Buffalo / Cattle / Consumption / India / South Asia

As meat eating rises in India, sacred cows are sacred no more to cattle rustlers and slaughterhouses

Woman and cow

An Indian woman and cow on the steps of a temple (photo on Flickr by Marsh Gardiner, earth2marsh).

As reported in the New York Times this week, a fundamental, if largely unspoken, cultural shift is occurring in India, where more and more Hindus, many of whom were vegetarian, as well as people rising out of poverty, many of whom formerly were too poor to buy meat, are consuming meat from cattle.

[S]crawny cows, which are slowly losing their sacred status among some in India’ in New Delhi are now being ‘slaughtered and sold for meat and leather’.

‘Cattle rustling, called “lifting” here, is a growing scourge in New Delhi, as increasingly affluent Indians develop a taste for meat, even the flesh of cows, which are considered sacred in Hinduism. Criminals round up some of the roughly 40,000 cattle that wander the streets of this megacity and sell them to illegal slaughterhouses located in villages not far away. . . .

Behind the cattle rustling is a profound shift in Indian society. Meat consumption—chicken, primarily—is becoming acceptable even among Hindus. India is now the world’s largest dairy producer, its largest cattle producer and its largest beef exporter, having surpassed Brazil last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. . . .

‘Much of the illicit beef is probably sold as buffalo, an easy way to hide a sacrilegious act. But sometimes it makes its way to meat sellers in Delhi whose cellphone numbers are passed around in whispers. Steaks can be ordered from these illicit vendors in transactions that are carried out like drug deals.

‘Beef from cattle is also widely consumed by Muslims and Dalits, among India’s most marginalized citizens. Indeed, meat consumption is growing the most among the poor, government statistics show, with overall meat eating growing 14 percent from 2010 to 2012. . . .’

Read the whole article by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times: For new breed of rustlers, nothing is sacred, 26 May 2013.

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