Bharatiya Janata Party leader Satya Ranjan Borah on Monday staged a protest outside the Assam State Zoo against serving beef to tigers and other animals for meals, NDTV reported.

A small group of protestors led by Borah, who claimed to be “anti-beef activists”, blocked the main gate of the zoo in Guwahati as vehicles carrying beef for tigers were trying to pass. They shouted slogans demanding a complete ban on cow slaughter.

“The vehicles carrying meat for the zoo inmates were stopped briefly by some miscreants,” Tejas Mariswamy, divisional forest officer of Assam state zoo, told The Hindustan Times. “We had to call the police to disperse them. There’s no issue regarding supply of meat to the animals now.”

Mariswamy added that beef is mainly used to feed tigers and lions in the zoo, according to Guwahati Plus.

Borah questioned why the animals can’t be served any other meat. “In Hindu society we give importance to protection of cow, but it is the staple food for carnivores in the zoo and part of government supply,” he told NDTV. “Our objection is, why serve beef? Why not other meat?”

The BJP leader suggested that authorities should use the meat of the sambar deer instead. “The zoo’s sambar deer population is so much that the males have to be kept separately [to slow down breeding],” he claimed. “The zoo can achieve self-sufficiency if sambar deer meat is used to feed the carnivores.”

But Mariswamy said this was illegal. “As per the law we cannot give the meat of zoo animals to the carnivores,” he said. “Also, sambar deer is a wild animal and we cannot kill wild animals.”

The Sambar deer are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are protected under Schedule-III of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Meanwhile, Assam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya took cognisance of the matter and said that beef was essential for the animals’ nutritious needs. Suklabaidya added that some states have opted to feed carnivores buffalo meat instead of beef. He told Guwahati Plus that Assam does not have enough stock of buffalo meat.

Cattle slaughter is not banned in Assam. Unlike many other Indian states, the law in Assam also does not distinguish between buffaloes and cows or bulls. The Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950 allows the slaughter of cattle over 14 years of age, or those incapable of work or for use in breeding.