Reality Check India

In support of the cow slaughter and beef ban in Maharashtra

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 14, 2015

Indian social media is on fire with a large majority of people denouncing the #BeefBan in Maharashtra. Unfortunately the BJP seems to have gone incommunicado after the law was passed.  I have been waiting for the actual text of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act 1976 Amendments before writing about it. I still cant find the text online, so here is my take on the issue based on piecing together news reports.

Happy calves at shelter (Credit Source : )

Happy calves at shelter (Credit Source : )

The Beef Ban law

The State of Maharashtra has always had prohibitions and restrictions on certain types of bovine meats. The law that was in effect from 1977 until now is called the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act 1976 [ apa1976 PDF ]. This act had the following provisions.

  • Total ban on slaughter of cows
  • Regulated slaughter of so called scheduled (a list of) animals.
  • Allowed slaughter of adult bulls and bullocks as along as each individual animal had a certificate from a govt official (competent authority)
  • Allowed slaughter of adult female buffalo with certificate as above.
  • Allowed slaughter of calves and adult male buffalo.
  • It is important to remember that buffalo and cow are different species. They will not mate and produce offspring.

In 1995, the BJP Shiv Sena government amended the above schedule in the following way.

  • Total ban on all cows, bulls, bullocks. In other words, entire cattle family.
  • Total ban on buffalo calves male or female.
  • Status quo on female adult buffalo (slaughter with individual certificate)
  • Status quo on male adult buffalo (free slaughter)
  • The definition of a ‘calf’ is not clear, but likely to be 3-4 years old inline with other states.

This bill was sent to the then president and subsequently got stuck. Before long the Congress  swept into power for 15 years in Maharashtra and did not pursue this.  In late 2014, the BJP defeated the 15 year old Congress government and came back to power. It had promised to take this up during its campaign. True to its word, the new BJP government under Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis made the following modifications to the bill and sent it back to President Pranab Mukherjee for his stamp of approval.

  • Increase the penalty from 6 months + Rs 1,000 fine to 5 years + Rs 10,000 fine.
  • Made possession of slaughtered meat products a crime. This provision has created a lot of issues  and we need to see the exact text to comment further. I would concede for now that this is problematic IF the penalties for simple possession are identical to those offences dealing with slaughter or wholesale trade.

So this is where we stand today.  I had to explain this because you need to understand what exactly the new government did that is the subject of the media furore.

 The legal position

Can a total ban on cow slaughter (females or males) withstand legal scrutiny?  Short answer is yes, kind of sort of. The latest judgment that holds the field is called  State Of Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab and Others 2005.  This was a 7-judge bench constituted to settle the cow slaughter ban issue unconstrained by cow slaughter rulings earlier 5-judge benches. Mirzapur Moti was decided 6-1 with the majority opinion written by CJI RC Lahoti with a readable dissent by Justice A.K. Mathur. An outstanding summary of the legal position is written by Dr Ashok Dhamija on his blog (Tilakmarg).

Let me state at the outset that I am not a fan of the judicial principles underlying these cases starting from the so-called Qureshi-I (1958)  to the latest Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab (2005). The arguments have always been in the nature of  couching Hindu reverence for the cow progeny in modern acceptable utilitarian terms.  The best example of this is how in Mirzapur Moti the relentless crusader against cow slaughter, the late Rajiv Dixit impressed upon the Lahoti bench with all kinds of arguments from value of cowdung, bio methane fuels,  how an old bullock still has 0.83 HP traction left compared to a young bullock who clocks in with 0.93 HP.  An amusing anecdote is apparently they retrofitted one of the judicial officers car with  a bio-methane rig to prove its effectiveness.  These arguments swayed the court one way but it could have easily gone the other way too. Who is to say that the owner of the bullock should trade long term benefits of a Rs 1,00,000 over a spot payment of Rs 10,000 ? The arguments are more fundamental relating to the status of the cow. I suspect in the Nehruvian  “Idea of India” framework Hindus should not directly state their reasons but approach the matter in a roundabout way by using modern but extremely tenuous “scientific” arguments.  Therefore I am not going to spend any time on the legal position as it exists, but rather how it ought to be.

