[VoxSpace Exclusive] Meat : An Expose On Canine Meat Syndicate Of South India

Editor’s Note

Man is a social animal. Man is a thinking animal. Man is a rational animal. Afterall Man is unequivocally an animal, driven by maddening thoughts and desperate means. The following article, exposing the Meat racket in South India, will prove to you, my reader, that Man perhaps is the most violent animal. Not because of the things he can do, but because of the things he can get away with. The sheer audacity to create crime, defying the very fabric of humanity, is where Man becomes an animal. Often at times through the article, we are posed with this disturbing question. Is there an answer for it? Will Man somewhere stop doing what he wants to do, and lead a quaint, rational and logical life? Will he choose peace over power? Will he choose to accept the fact that the world is not just his to own and rule? Will he face the fact that perhaps he is only a part, a major one at that, in balancing the ecosystem? Optimistically the change should come. But if it doesn’t, well we will be left with only one predatory animal to escape from.

As is the usual practice, we’ve taken measures to expose, and report the indulgence of these crimes to the concerned authorities, namely Blue Cross Animal Protection Bengaluru, People For Animals Community Chennai, Sarjuna Care For Animals Ernakulam, and other associated branches. In our endeavour, we were immensely helped by the Bengaluru City Police, Cyberabad Police, and People For Animals Community Chennai. We extend our utmost gratitude to all the people who have made this article presentation possible.

The following article contains graphic details of animal violence which have been included to show the extent of violence inflicted upon them. VoxSpace in no way vouches or supports such cruel behaviour against animals. We stand against such inhuman behaviour.

The following article is not suitable for young readers and ones with formative minds. Also, we understand that the article is also not usually palatable to people who adore and respect the animals as much as we do. Please exercise caution and care in proceeding with the article. Reader discretion expected. Thank you.

October 23rd, 2.30 AM: Modern Auto Repair And Garage, Afzalgunj, Hyderabad

Latif and Raju get down the small grill tempo and unlock the carrier. They then drag out gunny bags of moving entities. A large trolley is brought to the tempo, and the bags are transferred to the trolley, which is pushed up the ramp into an old automotive warehouse. A total of 17 gunny bags, all mutedly and shakily moving, are slowly brought to a large granite corridor, just behind the warehouse. The floor is wet with the pungent smells of phenyl and acid thickening the air, as the gunny bags are housed in a corner. The owner of the place, Tauriq Ahmed, pays Latif and his friend for their labour and waits for them to depart with their tempo. Then as one of the gunny bags moves recklessly, and it seems it might wake up the prisoners of other bags, he takes a small bat, and hits the gunny bag. He does so repeatedly, till the voice and the movement go silent.

Tauriq, a year back, would’ve found it difficult to calm his products before the clients arrived (since most clients needed these products to be shakily alive, an assuring fact that they were healthy and fresh, he couldn’t put them to sleep before the sale). But now, Tauriq had found a battering way to make them stay silent. Select one, beat the hell out of it, and the others will fall silent. That was the trick. He then calls his boys, Chotu and Mani, who need to check the packaging and make the products presentable. They pick one bag and take it to the wash area at the end of the corridor, and do the deed. It’s a mixed breed Labrador. Mani, a hefty fellow in himself, holds the dog tightly across its neck and bends it down, as Chotu, takes a small needle and pokes it around to see if it isn’t physically defective. Then the sewing begins.

The Sewing Practices…

The two boys lay down the dog on the floor, and Mani literally sits on it, nullifying its movements to a mere shake, and with one hand, nudges its face to the wet floor. Here comes the hard part, Chotu then takes a local anaesthetic-laded syringe and pokes it just below its ear flap. The mute beast can’t feel the following poke in its nose a few moments later. Then, Chotu takes a 6-inch-long thread needle and pierces the Labrador’s lower lip, and in a swift motion, plucks the needle out of its upper lip. The sewing begins thus, as the whole mouth of the mixed breed canine is bound closed by a thick twine thread. The needle drips of the beast’s blood and the floor fills with muted screams. The dog is then ensured that it is bound by the limbs as well. The packaging then follows. Chotu and Mani throw it into a new gunny bag, this time a white coloured one, which depicts the rate range of the beast. You see, this particular mixed breed Labrador appears to be of good health and muscle. It shall have a good ask rate. Hence, the packaging is done such that only it’s lip sewn face appears out.

The process continues, as all the other canines, are sewn and packaged before the clients arrive an hour later. Five make it to the white branding, seven to the brown branding and the rest to the blue ones. The rate changes in descending order, respectively. The night for the boys is far from over, as they will be eventually asked by their ‘seth’ to ‘pack’ these beasts for the clients.

