India govt lab develops 'beef detection kits' amid crackdown on illegal cow slaughter

A cow walks past a closed slaughter house in Allahabad, India, on March 28, 2017.
A cow walks past a closed slaughter house in Allahabad, India, on March 28, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUMBAI (AFP) - A government-run laboratory in western India has developed portable "beef detection kits" that will allow police to quickly determine whether meat is that of an illegally slaughtered cow, an official said Monday (July 10).

The slaughter of cows, which are revered by Hindus, and the possession or consumption of beef is banned in most Indian states, with some imposing life sentences for breaking the law.

"We have been working on beef detection kits for the past eight months and these will be distributed to Maharashtra and Mumbai police in August," K.Y. Kulkarni, director of the Maharashtra state government's Forensic Science Laboratories, told AFP.

Kulkarni said the new kits were based on the ELISA method, where colour changes of samples identify a substance. Police would just need to pour a sample into the kit and it would change colour to identify whether it was bovine meat or not within 30 minutes.

At present it can take several days for a laboratory to identify the source of meat through traditional DNA tests, leaving cattle traders languishing in jail, often innocently, while the outcome of tests are awaited.

Kulkarni said the kits would cost 8,000 rupees (US$123) each. A spokeswoman for police in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, refused to confirm whether the force would be receiving the kits when asked by AFP.

The announcement comes as India reels from a spate of vigilante murders in recent months, especially targeting Muslims for allegedly killing cows or consuming beef.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently condemned murder in the name of protecting cows but critics say vigilantes have been emboldened by the election in 2014 of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

They accuse the government of being more concerned with the lives of cows than humans.

"Awful case of misplaced priorities. We have nothing more important to spend state resources on? Beef detection kits!" Indian opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor tweeted following reports of the beef detection kits in local media.