<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Open+Sans%3A400italic%2C700italic%2C400%2C700">Meat industry Archives « Aam JanataSkip to content

In an attempt to bring reason to the debate on cow slaughter bans, I have tried to present data from Maharashtra where the broadening of an existing ban on the slaughter of cows to include calves, bulls and bullocks has the poor cattle owners of the drought stricken state devastated as their livestock has overnight become a liability.

The sentiment about the holy cow is beyond doubt. Upper caste Hindus revere the cow, even though there are many Hindus who do eat it. Whether Savarkar agreed with it or whether the vedas sanctioned it is irrelevant. The idea of cow slaughter is revolting to many Hindus.

However, as sentimentalism and hyperbole builds up, there is a need to take a long, hard look at realities, and for the government that claims to be interested in development to decide whether development lies in the past or in building a new future.

Here is the data from the various livestock census reports from Maharashtra and what it tells me.

Firstly, the numbers.

Livestock census data from Maharashtra for cows and buffaloes
Livestock census data from Maharashtra for cows and buffaloes

A quick glance at the numbers is enough to tell us that in the five decades since the first census data available in 1961 and till the 2012 19th livestock census, the population of cattle has grown by 1,56,632 or slihtly more than a lakh and a half. The population of buffaloes has grown by 25,07,378 or over 25 lakh - about five lakhs short of being doubled. While this, in itself is an astonishing difference, it becomes even more astonishing when we see that the population of cattle was almost five (4.9) times that of buffaloes in 1961 and in 2012, cattle are slightly more than two and a half (2.7) times that of buffaloes. So this dramatic increase has happened in a much smaller population.

The buffalo population saw an increase of 25 lakh in five decades
The buffalo population saw an increase of 25 lakh in five decades while the five times larger cow population only saw a lakh and a half rise in population.

AND, the buffaloes were also getting slaughtered all through, for food.

If you look at the break ups of the population, you will see this more clearly.

Details of Cattle and buffalo population in Maharashtra
Details of Cattle and buffalo population in MaharashtraCattle and buffalo population in Maharashtra

The line lying almost flat against the bottom is the population of male buffaloes, which has barely ever risen other than around 2007 and 2012 - recent years saw distinct radicalization of society against slaughter. This fluctuation, 2007 in particular, could also be explained if the census happened before the festival season when a lot of the slaughter happens. And in five decades, out of the 25 lakh rise in buffaloes, not even a tenth or two and a half lakhs has happened in the male population. And of course India is the world's largest exporter of carabeef (buffalo beef).

Not only do buffalo owners profit from the high yields of the buffalo, and then an income from the sale of the unproductive animals for slaughter, they also do not feed much surplus livestock unnecessarily.

If you take the total population of buffaloes to be 100%, the sex ratio for cows and buffaloes would be thus over the years.

Sex ratio of cows in Maharashtra
Sex ratio of cows in Maharashtra

The only time in the history of the livestock census in Maharashtra that cows have been more than bulls and bullocks is in the year 2012, though the trend starts at 1997 (also relevant later). If you look at the data, you will see that the numbers dropped more drastically than for cows. This basically means that for the first time in Maharashtra, bulls and bullocks were being butchered in any noticeable numbers. But why now, if not for five decades? We will look at the 2012 data in detail in a bit.

Sex ratio of buffaloes in Maharashtra
Sex ratio of buffaloes in Maharashtra

The ratio of male buffaloes to female buffaloes consistently hovers between 8% and 18% - we aren't even pretending gender equality here. 50% is far away in the stratosphere, let alone male buffaloes being the majority of the population. At no point does the male buffalo population even touch 20%.

But the buffalo population did slow in 2007 and fall in 2012 in particular. So did the overall population of cows, which has been falling steadily since the late 90s.

Explanations for changes in trends in livestock data can be found in events that impacted livestock farming practices.

Cow population started dropping after 1997

What else was happening in the agricultural world around that time? Maharashtra's post-economic liberalization agrarian crisis had established. By 1995, P. Sainath's reports of farmer suicides in rural India had triggered enough alarm that they had started being recorded in NCRB data. While livestock, as an economic asset provides a buffer against poverty, to me it seems like it lost its potency by 1997 with the agrarian crisis creating a similar situation for most cattle owners.