Arrival Of The Clients…

The clients do come. Brokers to popular restaurants across the city, or should I say, densely speckled Biryani points to be precise. The white bags go for 7000, for a 30 Kg canine. The brown bags go for 5500 for a 20 kg canine, mostly consisting of thinned out street dogs. And the last one, the blue one go for a decent 4000 for a 15 kg canine. Mostly the bag consists of undergrown dogs, young ones, or stolen Pomeranians. The first client asks for one white bag and two blue ones.

The processing of meat is eerily similar to how chicken meat is processed. Take for example the blue bag, consisting of the mixed breed Labrador. Chotu and Mani drag the bag to a corner, out of sight’s way for the client and their ‘seth’. They then take a sharp blade and select the tracheal vein and before the beast realizes, cut it with one rapid swish. The draining out of the blood is the hard part, and cutting out its head is even more difficult. Hence, the 10-litre automatic meat cutter/pincer comes in handy. They cut out the head, and hang it by a nail across the wall, with a bucket below the corpse. The draining of blood will take time, and so they come out to the blue bags. One of these blue bags contains a Pomeranian, which is messy to deal with. More so because of the fur and the trimming involved. The rest of the process is same. Clients come in, bags get selected, rates bargained, and heads severed. Then the whole pieces packing is done, as the sun rises up outside. In a similar way as a sheep is gutted out and cut down to make mutton, so is a canine confirmed to meat.

The Economics of Crime – The Racket of Dog Meat Amongst Other Things

The Dog Meat business, as it were, is not a latest economic development. It has been a quite prevalent mutton substitute for decades now. But why substitute at all?  To answer this, during our research into this practice, we turned to social activist Dr Harika Koram, who has been an active voice for crimes against animals in the city of Bengaluru. Our talks with the Doctor revealed not just the economic agendas at play but also the psychological conundrums we all face with Meat production and consumption. The conversations follow..,

When we look at the ongoing Dog Meat racket exposition, what are your thoughts on it, and does it somewhere baffle you that the whole operations are done in the most casual manner across the metros?

True. Ok. The fact that such inhuman steps are being taken towards animals, Dogs, in this case, is in itself a moral reflection of the levels of stooping low. If you remember, there was a huge meat racket busted in Kohima a couple of years back. Around 370 dogs were rescued, but an appalling number of dogs were killed for meat as well. The reason, when asked by the legal bodies, was given out to be ‘Shortage of Meat’. Even the other day, when police arrested a group in Ernakulam for trading in Dog Meat, the defence lawyer argued on a point that ‘It was just another meat’. I guess that’s the thought that normalizes the production, packaging, distribution, and consumption of Dog Meat across our states. You see, it’s just another meat. You can eat Pork, Beef or Mutton. Why not Dog meat then? So you see, that’s the fine distilled logic by which people who trade and buy, and to some extent consume, the meat, operate on.

When you ask about the Metros, in particular, I would say to meet the ever-growing meat demand, these illegal traders are resorting to snatching and robbing dogs from households, picking them up from the streets and processing them for meat. Also, it’s the diversity of eating habits which accentuates this behaviour. We in Metros are particularly more open to different tastes, cuisine tolerance is higher when you compare it to the rural population. It’s, therefore, easier for meat to be transported and utilized in multi-cuisine restaurants as either meat supplements or taste additives.

When you speak about Meat supplementation, why is Canine meat considered a cheaper alternative than say Lamb or Pigmeat which in some states is morally acceptable as a food product?

That’s a good question! Now the answer lies in understanding the legality of meat production. You see, the governing bodies license Meat Production and Distribution chains and shops across the cities. Everything gets logged, and prices are fixed. Let us say, for example, rearing of Sheep for Meat. This is acceptable within our nation, because of cultural infusion over the centuries. Right. So, when it is acceptable, the government needs to take care of the economics of the meat distribution. Hence, the sale of sheep, rearing it, production of meat, and eventual sale are to an extent confirming with the laid down taxation laws and such. Add all the relevant costs, and Mutton comes to say, 500 per kilo. Some shopkeepers who are not registered under governing laws, try to cut down on costs and sell the meat at a lower price than official prices, to attract customers. From here the logic becomes two-forked. One, these shopkeepers soon run out of meat, and since they can’t afford to pay taxes as well, they resort to bringing in cheaper meat, or rather meat which is freely available and not particularly reared. The obvious choice in many states becomes the Canine meat. In most cases, Dog Meat comes cheap, as there’s only cutting and packaging involved in it. This meat costs 250 per kilo and looks and feels the same as Mutton. So, logically the shopkeeper ends up making a cool profit of 250 on one kg of mutton sold, which has been replaced by dog meat, excluding the taxes that he doesn’t pay on actual meat. He is saving on Mutton, and supplementing its demand by Dog Meat.

