NEW DELHI - India will use all its "might" to ban the slaughter of cows across the country, Interior Minister Rajnath Singh said in a speech to spiritual leaders, as the Hindu nationalist government moves to fulfil an election promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A renewed thrust by Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protect cows, worshipped by the country's majority Hindus, has led to a clampdown on the beef trade run mostly by Muslims, Reuters reported.
India is the world's fifth-biggest consumer of beef.
There is no federal law on cattle slaughter, though various states have enacted their own legislation.
Maharashtra, India's second-most populous state, extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks this month.
Violators can be punished by up to five years in prison, reported The New York Times (NYT).
Other BJP-led states such as Jharkhand and Haryana have also tightened curbs.
"How can we accept the fact that cow slaughter is allowed in this country?" Mr Singh asked on Sunday.
"We will use all our might to ban it. We will try to build a consensus."
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 for a nationwide ban that would threaten thousands of jobs.
Meanwhile, nine Bengal tigers, three lions, 14 leopards and three vultures in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Maharashtra's capital, are subsisting almost exclusively on lighter fare - chicken, reported NYT.
The city's Muslim cattle traders and meat retailers are weeks into a strike against the ban, refusing to supply shops even with buffalo meat, which is still legal.
Shailesh Bhagwan Deore, who oversees the care of animals kept in captivity at the park, fears the leaner diet might eventually deplete the animals' strength.
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