Quail meat is eaten mainly in North India, particularly in Punjabi winters, although its consumption is fast increasing in other parts of the country like Telangana.

It all began…

Way back in 1974 the Union Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Avian Research Institute (CARI) started popularising Japanese quail farming, rearing them like poultry: broilers for meat and layers for eggs, as a rural development activity.

Years later in 1997, realising that Japanese quails (Coturnix japonica) were protected under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 (WLP Act), the Ministry of Agriculture requested the Ministry of Environment & Forests to delete the specie from the purview of the WLP Act. Although they refused to do so because the birds were found in the wild in North-East India, atrociously bending laws in the interest of quail farming, the two Ministries decided to delegate the power of issuing licences for Japanese quail hatcheries to an Officer of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of India, under the WLP Act.

Quails are Quails

There was no difference between these farmed quails and those poached from the wild listed as an endangered species. It was shocking that, despite quails being protected under the WLP Act, Bihari politicians were at that time breeding and selling them. In fact, more people had started going in for quail, turkey and fish farming in Bihar.

Since it was difficult for an untrained person to differentiate between hybrid and wild bustard quail/bater/lava, almost all Chandrapur restaurants began serving the so-called tastier flesh of the small, “protected” wild bird, hunted and supplied by the Pardhi community of Maharashtra. These birds could also be purchased at the Shree Talkies Square. The hybrid variety, which came from the poultry farms of Nagpur were legally sold, so, if questioned by the Forest Department, restaurateurs said the birds they were serving were not from the wild. Moreover, after the birds were killed and cooked no one could, looking at the flesh, ascertain if they were farmed or poached from the forests.

Poachers still kill migratory birds such as black-winged stilts and teals from the Pallikaranai Marsh to sell them to restaurateurs in Chennai who pass them off as quail meat.

Temporary Respite

In September 2011, BWC was very happy to know that the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests issued a circular to the Forest Secretaries and Chief Wildlife Wardens of all States and Union Territories pointing out prohibition on farming of Japanese Quails (Coturnix japonica) as the specie was listed in Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and that such animals/birds (both wild as well as captive bred) can not be killed/hunted or captured, in view of which, no new licence for farming or permission for expansion or augmentation of existing farming facilities, was to be granted.

BWC immediately wrote to the Ministry of Environment & Forests appreciating its stand, but at the same time asked that they further declare quail farming as totally illegal because quail meat was eaten and served in different parts of India. Furthermore, since farming quails was a definite cover up for poaching them from the wild, by permitting farming of the protected specie to exist, poaching could never be stopped. Immediate steps needed to be taken to uphold the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

In October 2011 BWC also wrote to NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development) to withdraw their scheme promoting farming of Quails under Animal Husbandry, Model Bankable Projects. The reply received from the Deputy General Manager stated that they “have noted the contents and taken suitable action on the matter.”

Unfortunately, the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests’ issued directive to totally ban quail farming and close down all quail farms, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, did not happen.


As the saying goes, the left hand knew not what the right hand was doing because the Animal Husbandry Departments under the Union Ministry of Agriculture were on one hand promoting Japanese quail farming, whereas on the other hand the Union Ministry of Environment had imposed a ban on it.

Consequently, in February 2012 the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, in response to an NGO challenging the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests’ above mentioned circular order, restrained the Ministry from interfering in the business of quail farming since the Japanese quail germplasm was being supplied to farmers by the CARI and quail farming was being promoted by NABARD and ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) for commercial production.

Eventually, in December 2013 a Notification was issued by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests making an exception regarding quails as listed under Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, so that entry No 57 read “Quails (Rhasiandae) – except Coturnix japonica (Japanese Quails) of farm bred variety.”

Bred for Slaughter

As a result of this permission, rearing of Japanese Quails, locally called Kamju Pitta in places like Khamman district of Telangana and Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, has since flourished and continues to expand as backyard farms of villages from where quails’ eggs and meat are supplied to traders and restaurants. In fact, a number of outlets sell live quail birds, frozen quail meat and quail eggs.

Similarly, a number of quail farms have sprung up in and around Bengaluru. Quails are known here as gowjala hakki.

It is unfortunate that due to management practices taught by various private and government institutions such as the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) to new and existing quail farmers in India, entrepreneurs have made blood money (as from poultry farming) by breeding, rearing, slaughtering and marketing of quail eggs & carcasses, so much so that in addition to sales within India, they have also begun exporting quail meat.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (under the Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India) states quails are a “source of meat, egg and for sport”. The Quail Survey (2018) from the Life Sciences Publications has among many other things stated that quails are one of the 35 species that “have been introduced to locations outside their natural range for purposes as diverse as ornamental collections, recreations, sport and production of meat.”

Page last updated on 24/06/21