Spreading beef bans hit Indian farmers, traders - and lions
By Meenakshi Sharma and Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian farmer Nitin Tarode wants to sell his old bull to help pay for his sister's wedding after his income was hit by patchy rainfall.
But he has struggled to find a buyer who will pay a decent price because of a ban on slaughtering cows, bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra, the western state run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party.
"Now I will have to take a loan for my sister's wedding," says Tarode, the oldest of five siblings and the only earning member of his family in Akola, nearly 600 km (370 miles) inland from Mumbai.
A renewed thrust by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protect cows, worshipped by majority Hindus, has closed abattoirs in Maharashtra, making it hard for farmers to sell their animals, and restrictions are spreading to other states.
Even lions, tigers and leopards in Mumbai's national park are being fed chicken and mutton rather than their usual beef because the city's main abattoir has been shut for the past two weeks, said S.D. Saste, the park's assistant conservator.
Maharashtra, India's second most populous state, extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks this month and other BJP-led states such as Jharkhand and Haryana have also tightened restrictions on trading beef.
Critics say tougher anti-beef laws discriminate against Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus who rely on the cheap meat for protein, and fear they could pave the way to a nationwide ban that would threaten thousands of jobs.