India’s Supreme Court has suspended a law that would have banned the sale of cattle for slaughter nationwide.
The government order aimed to “prevent uncontrolled and unregulated animal trade” at livestock markets, reports BBC.
For the first time the sale for slaughter of buffaloes and camels as well as cows, which Hindus consider holy, would have been illegal.
It would have had a major impact on the meat and leather industries and hit livelihoods, the chief justice said.
These industries are dominated by minority Muslims and the proposed law was widely opposed.
The new law had already been stayed by a lower court in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on 30 May, days after it was first announced.
The top court said the Madras high court’s interim order, which lapsed on 8 July, would continue and remained in force across the country.
Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said in his order that “the livelihood of people should not be affected by this”.
Petitioners in Tamil Nadu had argued that the ban infringed their right to choose what they ate.
The government is now expected to make changes and resubmit amendments to the law by the end of August.
Cows are considered holy by India’s majority Hindu population and slaughtering them is already banned in most but not all states, but this would have been the first time buffaloes had been included in a slaughter ban.
Most of India’s beef comes from water buffaloes rather than cows. With annual exports worth $4bn (£3.1bn), India is the largest exporter of beef, mostly buffalo meat, in the world.