Last week, the western Indian state of Maharashtra banned beef consumption. The state government has barred possession or sales of the meat.
Hindu groups welcomed the ban. But many Muslims in western India have criticized it. They say it will make tens of thousands of people jobless.
Hindus consider cows holy. The animals are already protected in India. But, the new law extends the ban to slaughtering bulls, bullocks, and calves.
The ban took effect on March 5. On that day, many slaughter houses in Maharashtra suddenly closed. Beef disappeared from the menus of restaurants, including those in the state capital, Mumbai.
Under the new law, having or selling beef could lead to fines or prison terms of up to five years. The Bharatiya Janata Party passed the law. The BJP won control of the state government last year.
The party attempted to ban beef 20 years ago when it was also in power. But the ban was never passed because the BJP lost power soon after.
Mohammad Ali Qureshi is president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers Association. He said the ban will have a bad effect on tens of thousands of butchers, beef retailers, and others involved in the trade.
He said many of those affected are among the poorest people in the area. They have little or no education, and cannot easily get other jobs. He said people have become jobless without notice.
Beef consumption in India is limited to non-Hindus. But the country has become the world’s second-biggest exporter of beef. Most of the meat comes from buffaloes.
Hindu groups do not like that India is a major exporter of beef. They say many cows are being illegally killed.
Muslims control most of the beef trade. Banning beef has become a major issue between India’s Hindus and Muslims.
Venkatesh Abdev is with the World Hindu Council. He says his group will fight for a nationwide ban on beef consumption. Mr. Abdev agrees that the ban will affect people working in the beef trade. But he says it is a price to be paid. He notes the killing of cows is a very emotional issue for Hindus.
Mohammad Shahid Sheikh is president of a beef transporters group in Deonar, where one can find India’s biggest slaughterhouse. He says more and more trucks with cattle are being attacked. The attacks are blamed on Hindu activists.
Mr. Sheikh says those in the beef trade tell protesters that they are following all of the rules. But the protesters say they will do everything they can to prevent the animals from being killed.
The beef ban also became a top trend on Twitter last week. Some Twitter users supported the move, but thousands criticized the ban. Some users compared the progress made on protecting cows to the lack of progress on safety for women.
In the words of one user, “Good to know India is more safe for cows than women.”
I’m Caty Weaver.