Indian State Bans Possession and Sale of Beef

cowMUMBAI, India — The state that includes Mumbai, India’s financial capital, this week became the latest state to ban the possession and sale of beef, imposing fines and up to five years in prison for violations.

The ban in the populous western state of Maharashtra, which was passed Monday, came as an amendment to a 1972 law prohibiting the slaughter of cows, which has been expanded to ban the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves. The slaughter of water buffaloes will still be allowed, subject to permission from the authorities.

The Maharashtra Animal Preservation bill, championed by right-wing Hindu organizations, was first passed in 1995 but languished for two decades under a governing coalition between the Indian National Congressand the Nationalist Congress Party. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was the clear winner in state elections last October after Narendra Modi, the party’s leader, took office as prime minister in May.

The law, which allows a fine of 10,000 rupees, about $162, took effect Monday night after approval from India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee. Maharashtra’s chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, gave the president credit and expressed his thanks over Twitter.

“Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now,” he wrote.

The move was far less popular with those who run Mumbai’s restaurants, and some retailers warned that it would cause jobs to be lost and send the price of other meats spiraling upward.

“This is extremely sad to hear,” Glyston Gracias, a chef at Smoke House Deli, told The Indian Express, a daily newspaper. “I will have to go to another country.”

“A lot of our foreign clientele, such as Japanese and Europeans, will miss beef on the menu,” he said. “I will find it difficult to do international cuisine.”

The protection of cows is a volatile subject in India, where the animals are revered by the majority-Hindu population. Nearly all of India’s states already have provisions restricting or banning cow slaughter. In addition, the state of Gujarat, Mr. Modi’s home base, bans the sale, purchase and transportation of beef, and Madhya Pradesh State prohibits beef consumption and transportation. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto included promises to work toward “the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny.”

As India’s beef trade is largely controlled by Muslims, a religious minority in the country, the issue has become a point of contention between them and Hindus, and manifests itself as a political dispute during elections.

Last month, beef traders in Maharashtra complained that they were being harassed by right-wing Hindus who were attacking vehicles transporting cattle to abattoirs, seizing the animals and beating the drivers. In February, beef traders across the state went on strike for more than a week until the chief minister, Mr. Fadnavis, assured them protection.

India is a top exporter of meat from buffaloes, which are more common and less revered in India than cows. India’s exports of beef, including buffalo meat, have been rising steadily. Before the state elections, Satpal Malik, a vice president of the farmers’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said that if elected, the party would “crack down on beef exports” and “review the subsidy the government gives for beef or buffalo meat exports,” according to a report by Reuters.

Correction: March 3, 2015 
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of an amendment to a law prohibiting the slaughter of cows. It is the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, not the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill.
Correction: March 5, 2015 

An article on Wednesday about the passage of legislation banning the sale and possession of beef in the Indian state of Maharashtra erroneously attributed a distinction to Maharashtra. At least one other Indian state, Gujarat, has already banned the sale of beef; Maharashtra is not the first state to do so. The error was repeated in the headline. Because of an editing error, the article also referred incorrectly to the victory by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had promoted the ban, in Maharashtra state elections in October. It won the most votes, but not a majority.

Source: NY Times