008-2012 India’s meat production and export rose as much as 44%. By 2012 the Government of India’s Pink Revolution (killing animals to produce carcasses) made India the world’s top exporter of beef. Of the 65 countries India exported to, the main ones were Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

By 2014-2015 India’s share in the world’s total beef (including buffalo meat/carabeef) exports (mostly used in packaged foods) was 20%. And Vietnam continued to be by far the largest importer with the bulk of carabeef finding its way unofficially to China. The others among the top 15 importing countries were Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Philippines, Algeria, UAE, Thailand, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Angola, Turkmenistan and Russia.

India accounts for 13% cattle, 50% buffalo, and 15% goat populations of the world, and the animals are raised to be killed for their flesh.


Under India’s Export Policy 2012 “beef of cows, oxen and calf” is prohibited but “meat of buffalo (both male and female)” is allowed if boneless. As per the Foreign Trade policy, each consignment must be accompanied by a certificate from the competent authority that the meat has been derived from buffaloes unfit for milching and breeding. It is also mandatory for exporters to subject meat and meat products to anti-mortem and post-mortem examinations. Furthermore, exporters have to certify that the meat has been sourced exclusively from an Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) registered integrated abattoir or meat processing plant. (Water buffalo meat is internationally called carabeef and is often passed off as beef of cows and visa versa.) Gelatine and glues derived from bones and hides, and leather is also placed in the “free” (allowed) category.


The US Department of Agriculture’s figures in 000 tonnes (carcass weight equivalent) of country-wise beef exports in 2014:


2,082 (carabeef)

Brazil 1,909
Australia 1,851
US  1,167
New Zealand 579
Paraguay 389
Canada 378
Uruguay 350
European Union 301

However, Brazil is all set to regain the top position in 2015 because India’s exports between April and June 2015 fell by 11.1% as compared to exports during the same quarter of 2014. One can not help but notice that the fall in exports closely follows the ban on slaughter of cow and its progeny in Maharashtra, thus proving BWC apprehensions to be true, that cow beef was all along being illegally passed off as buffalo meat.

Although no document entitled Meat Export Policy exists, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries gives subsidies of Rs 15 crore to modernize abattoirs, while the APEDA inspects India’s 38 integrated abattoirs from which meat is exported. Moreover, the government itself is in the business of killing animals as was first seen way back in 1973 when Meat Products of India Ltd (MPI), a public sector undertaking was established in Kerala. It now holds a category No 1 license from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries for the “manufacture (sic) and marketing of meat and meat products”. And, hold your breath… in 2013, MPI after obtaining government sanction sold 100 lambs @ Rs 1,000/- to students of the St Thomas High School, promising to re-purchase the adult goats for slaughter. This diabolical scheme organised by MPI jointly with the Kerala government was luckily withdrawn by the state in June 2014 but only after DAYA and BWC took them to Court. (Under a similar scheme 5 chickens were given to students in Palakkad, Kerala.)

For detailed information on meat, please read

Petition to Review Meat Export Policy

In response to a newspaper advertisement (28 June 2013) inviting comments and suggestions, Beauty Without Cruelty endorsed the petition praying for a review of India’s Meat Export Policy submitted by Jainacharya Vijay Ranasundarsurji to the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions. The petition can be seen here.


BWC’s stand on this is given below:


• The production and export of meat by India is wrong on all grounds: moral, cultural, economical, and environmental, and at all levels – personal, judicial, and constitutional.


• Morally and culturally, it is wrong to butcher living animals when plant-based alternatives for all dietary needs are so readily available as in our country. This is something that all our country’s spiritual leaders like Buddha, Mahaveer, Krishna, Guru Nanak, Kabir have taught us over the millennia and which the industrialised world is learning from us now and turning vegetarian. Can it be a matter of pride that we opportunistically ignore our cultural heritage for greed of money and indulge in the very thing that we taught the world is wrong to do?


• Economics and employment-generation are given as reasons for this. Is butchery the only employment that we can generate? Is this an occupation our government can claim it is proud to be able to provide its citizens? Is there nothing else more respectable left for us to sell? We are leading the world in software, can we not earn money through that, and similar, more dignifying occupations rather than as butchers?


• Environmentally, if we would like to encourage organic methods of agriculture over chemical/pesticide-based methods, the availability of organic substances produced by living animals (like animal dung for organic manure and animal urine for organic pesticide) must be assured. By slaughtering animals, we are choking this supply off. Living animals produce these substances till the day of their natural death even after their “productive” age. In other words, living animals are productive far longer than if they are prematurely killed in a slaughterhouse.


