Unprovoked attacks on cattle farmers by self-styled gaurakshaks have broken the back of cattle economy in the country and the worst affected were small and marginal farmers whose nearly a third of income came from animal husbandry, a national convention was told on Tuesday.

The two-day meeting which began on Tuesday, organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), a coalition of farmer and people’s movements, urged various State governments which have banned slaughter and closed down abattoirs to amend the cow protection act to purchase unproductive animals from farmers by paying market rate.

“Nearly 50 per cent of cattle in the country are reared by small and marginal farmers whose livelihood has been hit badly by the restrictions on cattle trade and by the scare created by violent attacks by the cow vigilante groups,” said P Krishna Prasad of All India Kisan Sabha, which is part of BAA.

Since 2014, there were a total of 76 reported cases of cow-vigilante attacks – half of them in 2017 – from different parts of the country.

“In a third of the all the cases, the police filed counter cases against victims under cow protection laws,” the report said.