A religious leader with a cabinet rank in the Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday said that the state should become the first in India to have a separate ministry devoted to the conservation and welfare of cows. Akhileshwaranand Giri claimed that such a move will rid the cow of the tag of “animal”, The Indian Express reported.

“We apply tilak only to cows,” Giri told the daily. “I always say ‘gaumata ka dehavsan ho gaya’ [Mother Cow has passed away], unlike Animal Husbandry Department officials who talk of its death like any other animal’s because they deal with all other animals. If a separate ministry is constituted, it can deal sensitively with the subject.”

“Indigenous livestock protection should be of concern of any sensitive government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party has taken the lead in that direction,” Giri told The Times of India. “Hindus do not eat beef out of reverence for the cow, which is viewed in the religion as providing nourishment. The new Cow Ministry would help generate employment and nourishment.”

Giri has spoken to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan about a ministry for cows, but will put up a formal proposal at the Gausamwardhan Board’s annual meeting in July. The board comes under the Animal Husbandry Department, and has an annual budget of Rs 25 crore.