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The myth of the holy cow

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Par   •  22 Décembre 2015  •  Dissertation  •  1 862 Mots (8 Pages)  •  633 Vues

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The beef ban in India : The Myth behind the ban

Abstract

This article aims to show that the ‘sacredness’ of the cow is a myth and its consumption goes down  centuries as beef formed an important part of the meals of ancient India. Therefore, the entire political agenda of beef ban is on the basis of a flawed concept. Most Hindus are guided to abstain from consumption of cow meat and instead be concerned about their protection.  They have believed that cows are holy animals and there consumption was strictly forbidden. To much of a surprise though, India in fact is the second largest beef exporter. In a country where according to census data more than 80% people are Hindus, how can a divine creature be harmed.  While it is believed that the beef industry comprises of the meat from buffaloes as cow slaughtering is banned in most of the states, it is also known that acceptance of cow’s holiness is not considered the same throughout the country. Therefore, it is continuously believed that cow meat is equally prevalent in the market, as even export numbers do not match up if possibility of cow meat is negated. Hence, a beef ban in a state does not bode well for the agriculture industry in that state as well, as cows will be illegally taken to other states and slaughtered.

According to studies, cows have got their esteemed pious status after the 500 A.D. The timeline matches with the boom in the agricultural development in the country. It is of common belief that the agrarian society realized the resource value of a cow and hence started to protect the cow as it’s importance alive was of greater value. Historian, D.N.Jha’s research gives us evidence that Kings even of Hindu origin were indulged in the practice of animal sacrifice and animal meat consumption. (Gopal, 2015)

Introduction

After India developed in the agriculture sector, bulls and cattle became invaluable for farming. The change in attitude towards cattle came to light during this period as Hindus started to reject cattle execution and started floating towards vegetarianism. Cattle also started becoming a sign of sacredness and was not only limited to being a sign of wealth. However, it was interesting to note how the buffalo never received such glory. The association of Hindus with beef also ages back to the Vedic gods. They were known to consume milk, grain, bulls and sheep and it also formed their standard nourishment. However some of them appear to have had unique inclinations. Indra had a unique love for bull meat and Agni was rather fond of the meat of bulls, cows and other dairy animals. The Vedas categorize at least 50 animals to be fit for animal sacrifices as well as for human consumption. The Taittiriya Brahmana blatantly suggests that Cow is food. Morevore, Yajnavalkya‘s persistence on consuming the flesh of the cow is widely known. The Brahmanical texts of Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras have also provided concrete evidence of the consumption of beef (D.N.Jha). Apart from direct consumption of beef there are also multiple examples of cow killing as part of animal sacrificing. Madhuparka, an event that was supposed to be a ceremonial welcome for guests involved meals consisting of honey, curd and the meat of bull or cow. Facts also suggest that ancient lawgivers had gone on to make beef mandatory for the event. This fact was represented in several legal texts later as well. A snataka, had to wear an upper garment made of cowhide in the thread ceremony. A ceremony which was considered very ‘sacred’. (Sabhlok, 2010)

To summarize and conclude that Hindus could eat cow or buffalo meat and they actually did in ancient past, lets take a look at some more points.

According to Arthashastra in which Chanakya himself notes that female cows could be slaughtered and their meat could be consumed as long as they were not able to give any more milk. Bulls and male calves were consumed heavily in ancient India as any cattle that had died due to natural reasons could be eaten or its skin could be dried and sold for money. Most importantly there was never any restriction for hindus to consume buffalo meat.

Therefore, even if we assume that in India only the meat of buffalo is sold, then the entire point of the beef ban is a major flaw as hindus are not restricted from consuming buffalo.

Now let’s dive into the past and see what has been India’s history with bans on cow slaughter. India’s history with cow slaughter bans goes down to ancient history. The Muslim Mughals ruled for three centuries and the British colonized the country for two centuries. The principal Mughal ruler, Babur, banned bovine butcher in 1527 keeping in mind the values of the Hindus; however some Hindu rulers did not uphold the boycott. The comprehensive view today is a blended one: On the one hand, there are Muslims and Christians who don't eat meat keeping in mind their Hindu neighbors, while on the other, there are Hindus who eat meat.  

India’s anti-cow slaughter movement began around 1857 due to the famous mutiny against British rule when the Indian soldiers rejected the use of beef and pork cartridges on the Enfield rifles. The cartridges had to be bitten off by Muslims and Hindus who by then had started to revolt against beef and pork. The protection movement took pace majorly from Punjab, North-Western Provinces, Rohilkhand and Awadh. This movement slowly started to take a communal agenda as the muslims started to feel that the movement was being affected so that hindus could prove their dominance over the muslims. Muslims used to sacrifice cows during their festival Eid al-Adha and therefore, the ban on cow slaughter hit their sentiments hard. Soon cow slaughter became a symbol of muslims not wanting to bow down to their hindu neighbors. During Swami Dayananada’ time, cow protection was not initially seen as an anti-muslim phenomenon as he was able to construct a rational movement. However, soon the movement changed stances and it was received with a lot of cynicism as it was perceived as an hidden communal agenda. Its affects were felt majorly in those places where the killing of cows had been banned. The impact of this was grave as a series of communal riots broke out in various parts of India. The major impact was felt initially in Mau and Azamgarh and later it reached Bombay. Unrest kept spreading and         it reached as far as Rangoon. An estimated number of 45 communal riots broke out over 6 months and a total of more than 100 people were killed. (Editor, 2000)

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