South Indian court orders 4 week stay on cow slaughter rules

A court in southern India on Tuesday ordered a four-week stay on the federal government's decision to ban the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter.

The Madras High Court gave the federal and state governments four weeks to reply to an appeal that an individual has the basic right to choose his food.

Last week, the government passed new rules that buyers and sellers at cattle markets or animal fairs will have to pledge in writing that the animals, which are considered holy by many Hindus, will not be slaughtered for food or any other purpose.

Many state governments have criticized the ban as a blow to beef and leather exports that will leave hundreds of thousands jobless and deprive millions of Christians, Muslims and poor Hindus of a cheap source of protein.

The top elected officials of Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal states have said they will not abide with the federal order and protest rallies have been held in these states. Several states in India's remote northeast, where beef is eaten widely, have also said that they will allow the slaughter of bovine animals for food and other uses.

Over the past three days, young people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu have held "beef fests" where they cooked beef and served it to the public to mark their opposition to the new rules.

In New Delhi, supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday protested the killing of cows in Kerala and other parts of the country.