INVESTIGATION- Part II: Disappearing Bullocks, Missing Cows, how Gujarat’s Farmers dodge an impracticable Cow Protection Law

How even the Supreme Court’s endorsement of a stringent amendment to the Gujarat Cattle Preservation Act in 2005, has failed to protect either bullocks, male calves or cows, never mind the political rhetoric behind the law.

Missing Cows

The disappearance of Gujarat’s cows in the past seventy years was detailed in the first part of this Investigation. Part II of this exclusive data-driven study reveals that during the census period 2012-2019, around 56.42 lakh males (bullocks) were culled and eliminated from the population illegally, which included 25.27 lakh native breed plus 31.15 lakhs crossbred males. Considering the 37.8 lakhs missing cows described in the earlier article, the Gujarat state, which claims to be a serious protector of cow progeny, failed to save 94.22 lakhs cattle with an average elimination rate of one lakh cattle every month. 

Is  the state not aware of this persistent culling that ahs resulted in these ‘disappearances’? 

Gujarat celebrated the 2005 Supreme Court judgement of imposing a total slaughter ban as a trend setter, but the analysis show that this amendment to the law, far from salvaging the bullocks, actually hastened their culling and elimination in substantial numbers, reflected in the drastic fall in male: female ratios.  During 1997, 2003 and 2007 censuses, the ratios were respectable 91:100, 85:100 and 79:100, but in the census of 2007, this ratio dropped by two-fold to 47:100. In 2019 it further declined by two-fold to 26:100.  Under the law, calves cannot be culled, but during the 2012 and 2019 census periods 19.65 lakhs and 26.54 lakh male calves went “missing”, which were almost three-times higher than the census period prior to the Supreme Court judgement.  From the census data it can be clearly construed that the Supreme Court judgement completely failed in its objective and actually proved to be anti-cattle.   This Investigation is scientific, based entirely on data collected from the five consecutive 1997-2019 Livestock Census’.

Gujarat’s farmers, burdened by an unrealistic law that does not recognise that economy drives the agrarian occupations, were forced to exercise their culling rights in defiance of the law, leading to the severe distortion of male to female ratios. This empirical investigation shows that, as against the state’s cow population of 76.26 lakhs in the 2019 census, the corresponding count for males was only 19.84 lakhs proving that 56.42 lakhs males went missing resulting in male: female ratio of 26: 100.  The data implies that the farmers reared only a quarter of born males and the rest were eliminated, illegally.  The data for the native breed bullocks shows that during 2012-2019 census period 25.27 lakh indigenous males were culled and eliminated illegally culminating in male to female ratio of 42:100.  The situation however is dismal among the crossbreds, as in the 2019 census, as against the cow population of 32.5 lakhs, the male population was barely 1.35 lakhs, which amounts to “missing” of 31.15 lakh males and a male to female ratio of 4:100!  It appears perplexing that the Gujarat farmers eliminated 96% crossbred males.  Surprisingly, in a reply to the RTI request, the state communicated its “ignorance” on the fate of the missing cattle.


Details of the Investigation

An investigation into the effectiveness and impact of any legislation is an integral part of assessing its quality and impact as also its objective achievements.  The states are expected to, and the court must insist on undertaking such studies, especially before the introduction of any major amendment.  In the case of cattle protection legislation, such a study is not only in the academic interest but has larger economic ramifications on the agrarian/farmers’ economy.  The Gujarat state has promulgated major, trend setting amendments to the Cattle Preservation Act over the last 70 years but has never undertaken any impact evaluation study to ascertain the effectiveness of such legislative policy.  Unfortunately, this law was always contested in the courts on the yardsticks of the rights of the butchers versus the utility of bovines to the farmers and the economy.  Emotional arguments overrode rationality. For this study I framed two leading questions for ascertaining responses:

(a) whether or if this legislation, 70 years on the statute books of the state, was actually successful in achieving the set objectives and

(b) Has the law impacted on the farmers culling behaviour and agrarian economics?















































































F: Female, M- Male, MM- Missing males; Figures in parenthesis are M: F ratios; other figures in lakhs


Introduction and Evolution:  The protection provided to the cows, calves and bulls in the legislation was accepted by all the stakeholders as a fait accompli without ever challenging its necessity, rationale and impact on the farmers, in the courts.  Belligerent efforts of the state to extend the protection to old unproductive bullock, however, was a major issue contested in the courts since 1950s.  Finally, the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement delivered in 2005 settled the issue by upholding the Gujarat’s amendment providing for a total ban on the slaughter of all classes of cattle

A supplementary objective of this study was to examine if the total slaughter ban judgement had any real impact on saving of bullocks and whether it has resulted in an increase in their population.  It may be argued that 15 years of a policy implementation is too short a period to evaluate field results, but in the case of Gujarat, facts suggest otherwise. Until 2005, various High Courts and the Supreme Court held ultra vires any ban on the slaughter of unproductive bullocks, but the Gujarat state implemented a total ban clandestinely.  In 1976, it issued a gazette notification under the Gujarat Essential Commodities and Cattle Control Act, and fixed a maximum bullocks slaughter quota for each district.  In 1989 a modified order was issued wherein the quota for Ahmedabad city was reduced from 363 bullocks per week to only 60 blocks per year.  As a result, in the entire state only around 85 aged bullocks per day were permitted for slaughter. 