The mandate and the disconnect

Most opponents of the cow slaughter ban are beef traders, minorities, urban liberal Hindu, those on the economic right, centre right,  and those who believe in libertarian values such as food choice.  They insist Modi was voted in for “governance” and should abstain from these “sanghi inspired bans” which are a distraction. Here is the bad news for them – Modi’s massive win in 2014 was on the backs of his core supporters who are the Yogi Adityanaths and Sadhvis. A sizeable incremental vote came from ‘modern’ Hindus cutting across social boundaries who were perhaps aghast at the corruption of the previous regime.  The large contingent of the economic right may be Modis allies in other areas but they are also a fickle minded group who have very few deeply held principles above their interests. For example, despite their high education and international exposure they are unable to even come up with a proper dissent to discriminatory laws like RTE, the various communal appropriations like minority only scholarships. However the Yogi’s and Sadhvis’ are clear and grounded in principles that rise above economic considerations. They want the cow slaughter ban which Modi himself promised a number of times during his campaign.


Now the disconnect in arguments can be best described by this real exchange between Rajeev Dixit and Sharad Pawar ( I paraphrase this from a Youtube video I watched a while back). You can easily imagine this to be a conversation between any Yogi or Sadhvi and a modernist Hindu. 

Dixit : I heard you said – cows slaughter is okay because old cows arent useful ?

Pawar: Yes.  If a cows stops giving milk, it is unproductive why not use it for meat.

Dixit : Gai hamara Maa hai. If your mother stops giving milk will you kill your mom ?

Pawar: ROFLSANGHI! What the hell. There is no use talking to you.

Dixit : Thanks – there is no use talking to you too.

End of short conversation.

The Yogis including the younger ones of this generation like Sadhvi Balika Saraswathi pictured above never talk in utilitarian language when it comes to cows. They say “Cow protection is our culture, connecting thread between all Hindus, Cow is our mother, etc etc”. Now they may give examples of benefits of keeping a cow and its progeny alive but that is only an icing on top of their core Hindu arguments. Even if a particular cow could be proven to be worthless they would still not agree to kill it because of the above reasons.  The disconnect is that the liberal ecosystem expects to rephrase this sentiment indirectly in modern terms.

It is worth restating the position that is really driving the debate :  We are against killing a cow because it is a cow and that is special for us.

They do have support for expressing this sentiment in law thanks to Article 48 in the constitution. The directive principles can guide law making – it has a wide language when it says.

48. Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry.—The State shall endeavour to organise 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.”

On one hand ‘modern and scientific’ ways can be interpreted as encouraging intensive factory farming, on the other ‘prohibition of slaughter’ rules it out.

Food choice, property rights clash against status of cow

The food choice argument is particularly strong. If I want to eat beef and I have a willing supply chain traceable all the way back to the dairy farmer – why should the state intervene? Does the owner of the cattle not have property rights over his cattle? In my view, the issue is different. It is not about what humans consume but about granting an elevated legal status to the cow family.  Understandably this does not fit in with our understanding of western liberal democratic values. How can a majority community nominate one species, its favourite species,  for special protection ? Does this not interfere with the minority communities freedom to not pay any such respect to that species – especially when they are accustomed to eating it? The counter question is ; In a democracy does the majority have the right to preserve its culture?

This is a hard problem and I would leave to to the likes of Pratap Bhanu Mehta to address it.  I would say that eating an animal of your choice has never been a fundamental right anywhere.  There are multiple types of protections offered to various endangered species, companion animals, young and immature animals, animals not raised for food purposes, and so forth.  Granted that cows are not an endangered species, but that only means you have just agreed to the principle of restricting your food choice.  As Salman Khan would argue with great effect. Why have a prohibition on eating an older Black Buck incapable of reproducing ? Arguably eliminating the older black buck stock, you make more scarce forest grazing land available to the younger more fertile herd.  The elevated status of the cow is along similar but not identical arguments. One is elevated for conservation purposes another for cultural purposes.


