27 August, 2017


There has never been a doubt in my mind that the public cow slaughter and open beef eating always needed to be moderated – if not abolished – at least from amidst Hindu and Jain neighbourhoods so long as the popular Hindu mind revers the cow. Indeed, in my writings a decade ago I urged Muslims to voluntarily give up beef eating. But the rationalist in me always questioned the long term viability of a total ban on the slaughter of the cow and its progeny. Moreover, slaughter and slow murder are but two forms of painful death. The condition of the cow at the best of times on our roads is so painful that even those like me that do not regard that animal holy feel deeply pained. Cows have not been evolved by nature to rot on hot cement roads. We bring them unto the cities so that we do not have to travel to the jungle to worship them. And then let them on the roadside. Their hooves want soft mud, village roads, not hot concrete. When they lie on these roads – inhaling vehicle emission – what would be happening to them is of no concern to these cow-vigilante. Most cow-rearers turn them out after milking them, and permanently after these hapless animals cease to produce milk. Their condition today is what must have been the condition of elderly, sick, childless widows centuries ago. Nowhere to belong, no one to take care. You can see cows eating plastic, polythene and what not. If they could cry, their stomach ache would compel them to. In my earlier house, many such cows used to fill in our parking lot after we left for workplaces. And once one which was emitting some white saliva in the morning was found dead right inside my car park that evening. I felt deeply guilty for not having summoned medical help in the morning. But I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have succeeded with a simple telephone call. As the beef ban sets in place effectively in most parts of India the following questions must bother the planners and policy makers: - What will be the cow population in 2020, 2030, 2050? - Where will such large numbers live? - Where will they graze and who will feed them? Will the Hindu charity alone be able to feed them all then? - What additional lands will be required to produce their fodder? - From where will those lands be taken? Form jungles by destroying another life form: the trees? Or from farmlands, leading to human starvation? - What will be the extent of additional carbon emission considering that the cow on overage releases between 70 and 120 kg of Methane annually. And one is not asking troubling questions such as the following: - What will be the additional demand on farm foods considering that all beef eaters and some meat eaters would be compelled to switch to vegetarian food? - What would be the impact on the prices of vegetables and cereals by reason of this additional demand? - What will be the rise in malnutrition of those that earlier survived on such non-vegetarian foods? - Would it not be normal for the trend to expand generally to cover all non-vegetarian foods? So, would it possibly lead to more non-vegetarians [meat, chicken, fish, egg eaters] changing their diet for vegetarian? - How would this impact all the things aforesaid? Then there are moral / ethical questions that one doesn’t ask for political correctness. For instance, shouldn’t the particular vegetarians for whose sentiments beef is banned subsidize those compelled to forego it? All in all cow is not only a sensitive, emotive subject, but equally too important an economic question for planners to neglect. An ostrich-like approach will hurt our collective national interests badly if we neglect this for too long. [By the way, will some readers please work out the numbers that answer the statistical questions asked above, for us?]

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