MUMBAI — Battling a beef ban that has threatened their livelihoods, Muslim traders in India are seeking permission to slaughter foreign-origin Jersey cows they think will not be as sacred to the country's majority Hindus as locally bred cattle.
Several states led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have either brought new laws to ban beef or tightened curbs on killing cattle.
India is the world's largest beef exporter and fifth biggest consumer, with the trade dominated by the minority Muslim community who have protested against the latest restrictions with little success.
The All India Milli Council, a platform for Muslims in the country, now says it supports the beef ban but would like the government to find them alternatives. They hope Jerseys, a dairy cow originally bred in the Channel Island of Jersey, could be an option.
"We demand the government to allow us kill Jersey cows, which are of foreign origin and religious sentiments are not attached to them," said M.A. Khalid, general secretary of the council's unit in the western state of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra is home to India's largest abattoir, Deonar, and the state in February extended a ban on killing of cows to bulls and bullocks. On Friday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis shot down the idea of allowing the killing of Jersey cows.
"There are no exceptions," he told Reuters.
Since the ban in Maharashtra, slaughtering of big cattle in Deonar has nearly halved to 200-250 animals, mostly buffalo. Several workers have been left jobless and Fadnavis said his government was considering a rehabilitation plan for the worst affected Qureshi community. He gave no details.
Hindu groups, meanwhile, are working on the wellbeing of cattle that are likely to be stranded due to the beef ban.
Vyankatesh Abdeo, All India Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Council, said they would protect any breed of cow and increase the number of cow shelters in the state by eight times to 5,000 this year.
"Every cow is sacred to us regardless of it's breed," Abdeo said.