WHILE India bans the slaughter of cows, its beef exports are growing. What gives?
It’s true that 20, out of 29 states in India now completely ban cow slaughter. But although the population of India is 80 percent Hindu and so largely non-beef eating, India is the second-largest exporter of beef in the world after Brazil.
The 1.89 million metric tons of beef India exported in 2012-2013 were derived largely from herds of the native water buffalo Bubalus bubalis. This beast is beef, according to the United States Department of Agriculture and the global meat industry, but in India it is known as “buff” and doesn’t count as forbidden flesh. The new slaughter ban laws apply only to Indian cows and bulls.
One consequence of the general taboo is that bovine flesh is often one of the cheaper forms of protein around, and a staple for many underprivileged communities
Cattle are still valued as a source of manure and draught power, and are left to reproduce freely at pasture. Restrictions on slaughter mean that herds in India are not culled as in countries with regulated beef industries, contributing to a large surplus of animals, particularly older males.