The cow should be declared India’s national animal and its protection must be made a fundamental right of Hindus, the Allahabad High Court said on Wednesday, Live Law reported.

Justice Shekhar Yadav made the observations while denying bail to a man accused of stealing and slaughtering a cow. He had been charged under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act.

The judge also said that protecting cows is not the task of one specific religion, according to Bar and Bench. “Cow is the culture of India and the work of saving the culture is of every citizen living in the country irrespective of religion,” he added.

Yadav said that the right to life took precedence over the right to kill.

“Right to eat beef can never be considered a fundamental right,” he said. “Fundamental right is not only the prerogative of beef eaters, rather, those who worship the cow and are financially dependent on cows, also have the right to lead a meaningful life.”

The judge added that India will prosper only if cows are revered and criticised those in charge of cow shelters. “The government also gets the gaushalas [cow shelters] constructed, but the people who have to take care of the cow do not take care of the cows,” he said, according to Bar and Bench.

The judge described private cow shelters as a sham. “People take donations from the public and help from the government in the name of cow promotion, but spend it for their own interest and do not care of cows,” he claimed.

Yadav also asked the government to frame strict laws against those who speak about harming cows.

The subject of cow protection has frequently figured in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaigns ahead of elections. The saffron party has passed laws against cow slaughter in several states.

Since the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014, there has been a sharp rise in cases of mob violence in the name of cow protection. Vigilantes, sometimes explicitly supported by the party’s leaders, have attacked Muslims for allegedly killings cows or transporting them for slaughter.