After the Karnataka Cabinet approved the contentious anti-cow slaughter bill on Monday, Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he liked eating cattle meat, and asserted that he had the right to choose his food, reported PTI.

“I had once said in the Assembly that I eat cattle meat, who are you to ask?” Siddaramaiah said while speaking at an event to celebrate the Congress’ Foundation Day in Bengaluru. “It is my right, food habit is my right, who are you to question? If you don’t eat, leave it, I’m not going to force you.”

The Congress leader added that his party members were wary of taking a stand against the bill because they were afraid of the backlash that would generate. “Our people stay quiet creating a feeling that what others are saying is right,” Siddaramaiah added. “You should come out of such confusions, please.”

He noted that the new law would not only impinge on the food choices of an individual, but would also gravely impact the farmers in the state. “Where will the farmer send aged cattle like cows, buffaloes?” he asked, adding that taking care of a cow or a buffalo costs about Rs 100 per day – an amount too high for small farmers to bear. “Who will give that money? Farmers too worship cows.”

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At a time of acute farmer distress, Karnataka’s bovine slaughter bill will make lives even worse

The Karnataka Cabinet on Monday decided to promulgate an ordinance to give effect to the anti-cow slaughter bill. The legislation, which was cleared by the state’s Legislative Assembly on December 9, hit a roadblock in Karnataka’s Upper House,where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party does not enjoy a majority.

Not only does the bill impose a complete ban the slaughter of all cows, bulls, bullocks and calves, it also outlaws the slaughter of buffaloes below the age of 13. Smuggling and transporting animals for slaughter is also an offense. The ordinance imposes a stringent punishment upon violation of the legislation, including imprisonment between three years and seven years with a fine not less than Rs 50,000 per cattle that may be extended up to Rs 5 lakh.

Critics say that the legislation, which is in line with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva politics of cow protectionism, undermines the food practices of many Indians, for whom beef is a cheap source of protein. The bill also penalises those who work in the meat and leather industries that depend on cattle slaughter, many of whom are Muslim.