Wednesday, 28 October 2015

To Beef or not to Beef - A Personal View on the Beef Crisis in India

 By Girish Menon

Photo courtesy: Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

I come from a Hindu family from Kerala. Our diet used to be pre-dominantly vegetarian by tradition and choice, though some men folk indulged in the pleasures of animal flesh whenever they wished to give themselves 'a treat' (usually accompanied by alcohol). I studied in a Catholic school in Mumbai with UP Brahmins as my teachers of Sanskritised Hindi. My first conflict with beef arose when Mr. Tiwari mentioned in class that Hindus do not eat beef while only a few days earlier my father had cooked some beef at home for the two of us to eat.

Historically, beef eating has been used as a primary ritual in the conversion of a Hindu to Islam. I'm not sure if the early Christian missionaries indulged in similar Hindu iconoclasm? Hence, I can understand why banning beef has become a major issue in the first predominantly upper class Hindu Indian government.

In Britain where animal meat is the staple food of most residents there was recently a great display of revulsion when horse meat was found to enter the food supply. Britons have also been critical of the Koreans who love to eat dog meat. And human meat is still frowned upon. Using the market mantra isn't this totalitarian view depriving lovers of unusual meats a chance to improve their own welfare?

In my view, beef will become the next Babri Masjid of modern India. Its ban will be essential for Hindus to prove that they have exorcised yet another ghost from the past (how many more ghosts do they wish to exorcise?). 

So, what will happen to the Taslima's orphaned cows and to beef lovers like me? The orphaned cows will meet the same fate as the Indian poor - who cares!. As for beef loving Hindus like me, I could get a permit to eat beef for health reasons (the Dubai model). For those who cannot afford the high price of a permit, the Gujarat model on alcohol could be also be successfully replicated. Go to the police station for a portion of beef!


  1. The issue has been so much in the news that I think it's time to bring some clarity to it.

    What constitutes beef? Is it the meat of a cow/bull, a buffalo, or both? Wikipedia tells me that it is the meat of bovines. By that definition it includes cows, bulls and buffaloes.

    Next question; what has been banned? Beef derived from all bovines or only the meat of a cow? Does the ban includes bulls? The other day I read in the papers about someone being persecuted for stocking or eating the meat of a buffalo.

    What is the history of the ban on such meat? I read that such a ban has been in force for several years and was first introduced by the Congress party when in power. We need more information in this regard. When was it introduced, reason for doing so, and subsequent amendments to the ban, if any.

    Linked to the questions in the previous paragraph is the issue of the BJP government in Maharashtra introducing a ban soon after it came into power about a year ago. How is this ban different to the one already in force? Likewise, how are similar bans in some other states consistent or at variance with the ruling in force?

    Wikipedia tells me that India is the world's second-largest exporter of beef. More questions arise from this fact. The meat of which bovines does India export? How does it fit in with religious belief?

    My reading of Indian history tells me that beef was consumed in the early Vedic age. I say this only as a matter of information because a precedent need not be a reason to practise or shun an activity.

    What happens to bovines after they are past their productive years? Are they well looked after or suffer neglect and ill treatment?

    What form of beef have Indians been eating all along? For instance, if it is the meat of buffaloes and not at cross-purposes with the dominant religious sentiment, the issue falls flat.

    Many questions but I believe we as a nation need answers to bring clarity to the issue. But I don't think we are looking for them because it suits everyone to derive political mileage from the confusion.

  2. For scientific( Genetics) reason it is better to avoid beef and other red meats. By banning beef, it will have positive effect to the Indian economy or to the world (if some one cares), i.e less patients to take care. And by lack of its usage, the beef farming will be reduced and eventually helps in minimizing the greenhouse gas caused by these living creatures.

    All for scienceaaaa not for religion point of viewaaa.