In the Indian state of Gujarat, killing a cow could lead to a longer prison sentence that killing another human. The state assembly, on 31 March, amended the Animal Preservation Bill to toughen punishment of those found guilty of cow slaughter. Under the amendment, those found guilty could face maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a minimum of 10 years in jail.

Those found transporting cows for slaughter, beef or beef products could also face 10 years in prison, as opposed to the earlier three-year sentence.

Under the current law, which came into effect in 2011, the maximum jail term for cow slaughter was seven years with penalty of Rs 100,000 ($1,543, £1,230), which has now been increased to Rs 500,000.

"The Gujarat Assembly passed a cow protection Bill, among the most stringent in the country, making cow slaughter a life-time punishable offence," Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said in a statement. "Protection of cows is the single most important principle towards saving the whole world from both moral and spiritual degradation."

In order to formally become law, the changes need to be approved by the state governor, but many supporters of the amendment believe it is all but confirmed.

"This is not a bill, but a feeling of crores of Indians. It is my humble attempt to give voice to the cows being killed by butchers, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said during the assembly session. "A single drop of cow blood falling on earth pains Hindus."

A major part of India already has strict laws that prohibit the slaughter of cows, despite the fact that they are consumed by a majority of other communities including Muslims, Christians, and even some sects of Hindus.

These religion-fuelled laws have also given rise to groups of "cow protectors" — vigilantes who attack people they suspect of selling or consuming beef.

Earlier this month, the new chief minister of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, issued a crackdown on all illegal slaughterhouses, in a bid to make the state vegetarian. The ban led to mobs burning down meat and fish shops across the state.

In 2015, a group of vigilantes attacked and killed a 50-year-old Muslim man they suspected of eating beef. The meat in question turned out to be mutton.