During the question hour session in the National Assembly on May 19, North-Thimphu MP, Kinga Tshering, questioned the government on its alleged plan of setting up mega livestock processing plants that will include butchering of cattle and pigs in the country by December 2015. He said such a livestock processing plant is against Bhutan’s culture and traditional values.
Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, said that the government does not have any plans to build a slaughterhouse. He informed the House that the government will never do such a thing .
Home and Cultural Affairs Minister, Damcho Dorji, said, “I have not heard about establishing any slaughterhouse, and the government has no plans to open a slaughterhouse in Bhutan.” He also raised a point on the discomfort of consuming meat, as it is considered sinful to kill animals for food. However, he added, the people continue to eat meat so long as the killing of animals is done by other people. Acknowledging the petition of the Dratshang against any potential slaughterhouse he requested the Dratshang to help discourage consumption of meat in Bhutan.
“The government’s aims are to promote dairy products in our country, in line with the self-reliance policy of 11th FYP,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said.
The Home Minister said that it was also the cultural practice in the past for people to raise a pig and other livestock and slaughter it for special prayers.
Agriculture and Forests Minister, Yeshey Dorji, said ministry has initiated 10 projects, as part of the 11th FYP, agreed on by the Members of Parliament, in accordance with the self-reliance policy. Among the ministry’s projects is to gain self-reliance in the meat processing plant.
He clarified that the new meat processing plant at Serbithang is not a slaughterhouse, but instead it will import raw meat and process it in a safe and hygienic way, and avoid wastage which will reduce the import of meat.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the meat processed in the plant will also be packaged in grams so people have a choice to purchase smaller quantities of meat. He said as of now meat is mostly available in kilograms and above in meat shops.
He said meat vendors will also be trained on hygiene in the plant so they know how to handle meat in a hygienic way.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said he thought the meat vendors will be against with the meat processing plant, but instead it was the people, adding “if they don’t want it, we might have to stop the plant.”
In efforts to increase the diary production in the country, he said, one of the ministry’s projects is to run a jersey farm in Samtse. “In 2013 when it was handed to agriculture ministry, there were only 50 jersey cows, and ministry has bought 120 additional jersey cows for dairy production.”
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji also cited an example of a Brown Swiss farm at Bumthang which had only 21 Brown Swiss cows. The ministry has increased the count to 150 cows and the goal is to put 1000 Brown Swiss for dairy production.
He also said the ministry is only developing the existing piggery and fisheries in Gelephu. He said the existing piggery will be relocated from Serbithang to Yusipang since it is at a better location.
Bhutan started its livestock and poultry programs from the first five year plans in the 1960’s. Over the years under such a program meat production centers like the Wangchutaba were established. Bhutan has an existing slaughterhouse in Tsirang that currently supplies meat to Thimphu and other places. Bhutan also has various fisheries, local fish ponds and poultry business that farmers across the country have enthusiastically taken up.