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Beef In India: A Detailed Analysis

"I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows until you come home."- Groucho Marx

The term "beef" refers to dairy cattle's meat, particularly skeletal muscle. People have been eating beef since the beginning of time, humans who from the ages lived in the forest so beef was a common source of food since then. The nutrients, proteins, and carbs are abundant in beef. India consumes the third most meat globally and contributes 25% to the global output.

Beef generally cow which is considered a sacred animal by Hindus is often against beef selling, other religions like Muslims differ in their view from the Hindus. With the help of this article, I will try to cover a detailed analysis of beef in India along with its religious implications.

History Of Cow Protection;

Indian people and lawmakers have made regular efforts from the time being to make cow slaughter illegal in the country. Even before the time of India's independence, the advocates tried to make beef and cow slaughtering illegal, but all their efforts have near zero effects due to the presence of the colonial government. The colonial government has an ideology that all religions are equal and they do not want any chaos between various religions over beef-selling issues, so they decided to keep things as if they are going till then.

After the formation of the constituent assembly of India in the year 1946 this dream of making beef and cow slaughtering illegal have taken a breath as the colonial rule come to an end the constituent assembly wants to remove their laws and regulations.

When the constitution start its journey people started sending messages through telegraph to mahatma Gandhi to persuade Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel to enact laws banning beef and cow slaughtering. Gandhi ji asked people not to send telegrams as he thinks it a waste of time and money because the country is recently gone through partitions and religious violence, he wrote that the sacred belief of the cows is in current time prevailing in only a few states. After the independence Hindus wants the system tilted towards them, but seeing the recent tensions Gandhi ji decided to keep things as it is and not create a situation giving rise to communal violence.

During the debates of the constituent assembly, Vishwambar Dayal Tripathi, congressman, urged the assembly that cow protection is to be made a part of Fundamental rights, taking into consideration its religious and financial importance.

Seth Govind das, another congressman demanded that cow slaughter should be made an offense under the law just as untouchability, and should be punished if the same is breached.

Rajendra Prasad the president of the constituent assembly told Jawaharlal Nehru that he is receiving several requests and letters from people on banning cow slaughtering, and congress should take a serious stand on the issue soon.

Issues With Beef;

Hygiene issues; Poor hygiene and the prevalence of the meat-borne disease have been reported in the studies of Indian cattle slaughterhouses. Due to ignorance of safety and cleaning the germs and other harmful particles spread from the cattle body and affect human health also.

A 2001 study by Sumanth and other scholars on cattle slaughter in Karnataka reported more than 60% of the carcasses were infected with Schistosoma eggs and worms. A 2007 report by Ravindran said that over 50% of cattle surveyed were affected and are a source of danger to the health of humans.

Illegal Slaughterhouses And Cattle Theft;

As per the media reports India has a large number of illegal slaughterhouses. Traditionally cattle are left to freely roam and graze in India. These are easy prey for thieves and are sold in illegal slaughterhouses. According to the New York times the organized mafia gangs pick up whichever cattle they found so that they could sell it in illegal slaughterhouses. Reports say that increasing consumption of meat especially in the last couple of decades has made cattle endangered to illegal killing and hunting at a rapid pace.

The theft of cattle and illegally selling them is economically very beneficial for the mafias in India. According to a Bangladeshi newspaper, a huge number of cattle is transported between India and Bangladesh regularly, they also stated that cattle theft and selling is a major crime across borders between the two nations. Cattle from India are smuggled illegally into Bangladesh especially during festive seasons as most of the population in Bangladesh consumes meat and a festival is an occasion that requires it in large quantity.

Caste And Religion:

Some scholars state that the Hindu views on cattle slaughter and beef eating are caste-based, while others disagree. Dalit Hindus who eat beef state the former, while those who don't state that the position of Dalit Hindus on cattle slaughter is ambiguous.
Cattle are considered very sacred for the Hindu community as they associate cows with their lord Krishna, the Jain community also follows the same thinking of preventing animal cruelty and is totally against killing and selling cattle.

On the other hand, other communities like the Islam and Dalits prefer to eat meat as they have different ideologies concerning cattle and beef eating. There are a lot of conflicts due to differences in these ideologies between the communities following different beliefs and faiths. Some Dalit student associations in the Hyderabad region state that beef preparations, such as beef biryani, are the traditional food of low castes.

Economic Imperitives:

According to studies, the value of cattle to Hindus and other religions goes beyond the religious aspect. From traditionally till now India has been an economy dependent majorly on agriculture and its output. For a family engaged in agriculture, cattle is their biggest asset, the cattle owner considers them as a part of their family as the cattle provide them with milk which is sold in the market and also from which they produce different dairy products also, the cow dung which when gets dry serve as a major cooking fuel.

The cattle help the farmers in their agriculture fields and their homes. On the untimely death of their cattle, the owner and their family cry like they lost one of their family members. Cattle are a livelihood for the farmers as it's their major source of income for them. So just think of a family who cries for the death of their cattle on thinking about it being sold and cut into pieces for others to eat, As apart from just economic benefit cattle become an emotional part of life for the people who own them.