In 2005, a revised Gujarat Essential Commodities and Cattle Control Act was promulgated under which again a notification was issued removing the bullock slaughter quota in the light of 2005 Supreme Court judgement but continued the aged unproductive buffalo slaughter quota, unaltered, without compensating for removal of the bullock quota. Thus, for the purpose of examining the effectiveness of the law, it is reasonable to assume that, in the state of Gujarat, a near-total ban has been invoked since 1976.  Forty years, amounting to two-cattle generations is a long enough a period for undertaking an empirical appraisal of this state’s cattle protection policy.

Methodology and criteria: In this article I present results of the census data analysis on male cattle growth for the periods, 1997-2003, 2003-2007, 2007-2012 and 2012-2019.  The census data for earlier periods is not available in the public domain.  The cattle population data was collated and analysed for growth employing the officially followed ‘static method’.  In addition, another accurate ‘exponential growth method’, explained in the earlier article, was also employed to understand the accurate growth in the male population.  Since, in Gujarat, neither male nor female cattle can be culled for slaughter the male to female population ratio should be equal (1:1).  In general, the farmers perceive that due to lack of a hump and sensitivity to the hot climate, crossbred males are not suitable for draft or agricultural work, hence their utility to the farmers is questionable.  In contrast, the indigenous breed bullocks are favoured for such work.  An analysis of cattle growth was therefore also carried out for both native and crossbred cattle. If the contention in the state’s affidavit in the Supreme Court that a large number of bullocks were needed by the farmers, was in fact, based on a truthful assessment of ground reality, the number of native males in the population should be equal to the number of native breed cows.  Similarly, if the state’s claim in the Supreme Court, that farmers did not consider aged unproductive bullock as a burden and each farmer reared at least one pair of such bullocks was true, the proportion of aged bullock population (aged more than 10-12 years) should be equal to number of farmers or 20-25% of the total population.

The Law Failed to Protect Male Cattle:  The data described in Table 1 portrays a shocking picture of a very low male population compared to the cow population.  As against the cow numbers of 76.26 lakhs, reported in the 2019 census, the males were only 19.84 lakhs, proving that around 56.76 lakh males were culled and eliminated illegally.  The male to female ratio of 26:100 implies that 75% males were culled and eliminated, although law did not permit.  The data on native breed vigorously negates the state’s Supreme Court affidavit on essentiality of bullocks to the farming and draft power.  If the claim was true, the farmers would not have rampantly culled male cattle.  Gujarat has been vocal on its’ promises to promote an indigenous breed of bovines.  The census data however proves that these utterances were only for public consumption and not matched by facts and figures from the ground.  In the 2019 census, there were 43.77 lakhs indigenous breed cows, whereas the male population was only 18.5 lakhs, which means 25.27 lakh male cattle went missing during the period.  In 1997 the working bullock population in the state was 25.85 lakhs which remained static until 2012 census, but in 2019 it declined by 43.5% to 14.61 lakhs.  The declining trend of working bullock does not require any explanation as it is now well known that farming in the state has become mechanized and the bullock cart days have given way to mechanized transport. The data proves that the state’s affidavit on the “requirement” of more than 10 million working bullocks was utterly false and meant to misguide the Supreme Court, possibly to ensure a favourable judgement.  Surprisingly, the Court did not ask for any more scientific evidence in support of all these claims. 

The state vehemently defended the argument that, cattle of any age and breed had high utility to the farmers, therefore could not be termed unproductive.  Although 42% of the native breed males were in existence because of their utility as draft beast, the crossbred males suffered heavily, in spite of promised protection in the law.  In 1997, 2003 and 2007 censuses, the M: F ratio remained static 23-24: 100, but the ratio dropped by half to 11:100 in 2012, whereas in 2019 it fell to all-time low of 4:100.  In 2019 census, as against the cow population of 32.5 lakhs, the male numbers dropped to only 1.35 lakhs which proves that around 31.15 lakh crossbred males went missing.   

Culling pressure on male calves:  From the census data it is also possible to deduce the age at which the farmers culled the males.  The Table 2 gives the data on the male and female calves (aged up to 3 / 2.5 years).  The Gujarat Cattle Preservation Act does permit culling of calves.  If there was no culling pressure, the sex ratio in the calves should be equal. The data in Table 2 however show that the M: F ratio in calves dropped from 55:100 in 1997 to 15: 100 in census 2019. The data implies that during 2012-2019 the farmers culled 26.54 lakhs male calves.  Here, it is assumed that there no female calves were culled, however, in the article I proved that the culling of female calves was also rampant.  It proves that irrespective of the age and breed, any cattle that was unwanted by farmers was eliminated from the population.  