At this point, the farmers were committing suicide, but still there is no noticeable slaughter of bulls and bullocks. However, the overall populations started dropping steadily as cows started becoming economically unviable.

Understand this, when less than 50% of the cattle population is cows, milk producing cows are even fewer, so cattle owners probably had two unproductive animals for every milch cow. With the rise of motorized transport, while bullock carts could be used for own needs and ploughing the fields could be done, income earning opportunities from bulls and bullocks started dwindling (and are near non-existent today).

What happened in 2012?

The worst drought to hit Maharashtra happened in 2012. People were desperate for water for themselves. Buffaloes actually have higher water requirements than cows ("water buffalo" d'uh). Buffalo owners seem to have sold off their livestock in greater than usual numbers. This is probably also a factor in India becoming the world's largest exporter of beef at that time.

What was happening with the cows in 2012?

The cattle population continued to drop, except for two major departures from the norm till then.

The population of exotic and crossbred cows rose

While all the other cattle and buffalo population was busy going down, the one notable exception was the population of exotic and crossbred cows - this would be your fancy imported dairy breeds with very high production. Their requirements of water would be less than buffaloes, and milk production would be comparable. Indigenous cows, on the other hand, barely produce enough to justify a business if it also means caring for an unproductive cow later. Those continued to reduce.

Exotic and indigenous cattle population between 2007 and 2012
Exotic and indigenous cattle population between 2007 and 2012

Actually, the crossbred and exotic cattle population has been showing a steady rise all through, it only became visible here, when everything else went down. The rise in the number of exotic and crossbred cows (usually reared for dairy business because of high yields and correspondingly high dietary requirements), combined with the highest drop in male cattle also belonging to the same category shows that the more progressive dairy businesses were moving toward a pragmatism in their business model.

Dramatic drop in male cattle numbers

Male exotic and cross bred cattle saw the highest drops (they are less suitable/sturdy for local climates and work AND they require more feed and water). Male indigenous cattle too saw a drop. For the first time in the history of the livestock census in India, Maharashtra has more cows than male cattle. To put it bluntly, when food and water got scarce, male cattle were the ones sacrificed in greater numbers - either to butchers or starvation and dehydration in abandonment.

My views on what the government should have done, as opposed to what it did

In the absence of slaughter bans, cattle farming is actually more profitable than buffaloes

This is because buffaloes require more care, water and suffer more in drought - which seems to be a permanent feature of Maharashtra now. In the absence of slaughter bans, cow beef is more palatable and thus priced higher than carabeef, which would add to the income of the cattle farmers and make it a viable choice.

Given the lack of any real increase in the cattle population in Maharashtra (similar is seen nationwide), the government should have taken the initiative to free people from traditional taboos against cattle slaughter and encouraged them to sell cattle to middlemen, even as they themselves remained reluctant to engage in slaughter or consumption.

This would not only make cattle farming viable and result in similar increases in population and quality of cattle as with buffaloes, and reduce non-productive investments for the already stressed agrarian economy, it would allow better treatment of cattle, instead of abandonment, injury and worse. It is a matter of debate which is the greater cruelty - a quick death or a week in pain with a stomach full of plastc or legs broken by an irate farmer whose crops stray cattle destroyed. Having fewer non-productive cattle would mean a better diet and care to cows and calves. It would mean optimal use of scarce grazing, fodder and water, which would indeed go to the revered milk producing cow.

It was a matter of educating the people and leading them to economic viability - is that not the government's pet grudge? That the poor are given handouts when what they need is sustainability?

Instead, the government chose to take Maharashtra back to a rigid cow worship as a part of their ideological agenda, but funded by the already stressed cattle owners, turning their investments to liabilities overnight for the sentiments of those who don't raise (and thus serve) the cows themselves at all. It chose to smother the budding realization of the need to reduce male cattle - even if triggered by desperate circumstances and protect the cattle instead of the people. It put the welfare of an animal over that of its voters. That is the bottom line. An open declaration that the state that leads the nation in farmer suicide still expects farmers to spend on unproductive cattle, even as government actions have brought an unending drought.

