A senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, told this paper that the government had no plans for a slaughterhouse as was being widely discussed. Weather this final stance is due to modification of plans or a simple rectification of a major miscommunication is expected to be officially clarified in the coming days.
A huge controversy erupted in Bhutan after a news report in a media outlet on the plan of a big meat processing plant in Bhutan was followed by a passionate appeal letter from the President of Fondation Brigitte Bardot against the plan.
While the news article generated a fair amount of interest the real controversy was ignited by huge Bhutanese public interest in the letter which appealed against the plan for ‘slaughterhouses’, ‘intensive animal farming’ and killing of animals in Bhutan. To be fair, the original news article never used the word ‘slaughterhouse.’
The government official said that the big meat processing plant in Serbithang would not involve a slaughterhouse or the slaughter of animals as the meat would be sourced from outside. “To ensure the quality and safety of meat Bhutan would be exploring for the import of meat from various countries like South Africa, Argentina etc,” said the official.
He pointed out that currently people do not get quality and well packaged meat and so this meat processing plant would simply import raw meat like any meat shop, but would go a step further by packaging and processing it into various types of meats. “People can then buy good quality 200 gram or 500 gram meat and avoid the current practice of taking a whole leg on a car,” said the official.
The official also said that the Nu 675 mn budget was not only for meat processing plant but for a host of activities focused mainly on milk and dairy self-sufficiency and poultry.
He said that the plans included increasing the size of Samtse Jersey farm for milk and making the Swiss farm in Bumthang bigger for production of milk and cheese.
One major component, the official said, is the creation of an integrated livestock program in 814 acres farm in Samrang, Samdrup Jongkhar which will have milk producing cows and buffaloes bred to produce both milk and claves which can be distributed across the country for milk sufficiency. “This farm will produce enough cows so that we can be self sufficient in milk,” said the official.
The official made it clear that none of the cows or buffaloes here would be killed for meat. It will also have a hatchery unit for the production of eggs and chicken broilers which is an ongoing activity across the country.
The official claimed that in the case of the Samrang there were no real issues as the place initially only had 12 families who had left the place due to elephant raids and the ULFA/Bodo problem. He said families were now returning back due to development and there were now 32 families. The official also said that local community and Gup had been consulted on establishing the farm.
In terms of the chicken farm the official said that the existing Wangchuktaba chicken farm in Thimphu which supplies local chicken to mainly Thimphu would be moved to and integrated with an existing Yusipang farm. The official said that government will also be moving an existing Piggery farm from Wangchuktaba to Yusipang. Here too, the official was careful to clarify that the long existing piggery was not for the slaughter of pigs but to produce piglets for distribution.
The government official said that the one proof that the government never planned a slaughterhouse is that the main source of funds, which is the Indian government, would never have agreed to give developmental funds for establishing a cow slaughter house.
In terms of fishery the official said that the plan was to only augment the existing fisheries that existed across the country including Haa due to issues like congestion.
Bhutan currently has one small slaughterhouse in Tsirang which is around 10 years old. Some of the meat in the meat shops in Thimphu comes from this existing private slaughterhouse. The government said there were no plans to invest any funds in this slaughterhouse or open new ones.
As far as poultry is concerned Bhutan had started the development of poultry from the first five year plans from 1961 to provide basic nourishment like eggs and chicken to its population.
The appeal letter was written by Brigitte Bardot who was a famous French actress and international sex symbol and style icon of the 1960’s. From the 1970’s she took a leading role in fighting for animals rights especially in her country of France. She established the Foundation in 1986 through the auction of her personal jewellery and other items. She is a vegetarian.