Indian state beefs up efforts to protect cows

Maharashtra to deploy a new kit that can test if a meat sample contains the sacred animal

An appliance capable of determining if a meat sample contains beef is being deployed across India’s western Maharashtra state in a bid to protect cows, which are sacred to the country’s majority Hindu community.

Officials in the state capital Mumbai said the cow-meat detection kit recently developed by the local state forensic-science laboratory will cost about €108 and can provide results within 30 minutes.

Laboratory head K Y Kulkarni said that once meat containing beef was fed into the appliance, it would turn yellow, confirming the presence of the forbidden ingredient. “With this kit, [police] officials would be able to examine meat samples on the spot,” Mr Kulkarni said.

All 45 mobile forensic vans in the state, he said, would soon be provided with these detection kits to assist them in their fight against the consumption or possession of beef, which is punishable in the state with a five-year jail term and/or a 10,000-rupee (€136) fine.


“Police will no longer need to make arrests or seizures [of suspected beef] on mere suspicion,” Mr Kulkarni added.

The detection kit has been developed following a countrywide campaign against beef consumption and cattle slaughter that began after prime minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government assumed office in May 2014.

Over the past three years, some 23 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed across India by Hindu extremists, who accused them of either smuggling cows for slaughter or simply possessing beef. In many instances, the accusations were false.

Many of the victims were lynched or beaten to death, but authorities have made few arrests over the incidents.


Cow slaughter is banned in 18 of India’s 29 states, with punishment for any infringement including jail terms ranging between two and 10 years.

The BJP government in northern Uttar Pradesh state has also recently launched an ambulance service for cows as part of the party's national agenda to safeguard the animal.

The Cattle Healing Mobile Van Service includes a widely-publicised toll-free number to help the authorities rescue cows in distress.

Each ambulance includes a veterinarian and an animal paramedic and transports abandoned, ill or injured cows in the state capital Lucknow and four nearby cities to special shelters or for treatment in veterinary hospitals.

The service, which is to be expanded statewide, will initiate legal action against those who abandon their cows once they stop giving milk.

It will also penalise municipal officials in whose jurisdiction stray cows eat plastic bags or other harmful objects.

Activists and opposition parties have criticised the provision of a cow ambulance service in a state where there is a limited number of similar facilities for humans.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi