Almost 19 years in the making, Maharashtra’s Assembly, the largest populated state in India, passed the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill, restricting cattle slaughter in the western region of the country. The Bill, which was first introduced in 1995, and recently became law after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his approval.
While the slaughter of cows had been banned during the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976, the new law prohibits killing of bulls and bullocks, along with making the possession of beef illegal – with ramifications ranging from up to five years in prison and fines of Rs 10,000 ($161.75).
The move is being applauded by several of India’s leaders, in a fight against the “pink revolution” – a campaign against rising meat exports from the country.
“Thanks a lot Hon President Sir for the assent on Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill. Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted on March 2.
Thanks a lot Hon President Sir for the assent on MaharashtraAnimalPreservationBill.Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now.
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) March 2, 2015
In a country predominantly dominated by Hinduism (80% of the country’s 1.2 billion population, according to BBC New India), cows are viewed as sacred, with bans already implemented in other states. While buffalo meat remains the main nation’s top export product, beef from unproductive cattle accounts for part of the market share.
“Because of religious sentiments and bans in various states, most of India's beef is exported - with a 20% share of the global market and exports worth more than $4bn a year, it is now the country's top agricultural export, beating the more famous basmati rice. Buffalo meat, however, accounts for 80% of the exports,” says BBC’s Sameer Hashmi.
Concerns have been raised predominantly by milk farmers who can no longer take their unproductive cows to market, most likely left only to continuing care for them until they die of natural causes – leaving many worried about footing the feed bill. Others have expressed worry of what will happen to citizens in poverty, who supplement their diets with beef, since it is generally the cheapest animal protein available.
"A blanket ban will cause the biggest problems for farmers. A farmer has to spend at least Rs 5,000 a month to take care of such animals. It is now the responsibility of the government to come out with a mechanism to take in all unfit animals and take care of them as long as they live," Nationalist Congress Party spokesman Nawab Malik says in a Times of India article.
"Poor farmers had an alternative before but now that is gone. Exports too will be hit as buffalo meat was exported and bull meat was sold in Maharashtra. This will cause an economic loss to the state.”