It is but natural for Hinduism to come into conflict with Western tradition especially Christianity in the realm of animal issues. From the earliest days of Aristotle to the medieval times of Thomas Aquinas to the present day factory farming situation – the church both Protestant and Catholic – have traditionally denied any rights to animals. The trajectory has seen a minor shift post the enlightenment period. First by Bentham and recently by modern philosophers like Peter Singer. But the essential movement in the west is not abolition but about humane treatment with slaughter at the end. This is the origin of the “doctrine of necessity”. In this doctrine, the only necessary interactions between humans and animals have to be utilitarian like food or psychological benefits to humans such as companionship of dogs, cats, and horses. Unfortunately our Supreme Court and intelligentsia adopted this doctrine in banning the sport of Jallikattu and outlawed Cock Fighting. This is not to say one culture is superior to the other. One can easily imagine the amusement of a westerner when he sees a bunch of Hindu ladies whispering something into a Nandi bull statue that faces another statue of Shiva. Even assuming buy in to Hinduism, isn’t it absurd that Nandi a mere bull can be regarded the number one disciple of Shiva over these devout humans?  The issue of animals is therefore a central conflict site between tribal Hindus and western religions. There may be other issues like Dharmic “concepts”  but  animal issues have practical implications.

This is the source of the current tension. I do not think this will stop at cows. Monkeys, elephants, buffalo, snakes are all waiting for special legal status of their own. I’ve documented the issues with activism surrounding elephant participation in Thrichoor Pooram, the ban on snakes in Nag Panchami and so on.

Property rights and voluntary sale

The ban on slaughter of cattle gives rise to several secondary issues. How unwanted animals are handled is one of them. Post ban the owner of cattle is not allowed to sell it to slaughter but is technically free to just release the cattle and add to the general public nuisance of stray cattle. In reality however, the strays just tend to hang around with the still productive herd but will probably be denied the food and water made available to the productive herd or heifers which they hope will turn productive.  Does this mean that the state has some responsibility towards these ? Is it a part-owner of these cattle now? The problem with bulls is especially acute.  The state can establish shelters or use tax money to subsidize bullock usage. This is tricky beyond a certain point because it is one thing to elevate cows to a higher legal status but quite another to force Christians and Muslims to pay for it.  There needs to be some kind of sustainable plan with a large voluntary effort on this front.

As far as voluntary sale is concerned, the Hindu owners of these cattle do know in the back of their mind what fate lies ahead for the cattle they sell. But they would rather not think about it. The agents who purchase these cattle usually give them some comfort words. This behaviour is quite natural. If the highly educated liberals who eat beef in star hotels have no idea about the origin of their food or the transport conditions or the slaughter methods, can you expect an uneducated poor farmer to tune in to these questions? The alternate to legislating a ban on cow slaughter is to educate the sellers. Think about how that particular campaign would work. Videos of slaughter houses, trucks overloaded with cattle, films building on this narrative – these can inspire violence.  Voluntary sale also cannot solve the basic problem I outlined above, even if a truck jam packed with bulls sold voluntarily is stopped. The very sight evokes strong emotions that will push for a ban again. In fact, the current debate is skipping over all inconvenient aspects of the beef trade such as lack of enforcement, outrageous transportation to slaughter, no use of stunning before cutting the throats.

Intensive dairy, pink revolution

In India, there is no beef industry. There is a single herd – the dairy herd. This produces both milk as well as beef.  This is lost on PETA and others who advocate boycotting dairy products in India copying from the west. Granted that the principle of milking is inherently cruel, the fact is in India milk is sourced largely from rural areas where the herd grazes freely on grass and shrubs.  The vast majority of cows are impregnated by bulls and they get to hang around with their calves for long after their birth. This is an extremely inefficient way to produce dairy.  The most efficient way is intensive dairy where cows stay indoors and are milked only for the most productive first two lactations.  The milk yield and quality drops after the first two calvings. The efficient and scientific way has been perfected in the west. The dairy cows after about 4-5 years are turned into hamburgers and young heifers replace them even though technically they are good for another 10 years of milking. In India, dairy cows are inefficiently milked for 6-8 lactations by the first owner and perhaps 2-5 by subsequent owners with inferior quality milk.  This means cows are milked almost for their entire life.  Therefore animal welfare in India have trumped efficiency and there is movement by the west to change this. This has already happened to a large extent in the poultry industry where just one or two products like the Vencobb-400 command 80% of the market.


After the slaughter ban the next stop for Yogis and Sadhvis is intensive dairy.  The Sadhvis may be rustic but they are fully aware that while meat and milk can be made dramatically cheaper but only at the cost of decreased animal welfare.