Basically, the government has turned the cow into its murder weapon. And no, I am not talking of its murderous affiliates slaughtering humans by leveraging rumors here. Is it not murder for a state that sees educated girls give up on non-existent jobs and dreams of marriages and turn to prostitution to feed starving families to force them to fund the government's cattle fetish as well? Is it not murder to force an expense on farmers, remove an alternative to loans and debt in the state that leads the country in farmer suicides? Because that is how it is, you know? Sell a bull instead of taking a loan. Buy another after harvest. Instead, the bull is now unsaleable, and the loan the farmer takes must feed it as well.

What lies in the future?

In my view, unless the oh-so-posh idealistic middle classes are willing to live without milk, the reversal of the ban is inevitable. The dwindling population of cattle if not arrested, will lead to milk shortages sooner or later and recovering from them after they are established will be far more difficult.

Unless the government has bright ideas for increasing grazing available to livestock, reducing the number of unproductive livestock is the only way forward.

There is no alternative. The government has a choice to do it on their own, or have the people kick them out in future elections. If not the immediate next, the one after that is guaranteed. Look at how the curve is going down, and this is before the government's enhanced ban.

The government has a choice here. To rein in their affiliates, to educate people and do enough social reform to allow culling of unproductive cattle, or watch their Frankenstein's monster devour the state.

Note: while this blog is licenced under a creative commons licence, publishers who usually pay authors for content or readers for access are encouraged to offer me a compensation for republishing this piece.

Note2: There are some inconsistencies in the manner in which the data has been recorded over the years. In particular for young stock, which, in earlier years had not been segregated by sex. There is a small jump in numbers where it integrates. It is similar for both cattle and buffaloes. I have deliberately chosen comparisons and examples where the impact of this would be minimal. Alas, there seems to be no other way of looking at the data long term with the criteria changing midway.

6

Lalu Prasad Yadav's candid remark on "Even Hindus eat " appears to have shocked Sushil Kumar , and he's asking Sonia Gandhi and Nitish Kumar for explanations, as though there is something difficult to comprehend about a four word sentence.

While the is busy rewriting and and science and textbooks to studiously insert belief everywhere and anywhere, and undermining organizations of learning by installing carefully mediocre (read incompetent) people to key positions, surely the supposed gatekeepers are not unaware of the fact that Hindus can and do eat beef.

I personally know several Brahmins who have eaten beef. I know plenty of Hindus abroad who eat beef. My first taste of beef was a can of corned beef on a trek - brought along by someone whose father was a senior leader of a BJP affiliate party. That too a girl. And this is the Brahmins. The supposed vegetarians, all mentioned so far. Plenty of non-vegetarian friends eat beef. In my late teens and early twenties, I went to the bhendi bazaar almost religiously every Friday, to pick up cheap and interesting things - particularly art materials. One of the friends on the group - a CKP - a meat eating considered very upper caste and equals of Brahmins was a total beef fan. If he went to Bhendi bazaar, it was impossible to get him out without eating beef in one of the restaurants there - I forget the name now. I have had beef several times with him, though at that point I was mostly a vegetarian and lived in a Brahmin society, so these experiences came largely in the company of other meat eaters - not just beef, even chicken or other meat.

Kerala BJP leader Surendran enjoying parotta and beef
Kerala BJP leader Surendran enjoying parotta and beef
Over the years, I have heard of countless Hindus eating beef. Perhaps Sushil Kumar Modi is not aware, but there are photos of BJP leaders eating beef as well. In Kerala. In 2013, BJP Tribal leader Devlal Dugga sacrificed a cow to a tribal deity in his native village of Khadka in Narayanpur district of Chattisgarh - against the wishes of local villagers and in a place where animal sacrifices had been banned. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, BJP leader in - Khurshid Ahmed Malik (probably not Hindu unless gharwapsied) threw a beef party protesting the beef ban in Jammu and Kashmir and invited Hindus and Muslims. In 2012, dalits organized a beef eating festival in protest of a beef ban imposed on the college campus at Osmania University. ABVP activists even gatecrashed and got violent there, so it isn't as though BJP didn't know. If you look at the campaign page of the beef and pork eating campaign at JNU, you will notice that most of the profiles listed sound Hindu.

