Assam BJP leader Satya Ranjan Borah has objected to serving beef to carnivorous animals such as tigers in zoos.
On Monday, a small group of protesters led by Borah claiming to be anti-beef activists attempted to block the main gate at Guwahati Zoo as vehicles carrying beef for tigers were trying to pass. Zoo authorities managed to disperse them with help from the police, official sources said.
The protesters shouted slogans demanding a ban on cow slaughter.
“In Hindu society we give importance to protection of cows, but it is the staple food for carnivores in the zoo and part of government supply. Our objection is: why serve beef? Why not other meat?” Borah asked.
The BJP leader said the zoo’s sambar deer population is so much that the males have to be kept separately (to slow down breeding). The zoo can achieve self-sufficiency if sambar deer meat is used to feed the carnivores, he said.
“The vehicles carrying meat were stopped briefly by miscreants. We called the police to disperse them. Food for carnivores is recommended by the Central Zoo Authority. As per the law we cannot give the meat of zoo animals to the carnivores. Also, sambar deer is a wild animal and we cannot kill wild animals,” Tejas Mariswamy, Divisional Forest Officer, said.
Sambar deer are listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are protected under Schedule-III of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Mariswamy said normally, the carnivores, such as tigers, eat the meat of bovine animals. He said goat meat was recently introduced at the zoo.
“The carnivores are fed five days a week. Earlier, beef was served six days a week. Now, it is served for four days. Goat meat is served one day,” Mariswamy said.
Stating that it is difficult to suddenly change food habits, he said the beef was the most preferred and recommended option for carnivores across Indian zoos.
Assam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said the animals were fed beef as it was “essential” for their nutrition. He said that some states opted to feed carnivores buffalo meat but since Assam does not have that stock, beef was given as per the Centre’s guideline.
Three years back, stuck in the crisis of meat shortage since the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses by CM Yogi Adityanath, carnivores were served with mostly chicken in the state zoos. But accustomed to buffalo meat, the carnivores did not like the change in diet.
A report said the carnivores in UP usually eat some 235 kg of buffalo meat daily.