Vedic stuff and poor mans protein

One of the arguments Indian intellectuals use is to turn the tables on Hindus by forwarding the argument that Hindus have eaten beef during Vedic period. This argument is like water off a buffalo’s back.  For it does not matter what obscure vedic texts say. As practiced the culture has evolved to this point and there is no ‘book’ that can guide Hindu conduct.

Another argument is to seek alliances. The beef ban is denounced as anti poor because the poor, dalits, muslims and christians depend on beef for cheap protein. This is a form of alliance seeking without much basis. After all if this group which can represent 60-70% of the population is offended by the ban then the BJP will pay a heavy price in 2019.  The reality is the issue is far less contested by the poor and the Dalits than the others. This is however a valid electoral strategy.

What about..ery

This is the final point. Now that we’ve elevated the animal, the cow, nominated by Hindus  to protected status over the objections of the minorities – how can we oppose Idea of India style laws in other domains?

Can Hindus swap the ban on cow slaughter for legislated sanctions in education like RTE ? This is an astounding stretch  but a tempting one to make considering the mindset that the “Idea of India” has imposed on us. This is a false equivalence.

The equivalence to education is if the BJP had selectively burdened Muslim owned slaughterhouses  by onerous taxation, approvals, inspections and cross subsidy that Hindu owned slaughterhouses were exempt from. The correct equivalence is – the other sizable communities should be allowed to nominate a beast of their choice for protection.

From this angle the issue does not seem that intractable.




Some additional reading:


Transport to slaughter conditions ( Credit Source

Transport to slaughter conditions ( Credit Source

10 Responses

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  1. Bharat aggarwal said, on March 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    a pleasure to read. Very informative and clear valid points. To note that some bans are needed in society for every one’s good. It is good to ban stealing, tax evasion murder etc. similarly with the world facing an acute shortage of fresh water it is actually prudent to start banning all meat, production of meat takes 10 times the resources needed for plant based food production.
    Kudos to India for banning beef in at least one state.

  2. K V Sarma J said, on March 16, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Brilliant piece!

    // “The correct equivalence is – the other sizable communities should be allowed to nominate a beast of their choice for protection”

    I think this will never happen with either Islam or Christianity. Both these religions convey unequivocally that God created animals, plants, flowers (and to an extent women) etc., for the pleasures of Man. Therefore, nomination of a particular beast of choice for protection is not going to happen unless of course they can be used as WMDs to destroy the non-believers.

    This argument also fails with the statements from grand father of leftist thinking that Man has sovereign over everything else in the nature and therefore Hindus are idiots to be worshiping cows, monkeys, snakes etc.

    I believe a common ground on these matters is not just difficult but almost impossible. May be only with prolonged public education of may be decades could change minorities’ perceptions on these matters. There is no other way for minority communities to agree to this ban! Regulation of food in a country like India is so very difficult that despite ban, there are going to be some illegal ways to continue production and sale of beef and related meat products.

    This point I think will remain a bone of contention for a long time to come between the communities wanting beef ban and those not wanting beef ban. Idea of India folks will continue to fan hatred against Hindutva among two specific minorities communities on this point.

    Would beef import for domestic consumption instead of beef production be of good value here? Since beef consumption is for only minority community (and a part of majority community with Idea of India inclinations), may be beef import instead of beef production and export make a better deal?

    Such a deal with probably also allow dairy farmers to sell their old cattle to foreign companies producing beef products outside India?

  3. whitericevsam said, on March 16, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Good points. It will fall mostly on deaf ears me thinks. I just have a small question. You mention natural milking and impregnation by bulls. A friend of mine owns a dairy farm. He says they use injections to impregnate cows. I dunno how they milk though. Also, my grandparents buy milk from a family friend who used to own a farm but now they’ve sold most of it and sell milk only to close relatives and friends. They also use injections to impregnate cows. Is there any data as to how cows are impregnated because my experience bias and gut feeling tends to believe artificial insemination is probably the most popular or its only a matter of a few years where everyone uses the “efficient and scientific” techniques.

    BTW I have no hope on RTE. NO HOPE. The govt seems clueless, ppl seem clueless. The general “educated” crowd believe convent education is the best so they send their children there. It is absolutely hopeless.