Animal Cruelty:

The slaughterhouses in India have been accused of cruelty against animals by PETA and other humane treatment of animals-groups. According to PETA and other groups, the slaughterhouse members slit animal throats with blades and leave them to die with heavy blood flowing from their bodies. The animal is not considered a living being and is treated very rashly and this all happens even when the animal is alive and tolerates all the cruelty in front of all the other animals.
The Supreme Court of India, in February 2017, ordered state governments to stop the illegal slaughterhouses and set up enforcement committees to monitor the treatment of animals used for meat and leather.

Stray Cattle:

Due to the strict legal regulation on killing cattle and the punishment if done the same according to legislation, the trade of cattle and their illegal slaughtering has been reduced to some extent.

But once the cattle or the cow stop giving milk and other benefits they become a burden on the farmer who is unable to keep them as it is costing them financially, so they just simply abandon the cattle in the streets. India has over 5 million stray cattle according to the livestock census data released in January 2020.

Views Of Different Religions On The Issue:


According to some authors, the Hindu religious text support sacrifice of animals and they consider it as a part of a ritual and an offering to their god as a gift and sacrifice.

On the other hand, some have contradictory views on this as they say that the religious text only permits the sacrifice of cattle for a good cause and not killing a cattle and eating it just for your hunger and enjoyment.

The conclusion of the Hindu religious text contradict each other opinions but what I read and know is that the Hindu religion forbids the eating and killing of cattle as they worship it and consider cow as their mother (GAU MATA).


The Jain texts tell us that they also forbid killing and consumption of beef, as they consider each living being equal and fond of life on the earth. They believe that killing another living being before the god decides their death creates an ecological imbalance in the environment.

The Jain community believes in the principle of ahimsa as their superior principle (AHIMSA PARMO DHARMA).
According to the Jain tradition, eating plants give the right amount of nutrition to human beings and they should not make the animals suffer pain due to their selfish motives.


According to Buddhism views on cattle slaughter, they consider it a very inhumane practice. They consider cattle as a rebirth of human beings and say that if one wants a good rebirth after death one should protect and respect all living being including cattle and other animals.

But according to some scholars, some Buddhists regularly consume beef and support cattle killing, contradicting their own religious text and disrespecting their religion.


With the arrival of Islamic rule as the Delhi Sultanate in the 12th century, Islamic dietary practices entered India. According to the verses of the Quran, such as 16:5�8 and 23:21�23, God created cattle to benefit man and recommends Muslims eat cattle meat, but forbids pork.[90] Cattle slaughter had been and continued to be a religiously approved practice among Muslim rulers and the followers of Islam, particularly on festive occasions such as the Bakri-Id.

Prevelent Question Related To Beef Consumption?

Q-Does Banning Beef Takes Away The Food Rights Of People?

~ Every human has the right to eat every kind of feed he wishes to eat. Banning beef by the government according to me does not solve a problem rather creates one.

Beef is consumed by Muslims and Christian minorities as the meat is much more affordable and cheaper rather than other expensive foods.
India is a secular country, our constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, caste, and various other aspects.

Banning a source of food in one community because it is considered immoral by the other community is morally wrong and also a violation of the constitutional rights of other communities.

This issue relating to the food rights of the people and the banning of beef is taken up as a topic of discussion by the author Kancha Ilaiah in the article published by the Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 31 pages 144-145. The author is completely against banning beef in India as it is a source of livelihood for many.

The author states that the SCs, STs, and OBCs are the ones who depend on the less expensive beef for their consumption. According to the author, it would be morally incorrect to ban beef which is eaten by Muslims and the Christian community and also by many other people. It would also be against the fundamental right to equality and would also result in the infringement of the right to food of their choice to the people.

Legislation On Cattle Protection:

The "Preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice" is Entry 15 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, meaning that State Legislatures have exclusive powers to legislate the prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle.

The prohibition of cow slaughter is also one of the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution. It reads, "The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

Beef is a controversial subject, especially in a country like India which is a hub for people with multiple ideologies and religious beliefs. Beef along with a religious issue is also an issue of food which is a commodity for survival. The government of India before deciding anything upon this issue should be very careful as just one wrong decision by the court or the government will lead to chaos all over the country between different communities.

Consumption of beef is not considered to be good practice in the Hindu religion while Muslims and Christian minorities are often seen eating beef on festivals and special occasions

Different religious texts have different perspectives related to this issue and hence this has been a hot topic for debate amongst many scholars. The government cannot take out any baseless rule against any particular section of society relating to this issue as it would result in bloodshed and violence.

  1. Beef Ban in India
  2. Cattle slaughter in India - Wikipedia
  3. Is beef banned in India? Finology legal
  4. India's Supreme Court Suspends Ban on Sale of Cows for Slaughter - The New York Times
Written By: Aryan Trivedi, Law Student

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