The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, signed a new rule against the slaughter of cattle and the eating of beef (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Regulation of Livestock Market, Rules 2017). It is highly unlikely that these rules were framed to protect animals. The original act—the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960—permits the humane slaughter of animals for food. The new rule goes against the letter of the original act, and does so for religious and mischievous reasons rather than on ethical grounds for the sake of the animals.

The order came just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Muslim families who fast during the day often eat meat late in the evening. Given the predisposition of this government and its parent organization—the fascistic RSS—it is more than likely that the order came on the heels of Ramadan to send a message to India’s 120 million Muslims.

But of course the majority of Indians have no moral problem with the consumption of beef or any other kind of meat, says Indian journalist P. Sainath. A look at the most recent Census shows that more than 42 percent of the Indian population are Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis, Christians and Sikhs. None of these populations are particularly put off by the consumption of meat, with some of these populations reliant upon beef in their diet. If you add in the tens of millions of Hindus in states such as Kerala, Goa and Manipur who eat beef, then the numbers inch up to half the population. “How little we know about beef and the role of beef in our society,” Sainath tells me.

The order from Modi not only impacts those who eat beef, but also will have a detrimental impact on the leather industry and the meat producers (who not only provide for the domestic market, but also for overseas markets).The leather industry is valued at $17.8 billion and takes care of almost all of India’s footwear needs and provides raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry.