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India’s first meat farmer from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh has won his bid to stop the importation of horse meat.

The farmers of Purnapur, located about 90km south of the capital, New Delhi, have challenged a Delhi court order that banned the import of horse and other animals into the country.

Indian law bans animal slaughter, but a ruling by the Delhi high court on Friday blocked the ban from taking effect.

Purnapu farmers argued the ban was unnecessary and could have negative effects on the local economy.

However, in a separate case, the court also rejected the farmers’ argument that they should have been able to sell their beef to the market.

India bans horsemeat as meatThe ban has been in place since April 1, but the move is likely to be lifted only after a court order.

India has more than 70,000 horse slaughterhouses and a thriving horse meat trade, which is estimated to be worth $30 billion annually.

Animal rights groups have been challenging the ban, claiming it is an infringement of India’s “right to life”.

Animal rights activists, however, have welcomed the decision.

“The decision by the High Court is an important step forward for the protection of the lives of animals,” said Dr Kishore Sharma, founder of Animals Rights India, an animal rights group.

“We hope the ruling will make sure that India is no longer a source of cruelty to animals and the practice of horse slaughter will be curbed.”

In India, the practice is banned, and there is no specific law prohibiting horsemeat in the country, but campaigners have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse his decision to ban horsemeat.

India’s meat market is estimated at $15 billion and the country is home to a growing number of beef producers.