CHENNAI: For years the hot “mutton” biryani has been drawing passers-by at roadside eateries.
No problem with that – most Indians have a tender spot for biryanis, the merest whiff of their aroma enough to send hungry stomachs into a churn.
The point to ponder was: where were the cats disappearing?
Who would not shudder if an uncanny link to missing cats and piping hot mutton chops hidden in the saffron-scented rice biriyani turn out to be cat meat ?
Precisely, that is what is happening for over two decades here at some road side eateries, according to an animal welfare group.
People for Animals, which has taken up the matter, alleged a section of gypsies, known as ‘narikoravas’ had been indulging in catching cats and selling their meat to the eateries after brutally killing the animals.
The issue was brought to the notice of the City Police Commissioner in a recent petition, Co-founder of People for Animals (Chennai) Dr Shiranee Pereira said.
Following a discrete investigation, the group with police support recovered about 40 cats during searches at some Narikorava settlements in the city, she said.
A senior police official, who heads the team formed to halt cat theft and the mean of the animal being sold as mutton, said “action will continue” to check it.
“Narikoravas operate from midnight to dawn; catch cats with wire loops and nets,” Pereira told PTI.
Narikoravas, a nomadic community, slyly trap cats and sell its meat to small time roadside eateries in suburbs – several of them located near liquor bars – who pass it off as mutton and sell it to unsuspecting consumers, she said.
She said her organisation received a spate of complaints from public who had lost their pet cats.
“Both we (PFA) and animal lovers with Police help have apprehended these gypsies on the streets and in the last two months….40 odd pet cats have been rescued which now live a life of peace and care at our animal shelter in Red hills,” she said.
The cats are mostly killed by the gypsies in the most “horrendous manner by throwing them in hot water,” Pereira said.
She thanked the police for their help in rescuing cats by forming a team of police personnel in this respect.
Pereira said her organisation will approach the government to work out a rehabilitation plan for the Narikorava community so that the “sale of cat meat” can be stopped permanently.
“Corporation of Chennai should also take serious cognisance of this under the Food and Adulteration Act,” she said.
S Arun Nirmalan, a social activist regretted that some people were led to falsely believe that cat meat and its blood had ‘medicinal properties’ to cure ailments like arthritis.
Gypsies eat cat meat and it forms part of their menu especially on occasions like weddings, he claimed.