Could you expand on the thought of where Hotels and MultiCuisine restaurants come into the picture? And to an average customer, is there a way of finding out the difference?

Yes. It’s a macroeconomic model, with micro-economic implications. The easiest solution for hotels to go for fake meat, that is dog meat, is implied by the fact that, Lamb Meat is specifically used for different niche cuisines in South India. Haleem is one of them. Now because of its religious proficiency, the dish in itself demands a certain zealous preparation, and Halal meat being preferred specifically. In Hyderabad, most of the mutton is diverted to the preparation of Haleem during the Ramadan Month. It’s a simple equation, in 2014 the mutton utilized by Haleem Centers during Ramadan month was close to only three-quarters of the total mutton said to be available. However, when you compare the utilization pattern, according to Global Health Study, the utilization of meat was far exceeding the actual supply. Now how did that happen? Simple answer. Canine Meat.

Coming to finding out the differences between Mutton Meat and Dog Meat, it has to be done at the preparation stage. Once it is cooked and delivered, there’s hardly any taste. Some experts say that Dog Meat smells a bit different in delicacies, and is a bit chewier than Mutton, but we are talking about a normal consumer, who is already mentally prepared that its mutton. To him, it is a small degree of variance. Demand and Supply become the key factor here. Also, it is known that Biryani or Other dishes with Dog Meat tends to fowl away quickly, but sadly that’s too late and too little a hint for an average consumer. Food And Health Safety department has over the last year have arrested more than 28 restaurants on charges of serving fowl meat, which later turned out to be Dogmeat. So, it is a good practice to report a change in smell or taste immediately to the Hotel Management, and to the Food Inspector details of whom are to be maintained by every Hotel.

October 21st, 3 AM: Gemini Flyover, Chennai

Seven people get down the van, which reads Dog Catching Service. Of course, the service is not registered anywhere, but who would really care. They get down near the garbage dump, where the density of Dogs is always high and maintained despite winter sweeping the city. Kumar and Girish take the lane behind the garbage dump, while Chinna, Tamizha and Others take the lane opposite to it. Their task is to catch as many dogs today as possible, as the local road expansion from tomorrow would render the area inaccessible for a good ten-day period henceforth. Kumar swiftly goes to the footpaths surrounding the garbage dump, just a few feet below the Gemini Flyover, and starts waking up the dwellers on the road. He gives them 100 rupees each and asks them to go away from the vicinity. If they are young and are kids he offers them 300 each, to help them catch as many dogs as possible. More manpower is always helpful.

To the horde of rouge breed dogs, meat is the biggest lure. It is a task in itself to separate one dog from the pack. To effect that, small balloons are blown to half their size, and their pips slightly opened to mimic a rookie sound of an animal. The sound resembles a cat sometimes, or a bandicoot crossing the path depending on the slight of the opening. The pack splits up, often times into smaller groups of two or three. Now is the chance, the smaller group moves into the lane, where Kumar and Girish wait. The further lure is provided by the meat smelling scents, spewed into the air around. As soon as they are near, a huge net is thrown onto the beasts, and a small bat is used to hit them. Hit them repeatedly to get them silenced. Head can be injured multiple times, which is the agenda. No one wants to eat the head. Everything else can be utilised and has to be preserved. But then care needs to be taken that the head isn’t too injured so as to render the beast dead. Each net is again dragged into the van for delivery across various cities.

Kumar who was arrested in November, by the Bangalore City Police, describes the process and the philosophy behind the nabbing of Dogs..

“They are Dogs. Fucking Dogs. Who cares. I still don’t understand why I am arrested? We are doing good only no? These dogs give rabies to people crossing by, they bite and bark and create a nuisance. What is the problem if we take them away? People eat it. They don’t die no? So you can eat Sheep, and people who are selling it also are ok. Arrest them also then? They are also taken away in a cage, tortured, trimmed and boiled in hot water till they die. No one says anything to them. Mutton Biryani you eat like a happy celebration. But Dogs you can’t eat? Why Sir. Why? Why I am arrested and not them?”

It is illegal meat that’s why. That’s the problem. In that logic, you will distribute human meat as well, then what’s your justification then..