Beef is happily eaten in the northeast tribes, in West Bengal. Countless Hindus have openly stated on various social that they do eat beef in the last few days. Like waving "hello! Hindu here. Eats beef."

And this is hardly a new thing.

Here's Savarkar for you.

When humanitarian interests are not served and in fact harmed by the cow and when humanism is shamed, self-defeating extreme cow protection should be rejected…(Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.341)

This is Vivekananda:

If we did not eat beef and mutton, there would be no butchers. Eating meat is only allowable for people who do very hard work, and who are not going to be Bhaktas; but if you are going to be Bhaktas, you should avoid meat.

The Brahmins at one time ate beef and married Sudras. [A] calf was killed to please a guest. Sudras cooked for Brahmins.[Source]

There was a time in this very when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; you read in the Vedas how, when a Sannyasin, a king, or a great man came into a house, the best bullock was killed; how in time it was found that as we were an agricultural race, killing the best bulls meant annihilation of the race. Therefore the practice was stopped, and a voice was raised against the killing of cows.[Source]

Vivekananda is even alleged to have eaten beef himself (though he has also given contradictory quotes claiming no Hindu eats beef - worth a separate article to examine what he said and to which audience).

So, either an organization claiming to speak about Hindus is ignorant about Hindus, or it pretends to call everyone it can lay its hands on as Hindus, but in the end will only recognize its core upper caste cartel as real Hindus. BJP has to decide whether beef eating castes and tribes it claims under Hinduism are Hindu or not. It has to decide whether the Buddhists it calls Hindu are Hindu or not. If yes, then Hindus most certainly eat beef. If not, they must stop lying in election campaigns and propaganda about the holy cow and Hindu Rashtra. Though of course, Sushil Kumar Modi may not think of beef-eating dalits as Hindus, given how his name was implicated in support to murderers of dalits from the Ranvir Sena. Surely a son of wouldn't endorse of Hindus like some invading Mughal?

Surely the messiahs of Hindus wouldn't do the most harm to Hindus with beef bans?

Because, even Savarkar had the nature of upper caste zealotry nailed, and himself being atheist and uneasy with and had explicitly said:

…When humanitarian interests are not served and in fact harmed by the cow and when humanism is shamed, self-defeating extreme cow protection should be rejected…(Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol. 3, p.341)

Ring any bells about Dadri and zealot leaders recommending murder on national television?

But then that is exactly what BJP is doing, no? Creating an artificial "truth" of Hinduism, that excludes non-upper-caste practices and herds everyone into following the "dharma" their leaders are best at defining for everyone - with carrot and stick?

Regardless, at least at this date, it cannot be denied that Hindus do eat beef, which BJP is trying its hardest to deny and prevent. One wonders why, if BJP is supposedly pro-Hindu. One wonders why BJP claims to care about Hindus at all, when its agenda is Hindutva, affiliates of which are happy to Hindus who don't conform to their zealot agenda for India. When the poison fed by nationalists and their profiteering hits the roof so bad that retired veterans are assaulted by state controlled , and BJP leader's son incites a murder by lynching with a manufactured accusation of beef eating - against the family of an Air Force warrior of India, where the Air Force chief is moving the family threatened by the murderous rage unleashed by BJP's insanity to its own secure base to protect them.

You can wake up one who is sleeping, not one who pretends to sleep. You can reason with one conflicted over information, not ones seeking to interpret anything and everything and photoshop where not available to incite civil war in a country they pretend to love. Where they report to an organization giving open calls to people to have arms in their home. When there is massive political profit to be reaped from threatening the safety of people and winning by polarizing the greater number of people in a direction you represent, what is the small sacrifice of truth, safety, life?

Is that not the plan? To raze India to the ground and build a Hindu Rashtra on its carcass?

What does it matter that fundamental rights be overruled, bitter hatred be spawned among communities, violence warp Hindu minds till they think of nothing beyond hostility to Muslims. What does it matter? Riots win elections. That is all that matters to abject greed. BJP leaders will be unable to see Hindus who eat beef. They will redefine Hindus, attack them as "not real Hindus" or "anti-Hindus", recommend murders for "secularists", anything, everything to avoid that four word sentence Lalu Prasad Yadav threw out. "Even Hindus eat beef."

It is true.