India environment ministry Maneka Gandhi
Maneka Gandhi criticises environment ministry's moves in culling animalsAdnan Abidi/Reuters

At least 200 blue bulls, the largest Asian antelopes, have been shot in the Indian state of Bihar potentially to ease increasing human-animal conflicts. This is the latest in a series of similar killings that have enraged Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development, who accused her colleague's ministry of a "lust for killing" animals.

Lashing out at Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Gandhi, who is known for her animal activism, said the ministry has been acting in a cavalier manner when it comes killing animals under the pretext of protecting properties.

"For the first time, a massacre of this scale has been allowed. The environment ministry is writing to all states asking for a list of animals whose killing should be sanctioned, and promising to allow that," said Gandhi. She told the ANI news agency: "The environment ministry's own wildlife department said that they don't want to kill animals and should not be pressured for the same. I don't understand this lust for killing."

Animals which endanger agricultural crops have been temporarily categorised as "vermin" so that authorities can act against them.

Another animal that is at the receiving end is the rhesus macaque in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, where the monkey species has been declared "vermin" for a year starting 31 May. A notification from the federal environment ministry read: "The state of Himachal Pradesh has reported damage to life and property including large-scale destruction of agriculture by rhesus macaque monkeys in areas outside forests. The central government has considered it necessary to mitigate the damage to human life, crops and other properties of the state for ensuring conservation of wildlife in forests."

Earlier, wild boars were labelled vermin in Uttarakhand and blue bulls, also known as nilgai, were named vermin in Bihar. The states have also said that these animals need to be killed as they cause great damage to the properties and lives of people.

Javadekar remained cautious in his remarks while responding to the accusations. He said all the operations are being carried out as per necessary regulations and in a scientific manner.