The Centre has banned the export of livestock from all sea ports in the country for an indefinite period, Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya told The Indian Express on Thursday. Mandaviya said the decision was taken following representations from animal rights activists.

“We received information that sheep and goats were being exported from the Tuna port of Deendayal Port Trust in Kutch,” he said. “We have banned livestock export from all ports. The livestock consignment in question was to be shipped to Dubai. Since the consignment was headed to Dubai, it meant they were being exported for slaughter. There were demands from the public to stop export of livestock for the purpose of slaughter.”

Mandaviya claimed that animal lovers, activists and even the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat have submitted many complaints and representations to the government on the matter. A few days ago, there protests against the export of livestock from Nagpur airport, he added.

“There have been public protests in various places, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, against the export of livestock,” Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna told the newspaper. “The Shipping Ministry has issued these orders to maintain public order.”

The ministry also withdrew the permission granted to country crafts – mechanised sailing vessels – to operate out of ports in the state.

Livestock Exporters Association Gujarat President Adil Noor criticised the decision. “Livestock is exported in small consignments of 1,500 heads to 2,000 heads,” he told The Indian Express. “We are completely dependent on country craft.”

Noor said the government’s decision would destroy the livestock industry. “People have been in this business for more than 40 years and the industry supports around 40,000 families in Gujarat and Rajasthan,” he pointed out. “What will they do now? The exporters have booked orders from Gulf countries for supplying livestock and many have taken bank loans. They will be forced to commit suicide by this decision.”

The president of the Jamnagar-based All India Sailing Vessels Industry Association, Digant Joshi, said the body would approach Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari on the matter.