Table 2: Cattle Culling Behaviour of Gujarat State Farmers (Figures in lakhs)


Male Calves

Female Calves

Missing Male Calves

Working Bullock population

Aged un-productive Bullock

Missing Male Population as per the Compounded Growth

Loss of monetization Rs crores








(1.67 %)










(1.97 %)










(2.53 %)










(1.29 %)












(0.28 %)





The 2005 Supreme Court Judgement Proved to be Anti-Cattle:  The states’ goal of enhancing the bullock population by prohibiting the slaughter of 8000-9000 bullock, as per its affidavit in the Supreme Court, was a laughable rationale. The census data proves that the 2005 Supreme Court judgement impacted negatively on male cattle population in the state.  During 1997, 2003 and 2007 census, the overall M: F ratios were 91:100, 85:100 and 79:100, but in the 2012 census, it dropped to 47: 100 and in the 2019 census it further dropped to 26: 100.   In case of indigenous breed, during 1997 to 2007, the M: F ratios were respectable 90: 100, but in the 2012 census, it dropped to 60: 100 and in 2019 it further dropped to 42: 100.  The sex ratio in crossbred cattle was already low (20:100) during the 1997-2007 period, but in the 2012 census the ratio dropped by tenfold to 10:100 and in the 2019 census it crashed to all time low of 4:100.  During the pre-judgement period (1992-2007), the farmers culled around 45% male calves, but after the judgement, the farmers repudiated and increased the culling rate to 75% in 2012 and 85% in 2019.  This translated into culling of 19.65 lakhs and 26.54 lakh male calves in 2012 and 2019.  The data proves that post-Supreme Court judgement, the calf culling rate increased to almost three-times higher.  The working bullock population during 1997 to 2012 remained static and narrowly ranged between 24-26 lakhs, but in 2019 census the population declined significantly to 14.61 lakhs and proves that, instead of achieving the promised increase in the male population, the judgement impacted negatively and adversely affected the cattle wealth.  The above data underscores the interpretation that the 2005 Supreme Court judgement was a total failure as it was perceived to be overtly anti-farmer and impractical to implement.

Missing Bullocks based on Exponential Method: The above interpretations were based on the static data reported in the census reports, which grossly underestimates the growth as it does not take into account new calf births and culls due to natural deaths.  As per the method described in first part of this investigation, the expected population were estimated by considering the numbers of breeding females, the breeding cycles within the census periods and assuming equal male: female ratio.  The missing male cattle estimate was calculated after deducting the actual male population reported in the census from the project growth numbers.  The analysis shows that during the 2007-2012 and 2012-2019 periods, in fact an estimated 56.18 lakhs and 84.64 lakhs males went missing. If the numbers of missing cows are added to this, the size of the illegal cattle trade and the corruption dealings involved therein must run into several thousand crores.  This money belonged to the farmers, who must have been forced to part with the unwanted cattle earning pittance in return.    

In conclusion, the census data analysis explicates that the Gujarat’s farmers have rejected the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act because of which it has failed to achieve the set objective.  The farmers have, in fact, defied the law and culled 96% of the male crossbred and 60% of the indigenous male cattle.  The farmers’ culling behaviour has been in line with the rational and scientific husbandry practices followed globally.  The data also shows that the 2005-Supreme Court judgement has caused severe and negative impact as the rate of culling significantly accelerated after the implementation of the judgement.  It is estimated that this anti-farmer policy in 2012-2019 period must have caused a revenue loss of around Rs. 34,000 cores to the farmers as they could not monetize their agrarian operations by selling the excess cattle legally.  This means that it is a major policy failure with huge impact on the farmers’ economy. The state should appoint an ‘Inquiry Commission’ to investigate the fate of missing cattle, identify and punish the perpetrators who were involved in the illegal disposal.  The silence of the farmers should not be construed as their consent. This law requires an urgent review keeping the interests of farmers in mind.

In the next series the buffalo census data will be interpreted to show large scale illegal trade in culled buffaloes.  I will also prove that, contrary to the affidavit in the Supreme Court, the Gujarat dairy economy is buffalo -based and not cow.    

Part I of this Investigation was titled The Missing Cows of Gujarat – How Cow Protection Laws have failed to protect the animal in the state.

About the author: He has obtained Masters in Veterinary Science from Bombay Veterinary College and Ph.D. from Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, Canada, under the Commonwealth Fellowship Program.  He was Dean of the Bombay Veterinary College, Faculty Dean and Director of Instruction at Maharashtra Animal and Fishery Science University.  He has more than 35 years of experience in veterinary research and has authored several original research articles and book chapters.  Both these investigations, Part I and II are excerpts from the authors’ forthcoming book.



INVESTIGATION: The Missing Cows of Gujarat – How Cow Protection Laws have failed to protect the animal in the state





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