“Why will I do that Sir? These are animals. We can eat them. Like chicken, mutton, fish, prawns. Like that only. Even China people eat cockroaches and lizards. They are not dead. But human meat, means we have to kill humans, that is a wrong thing in law. That I can understand Sir. But one animal eating is good and legal, and others is not, I don’t understand? Sandalwood smugglers in the cell beside me get 5 years term, and I get 7? It is not fair at all”

October 30th 11 PM: Modern Auto Repair And Garage, Afzalgunj, Hyderabad

The tip-off was solid. One of the undercover clients had given the Cyberabad Police enough details of the next unloading. For the sake of security, the unnamed client had only given them the information about the Garage and not the people involved. Cyberabad Police, however, found their fair streak of luck in figuring out who all were involved in this racket. With a Blue Cross rescue operator and a couple of Vets, the Police swooped onto the Garage.

After one hour of searching for the men responsible, they couldn’t find any. But SI Durga Prasad recounts the horrors which he saw inside the garage, which the police claims was vacated moments earlier,

“….Carcasses. We found carcasses spread across the floor. The skin of these canines were peeled off to reveal only the internal thinness and muscle structure. The whole Garage was filled with pungent and repulsive smell of decay and phenyl. On one side of the room, was a cold storage, which again contained, boxes of meat. The room beside it, we assumed it to be the butchering area, was filled with these carcasses. The butchering room’s walls were decorated with dead dogs of every breed, hung upside down, with their heads severed. The heads, to our horror, we found them placed on a platform at one of the corners of the room. Flies buzzing in and out of these heads. At one place we also saw, bloodied white fur, packed into a plastic bag. We think this fur was also being sold to local sweater weavers. In total seventeen dog bodies were found that day, with almost 40 kilos of Dog Meat packed into boxes in the other room. But that was not the only thing which baffles me even today. In an another room, a big boiler was placed, and four smaller dogs were kept in them, boiling. Headless bodies floating atop the boiling water, and treated for contamination”.

The Economics of Crime – The Modern And Moral Dilemma

As we talked to Dr Harika Koram further, we dwelled into the topics of Morality and Conscience of meat eating. Of course, it remains a personal choice, but a moral dilemma of critical thinking persists, we still have no solution to the whole issue. Yes, there are incidents. Yes, there is legality. But to what extent. Our talks follow below…

When we see people protesting against Dog Meat event in China earlier this year, one argument surfaces above others. A resounding why? Why the hypocrisy? Where does the solution lie? And more importantly what is right and what is wrong with Meat eating?

Ah, this argument is not this year’s friend! This has been a constant thought quarrel from ages past. If you can eat one animal, you can eat any animal. Yes? Well, there’s an aspect of acceptance. It depends on a Nation’s customs and traditions, and yes I’m talking about the Beef Ban and Gau Rakshaks. Do they make sense? To some extent perhaps, again as a personal view, but then at a global scale does it really make sense? Now that’s the question. Every region develops its eating habits, its survivals methods, and cuisines depending on their geographical location and food availability. But again this is not an engraved fixation, but a flexible evolvement of nature and needs. The Aryan race never touched animal meat, but then it evolved into Emperor Clans opting for Deer and Rabbit meat. Hens were a later addition. However, Dravidian race, that is us, indulged into Meat eating because of our ancestral passing. Now both are equally essential and required.

Even today, people in Manipur and Mizoram consider Dog Meat as one of their meat supplements and find no harm in using them in their cuisine. Again, it is their personal choice, but when you look at the governance issue, a diplomatic unification of eating habits needs to be in place, to one, protect the existing ecosystem and cultural and ethical values. Today you’ll eat Dog Meat and have no qualms about it, tomorrow I’ll say I want to eat Tiger meat. It cannot work like that. So we must understand that logically one animal killing can lead up to any other, there is always an issue of acceptability. That’s where the right and wrong come in definitively. And that’s where rationality comes to the fore. It is not about hypocrisy. And definitely about petting animals. Case in point, many of us have Hens as pets, but don’t we consume them? So, can’t you eat your own pet Dog. Shuddering as it may seem, there might be nothing wrong with it. But, the only rationale behind not doing so is that it is not required and allowed. Canine Meat does not fit well with our cultural delicacies nor is it required for all things said and done.

According to Global Health Report: 

In Metros like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Cochin, around 30,000 stray dogs go missing each year. Meat market of Hyderabad alone consists a whopping 45,000 kilos of Dog Meat, a larger ratio when compared to Beef or Pork meat. According to WHO Sponsored thesis on Meat Corruption, India ranks 4th most corrupt. And it all boils down to this- every fourth piece you eat in a jumbo pack (6 person eater) Mutton Biryani packet, is Canine Meat.

Where to next?