Selling the sacred cow


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.


2 thoughts on “Selling the sacred cow

  1. Again the Hindus don’t seem to refer to their ancient scripture. It speaks of one God and giving beef to your guests.

    “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”
    [The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3, Pg 536]


  2. In general the cow is not worshipped, but protected for its value – milk, curds, ghee butter, urine and dung . In the long history of Hinduism this only gradually came about. Hinduism varies from village to village, and exists on different levels. Beliefs differ, and some villages worship only their own local deity.

    Apart from that cows don’t seem very appreciated. Many walk neglected around city streets, living on garbage from the gutters.

    But the cow is honored at least once a year, on Gopastami. On this “Cow Holiday,” cows are washed and decorated in the temple and given offerings in the hope that her gifts of life will continue.


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