In the strongest sign yet that India’s controversial ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter will not proceed, at least in its initially proposed form, the Indian Supreme Court this week suspended the Government’s ban notification across all of India.
After the decision, solicitor general P. S. Narasimha reportedly told the court the cattle-trade rules “would not come into effect”, and the Government would revise the rules by the August-end after considering the objections, according to the Hindustan Times.
As has long been speculated, the Government now looks set to exclude buffalo from the ban notification — buffaloes are not considered sacred and buffalo meat constitutes the bulk of India’s “beef” exports.
The Supreme Court emphasised the hardship that the ban had imposed, Reuters reported.
“The livelihood of people should not be affected by this,” Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said in explaining the decision.
The Supreme Court decision was applauded by the multibillion-dollar beef and leather industries that are mostly run by members of the Muslim minority.
Abdul Faheem Qureshi, the man who filed the Supreme Court petition against the Government ban said the Court’s decision was “a victory for us”.
Mr Faheem Qureshi, who is the leader of the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee which supports meat sellers, said cattle traders now had the confidence to resume their business.
However Reuters said a cow-protection group claimed the Government should have been more forceful in making its case in court.
“The government should have stood its ground by fighting for the implementation of the ban,” said Pawan Pandit, chairman of the India Cow Protection Group.
“Modi must respect the sentiments of millions of Hindus, who have supported his government.”
India’s domestic beef consumption ‘underestimated’
A recently United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report suggests that beef consumption is much higher in India than earlier reports may have suggested.
The USDA has estimate that total domestic beef consumption in India as of April 2017 stood at 2.4 million tonnes, which would place it sixth in total behind the US, China, European Union, Brazil and Argentina.
The USDA says India’s total beef consumption has increased by 400,000 tonnes since 2013.
The same report said Indian beef production (which is dominated by buffalo meat) topped 4.25 million tonnes in 2016, despite the Hindu backlash against cow slaughter.
India’s beef exports rose from 1.76 million tonnes in 2013 to a peak of 2.08 million tonnes in 2014.
Meanwhile, India develops ‘beef detection kits’
Meanwhile, AFP has reported that “beef detection kits” have been developed to allow Indian police to quickly determine if meat is from an illegally slaughtered cow.
The slaughter of cows, which are revered by Hindus, and the possession or consumption of beef is banned in most Indian states, with some imposing life sentences for breaking the law.
“We have been working on beef detection kits for the past eight months and these will be distributed to Maharashtra and Mumbai police in August,” K.Y. Kulkarni, director of the Maharashtra state government’s Forensic Science Laboratories, told AFP.
Kulkarni said the new kits were based on the ELISA method, where colour changes of samples identify a substance.
Police would just need to pour a sample into the kit and it would change colour to identify whether it was bovine meat or not within 30 minutes. Current DNA laboratory tests take several days, leaving cattle traders languishing in jail, often innocently, while the outcome of tests are awaited.
India has experienced a spate of vigilante murders in recent months, especially targeting Muslims for allegedly killing cows or consuming beef.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently condemned murder in the name of protecting cows but critics say vigilantes have been emboldened by the election in 2014 of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.
Critics accuse the government of being more concerned with the lives of cows than humans.
“Awful case of misplaced priorities. We have nothing more important to spend state resources on? Beef detection kits!,” Indian opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor tweeted following reports of the beef detection kits in local media.