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India Supreme Court suspends government ban on cattle traded for slaughter

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Tuesday suspended a government ban on cattle trading for the sole purpose of slaughter. In May Prime Minister Narendra Modi [official website], a Hindu nationalist, decreed that cattle trade could only be conducted for agricultural purposes such as dairy production and plowing. Cows are considered holy in Hinduism and their slaughter had been previously banned in most of the country. The new regulations put forth in May expanded the ban [BBC report] to include the slaughter of buffaloes and camels. The leather and meat industries, which brings in more than $16 billion [Reuters report] in annual sales, are run by minority Muslims who claim the ban was implemented to marginalize them. The ban spurred several attacks on Muslims involved in the cattle industries including the deaths of 28 people. The court stressed the hardships the ban would incur upon those who rely upon the meat and leather industries. The government plans to modify and reissue the order in light of the court's decision.

The issue of cow slaughtering has been a major issue in India. In May The Supreme Court of India rejected [JURIST report] a public interest litigation seeking an all-India ban on cow slaughter. In August of last year, approximately 36 beef dealers associations across Maharashtra filed a petition in the top court challenging the ban on cow slaughter [India.com report]. The petitioners in the case reasoning with the court that cattle after the age of 16 are too old for other activities and therefore should be permitted to be put to slaughter. Earlier that same year, the state government banned the slaughtering of bulls, bullocks and cows through an amendment to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act [text]. In May the Bombay High Court [official website] upheld that provision.

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