• Judicially, the views of the various departments/ministries that the Supreme Court had sought seem to NOT provide any basis for continuation of the Meat Export Policy (refer point 6 of petitioner’s letter). On what basis then is the policy sought to be continued?


• Constitutionally, every slaughterhouse we have built and that we continue building is a violation of the Constitution’s directive to preserve our animal wealth and to engender compassion for animals in every Indian’s heart.


BWC therefore demanded that the Government of India seriously reconsider the Meat Export Policy which violates not only our personal but our national conscience.

The Outcome
It was unfortunate that even while a response was awaited, the government continued giving subsidies to slaughterhouses that butcher cows and other animals and export meat. Moreover, in May 2013 a MOU was signed between the officials of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to allow buffalo meat exports to China.

The Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions eventually presented on 13 February 2014 its Report No 151 on Petition Praying for Review of Meat Export Policy. Click here to read it in full.

Unfortunately, nothing concrete has emerged from this report and there is no indication that export of meat will be banned. In fact, there is good reason to fear that due to a few of the recommendations made by the Committee, more animals will be slaughtered. Please click here to read point by point comments on the Committee’s findings, observations and recommendations.

In June 2014 the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) declared that in 2013-14, India’s beef exports rose by 31% in quantity (rise of 12% rise in the previous year) and 52% (rise of 27% rise in the previous year) in value; and, India ranked second (after Brazil) having a 20% share of the world’s market. Simultaneously APEDA stated that beef exports mainly to South East Asian and Middle East countries totalled 14,49,759 tonne worth Rs 26,458. Meat yield from an average adult buffalo is 110 kgs therefore at least 1,31,79,627 buffaloes were killed – in fact, many more were slaughtered because the majority are probably calves.

2014-17 Findings

On 28 November 2014 in reply to questions asked regarding meat and meat products exported and imported in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry replied. The information given can be read here.

BWC wrote to the Prime Minister objecting to the numerous incentives, subsidies and benefits availed by the Meat Sector from the Government reference a list (click here to see) complied by the Shri Vardhman Parivar Team. We asked that they be immediately withdrawn and the Meat Sector be heavily taxed. We also stated how unexpectedly disappointing it was that the NDA had not as per his poll promise stopped the Pink Revolution. In fact, it increased as compared to the same period last year: April to October 2014 India exported 817,844 tonnes (a 14% rise) worth Rs 16,083 crore (a nearly 16% rise) of buffalo meat. Interestingly, 45% of exports are to China but via Vietnam which imports buffalo offal as well.


In 2014 most voters had expected the new government to take immediate steps to dismantle the Pink Revolution, but they did not even withdraw the financial assistance and subsidies given by the previous government to APEDA. As if this was not bad enough, on 31 December 2014 the Government of India permitted export under the “free” policy of buffalo tallow via APEDA registered integrated meat plants.

We pointed out that most Indians would strongly disapprove of tax payers’ money being used to encourage slaughter of animals and the resultant environment damage. Our country’s livestock should remain live, not killed for meat and leather.

The good news was that buffalo meat exports declined by 30% from April to June 2015. According to APEDA data, export was down almost 10% in quantity, and 11% in value, with exports to Vietnam down by nearly 20% in both quantity and value.

According to USDA, India exported 2.4 mt beef & veal in 2014-15, compared to 2 mt by Brazil and 1.6 mt by Australia. Furthermore, buffalo meat exports were down by almost 16% year-on-year in first three quarters of 2015-16 at $3.17 b from $3.77 b and sheep and goat meat was down 5.7% during the same period a year ago.

In August 2016, the Times of India citing statistics stated that India’s $4-billion Pink Revolution was slowing to an end. Between 2014-15 and 2015-16 India’s meat exports had declined by over $722 million, or about 15% of the exports in the previous year. Total meat exports were as follows ($ million):
2013-14: 4,468 (4,350 buffalo, 115 sheep/goat and 1 each processed meat and others)
2014-15: 4,920 (plus 10% - 4,781 buffalo, 136 sheep/goat and 2 processed meat and 0.4 others)
2015-16: 4,198 (minus 15% - 4,069 buffalo, 128 sheep/goat and 1 processed meat)

In 2015-16 the countries that imported the most meat (but the value of exports to Egypt exceeded Malaysia):


1993 (47.5%)

Malaysia 410   ( 9.8%)
Egypt    358   ( 8.5%)
Saudi Arabia  245   ( 5.8%)
Iraq  117   ( 2.8%)

Several reasons were given for this decline (the main one being that demand from China via Vietnam had fallen), but BWC has good reason to believe the real reason was it was getting more and more difficult to pass off beef (meat of cow, oxen and calf) as buffalo meat especially since the government set up labs at ports to check if the flesh was that of cow. However, from the slaughter angle, the same number of buffaloes would have been killed even though their meat was not exported – it would have been consumed in place of beef in states where it had been banned. The decline in numbers in certain abattoirs may have shown up due to no killing having taken place for long periods due to butchers striking against the ban on beef.

