No Dasain is complete for a Nepali without mandatory meals of goat curry and rice, and it seems this appetite will not be dampened even by earthquakes or blockades.
Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s goat consumption during the festival season is met by imports from India. Tibetan sheeps and mountain goats make up to 25 percent and the rest are domestic.
However, meat consumption didn’t go down by much last Dasain which fell right in the middle of the Indian blockade. And the closure of the earthquake-damaged Kodari Highway to China hasn’t stopped the import of ungulates from Tibet.
Chandra Bahadur Adhikari used to bring 800 sheep and goats from Tibet every Dasain, but after the earthquake closed the border this year, he went to Mustang himself to bring 260 mountain goats and sheep to Kathmandu.
“It took me a whole week to bring the sheep down from Mustang, whereas I could bring many more animals much quicker through Kodari," Adhikari says.
Traders like Adhikari now don’t wait for goats and sheep to arrive from Tibet for Dasain, but trail themselves to Mustang, Dolpa and Humla to bring the animals down to Pokhara and Kathmandu. The rising price of Tibetan goats has also driven them to buy animals from these trans-Himalayan districts.
The Nepal Livestock Traders Association (NLTA) estimates that 20,000 mountain goats and sheep were brought to cities in Nepal for slaughter and sacrifices this Dasain, 5,000 of them to Kathmandu — making about 25 per cent of all goats.
Gyan Kumar Shrestha of the NLTA says earlier all mountain goats and sheep used to be from Tibet, but Nepali herders are now using road access to sell their livestock locally. “If we improve the production we can reduce our reliance on the import of goats,” says Shrestha.
Long-eared goats from India still make up the bulk of the animals brought in at the Kalanki Goat Bazar. Ramesh Khadki, who has been running a meat shop in Sinamangal for the last 30 years, says he prefers to sell Indian goats since there is a reliable supply, except when there is a blockade.
“The profit margin is higher on Indian goats, and if I run out of them I fall back on goats from Nepal,” he says.
NLTA figures show that 200,000 Indian goats enter Nepal every year from the check points in Nepalganj, Krishna Nagar and Bhairawa.
Last Dasain, the Kalanki market alone sold 21,600 goats imported from India, 8,300 Nepali goats, and 2,250 sheep and mountain goats from Tibet.
However, the dependency on Indian goats has slightly decreased in recent years. Until three years ago, almost 80 percent of goats at Kalanki Khasi Bazar were imported from the Indian market, according to the NLTA.
Nepal’s per capita consumption of meat is 10 kg which is higher than India's 5kg, but much lower than the United States which consumes 120 kg per capita. Goat meat accounts for only a quarter of all meat consumed in Nepal.
Meeting meat supply
After inspecting a few slaughterhouses in Kathmandu in June this year, a team of government officials including former Minister of Commerce and Supplies Ganesh Man Pun directed officials to seal them because of their unhygienic condition. In fact, none of the sites visited met minimum government standards.
The government also planned to terminate all unregulated slaughterhouses and replace them with modern battoirs. However, like everything else, the directives fell on deaf ears and the private slaughterhouses continue to meet Kathmandu’s meat supply.
Nepal adopted the Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act in 1990, but the municipality says setting up a modern abattoir in the Valley is impractical because of the lack of water supply. When asked, Rudra Singh Tamang of Kathmandu Metropolitan City was vague: “We are working on setting up authorised abattoirs outside the Valley but we don’t know when the task will be completed.”
Ode to goat, Ketan Dulal
Getting to the meat of it, Tulasi Gautam
Scapegoats, Thirtha B Shrestha
The scapegoats of Dasain, Salil Subedi
Fried goat gulls for all by Dasain, Kunda Dixit