India’s top court suspends ban on trade in cattle for slaughter
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government in May decreed that markets could only trade cattle for agricultural purposes, such as plowing and dairy production, on the grounds of stopping cruelty to animals.
The slaughter of cows, considered holy in Hinduism, was already banned in most parts of India, but Hindu hardliners and cow vigilante groups have been increasingly asserting themselves since Modi’s government came to power in 2014.
Muslims, who make up 14% of India’s 1.3 billion people, said the May government decree against the beef and leather industry employing millions of workers was aimed at marginalizing them.
The Supreme Court, in issuing its decision, stressed the hardship that the ban on the trade of cattle for slaughter had imposed.
“The livelihood of people should not be affected by this,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said in his ruling.
India’s meat and leather industries are worth more than $16 billion in annual sales. ■