    • rc said, on March 16, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Yes, AI is rapidly gaining in India. AI is a keystone of the intensive dairy practice I mention. The traditional methods are highly inefficient but natural. Once again the conflict between the Hindus and Western.

      Traditional methods :
      1. Need a healthy stock of vigorous bulls. Banning sports like Jallikattu has undermined this key selection tool.
      2. Need to transport cows to the studs – cost of a mini truck
      3. Cows will not accept just any bull. The process is messy needs expertise including handlers like those trying to mate dogs for the first time.
      4. Large bulls are targeted by agents who use deception – therefore continuous pressure on bull owners.

      AI is effective
      1. Cows have no choice but to accept the long steel pipe – basically a rape.
      2. Optimum bull semen from pedigree stock
      3. Govt subsidies and easy to do – just call a vet and he lands up for AI.

      AI is gaining for these reasons but many small holders ( 5-6 cattle) in rural areas still depend on the bull. Last time I checked DAHD estimated 30% were AI and 70% were natural. Ballpark – so there is still a large role for bulls. This is unlike the USA where nearly 100% both in beef herd and dairy herd are AI .

      As for RTE – there is always hope. Need to keep talking about it.

      • akashravianandan said, on December 5, 2017 at 7:29 pm

        Hi RC. Last I checked on Fairy board of India, 50 million cows are Artificially inseminated which should be at least at 50%

    • bharat aggarwal said, on March 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Dear friend,

      Not hopeless at all by any means. See we are communicating on this without even knowing each other. Keep on spreading knowledge on this and educating the populace. I believe that intrinsically people want to do the right thing, they just need to be educated. Now there are so many more ways to spread the knowledge and it is our privilege and duty to do so.

      • whitericevsam said, on March 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm

        I dunno the BJP think tanks are clueless when it comes to dealing with IOI a**holes. Like Elst or someone else said they are following the debate rules perfected buy IOI types. During campaigning Modi completely created new rules and the opponents could never deal with it. Sabka saath/Achche Din and not really talking abt core Hindutva issues congi/commies were clueless how to deal with it. Their calling card always being we r secular they are not and caste calculation.

        Somehow when it comes to dealing with policy matters BJP is still a tyro. They seem to have learnt nothing from their 6 years previously. They should make the rules and ask ppl to follow it. Congress did sooooooooooo much more with sooooooooo much less in 2004. BJP/NDA never even showed a hint of dissent when those rapists screwed with the education system. If Congress had the mandate BJP won right now we would be known as republic of Italy and they would have made roman catholicism a state religion by now and no one could/would have dissented (politicians i mean) but BJP is not even able to get a summons to serial corruptors Vadra et al. Hell Vadra was taken off the airport list 6 months after BJP came to power.

        People say BJP should not make the mistakes of 1977 when the then coalition govt went after IG for the atrocities she committed during the emergency and she parlayed it into victimhood and won the subsequent elections. First of all BJP has a majority on its own. No one can pluck even one hair for 5 years. Secondly, ppl want to see blood, at least I do. At least some action. Courts/IAS is filled with congi/commies. They should take steps to break them. They arent doing anything about it. At least I am not aware of it by following very good news collaters like yourself, mediacrooks, centerofright, kiranks who day after day produce only bad news (with good news too no one’s denying that).

        To top it off we have an extremely hostile media. Our FM will forget to take his medicines but never fail to give interviews to Barkha Dutt. They keep sending tyros like Patra, Rao etc who are absolutely unable to talk about anything. If at all they sound retarded on TV. My question is why oh why should they even go? Its not like the media is going to get any less hostile. Why are they feeding them crumbs? Every single media house has so many cases of corruption/lies/deception. Why is the govt not suing their pants off to stop them from lying instead of playing victimhood on twitter?

        All this reminds me of the saying the more the things change the more they remain the same.

  4. Jitendra Solanki (Indore, Madhyapradesh said, on March 25, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I Am In support of the cow slaughter and beef ban in Maharashtra

  5. Jitendra Solanki (Indore, Madhyapradesh said, on March 25, 2015 at 7:29 am

    I Am In support of the cow slaughter and beef ban in Maharashtra , India & All World

  6. Avijit Dey said, on April 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    i also support fully pls save cow’s……………they r inocent,

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