However, towards the end of 2016 Australia was worried that Indian carabeef/buffalo meat was undercutting Australian beef in Indonesia a country that had opened its market to frozen buffalo cuts in 2016 itself. The export price for Indian carabeef was US$3.10 as compared to Australian beef exported at US$4.40 per kilogram. The 80,000 tonnes of carabeef Indonesia is importing in 2016 is more than double the amount of Australian beef imported in 2015.

Although BWC has been periodically writing to the Government of India to stop export of meat it hasn’t even lessened – not even to Pakistan.


However in 2017, the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh immediately ordered illegal slaughter houses to close thus bringing down the number of buffaloes killed for export of carabeef. Despite great opposition from butchers and traders, the crack down (the implementation of the 2015 orders of the National Green Tribunal and 2017 Supreme Court) was extended to cover meat shops and was in fact joined by similar clamping down operations in some other states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

In May 2017, the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) issued rules and regulations for meat shops making it mandatory for all meat and fish shops to obtain a FSSAI license. Till then all such units or meat shops were running under the licences issued by Civic Bodies. However, under the new rules and regulations, all State Food Commissioners and Urban Body Secretaries were required to issue or renew licences to all meat shops and they would not be permitted to operate unless they were registered or acquired a mandatory license from the Government of India.

As per this law, any place that gathered 10 animals a day would fall under the category of a meat shop and more than that number a butcher house. And they need to observe the following guidelines to run their businesses:
• All shops need to apply for FSSAI registration to run a meat or slaughter shop.
• They need to be compliant with all the rules and regulations laid down by the authority.
• They need to maintain animal welfare to ensure proper hygiene is achieved.
• Only goat, sheep, pigs, bovine, poultry, and fish are allowed to be slaughtered. Killing any other animals apart from these is considered a illegal.
• Proper animal welfare is to be maintained during the transportation of animals.
• Infrastructure upgrades to existing shops to maintain hygiene standards is essential. Hence all the roadside meat shops need to shut down their business.

FSSAI also laid down certain measures that should be followed for meat storage and handling some of which are:
• Fresh meat must be chilled in-between 0 to 7 degrees and the frozen meat must be stored at -18 degrees or below.
• Meat products must be stored under proper labelling and with adequate segregation with a view to maintain the temperature control at the storage time.
• The storage containers should be made of non-toxic material.
• There must be an adequate supply of water and facility should be in place for safe and clean storage of water.

Lastly, before issuing a FSSAI licence (annual charge Rs 7500/-) to operate as FBO (Food Business Operator) various departments would also need to carry out checks like the Municipal Corporation, Food Safety Authority, Police and Veterinary Doctor. All the meat shops and slaughterhouses would need to also mention the source of procurement of animals. In case of export by meat shops or meat processing units, a certificate issued by Ministry of Commerce, DGFT issuance of Import/Export code and other certificates and declarations are necessary.

This was followed by Vietnam stating that the World Trade Organization norms had been contravened and that they had approved only 32 plants in India for export of buffalo meat but it was of late observed that meat from other plants was shipped and that after December 2017 meat would only be sourced from approved plants.

India had been exporting 10-12 lakh tonne of buffalo meat valued at Rs 20,000 crore every year, but in March 2020, due to COVID-19 export orders dipped by about 48% to 65,000 tonne. However demand from Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia came in because of Raadan which began 23 April 2020. Also unfortunately live animal export to the Middle East restarted simultaneously.

It would not be out of context to mention that BWC promotes reverence for all life. The wrong of killing a cow can not be set right or justified by another grave wrong, that of killing a man who consumes beef. If we think deeply, the beef-eater is no different to a cricketer because cricket balls are made of cow hide. Let us keep in mind that there are many peaceful and non-violent ways in which to fight for and achieve our goal of no animal slaughter.

Delay in totally stopping export means a daily loss of thousands of more lives, we have therefore again appealed to the Prime Minister to immediately withdraw each and every benefit given by the Government to the Meat Sector and follow it up with a total ban on export.

Page last updated on 28/02/24