Beefy issue

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Apr 19, 2017-Eating beef may be bad for you, but not in the ways you think. While you may wish to enjoy a good steak, it might come with severe implications: a possible jail term or even death. However, as ridiculous as it may seem, this is grounded in abject reality. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported 38 criminal cases pertaining to ‘cow slaughter’ in FY2011-12. 

What made beef so absurdly deadly? Certainly, people have been consuming and enjoying beef for centuries. McDonald’s signature burger, the Big Mac, is based on beef; there is even an annual beef festival held in Kentucky, US. Rather than looking at the possible implications, we must rather look at beef itself: The cow, from where beef is sourced, is a sacred animal in Hinduism. Given the large populace practising Hinduism in Nepal and India, slaughtering and consuming cattle is bound to ruffle some feathers.

It is easy to understand why such a dogmatic perception came into existence; historically, Vedic people were pastoral and thus, cattle played an important role in their lives. Cattle could be sourced for milk and dairy products; by idealising the cow as a ‘provider of sustenance’ and consequently a maternal figure, cattle were seen as a source of wealth and prestige. Naturally, the slaughter of cattle was much frowned upon and became a central tenet in Vedic philosophy.

It only seemed logical for the cow to go away when Nepal finally became a secular republic after years of theocratic monarchy; after all, Nepal used to be the only ‘Hindu Kingdom’ in the world. In place of the cow, a secular Nepal would have done a much better favour towards endangered and threatened species such as the one-horned rhinoceros or the snow leopard. It could have also simultaneously uplifted minorities who do consume or work with beef. Of course, this remained only a pipe dream; the constitution of 2015 brazenly endorsed the cow as the national animal. The clause that mentions secularism leaves room for interpretations that subtly favour Hinduism.

While it’s not a new thing for nation-states to go around regulating what you are allowed to put in your mouths, these constitutional provisions are nonetheless blatant overreaches of jurisdiction. It fails to protect the oppressed minority, yet tolerates vigilante mob justice as seen in cases such as the thrashing of Dalits for skinning dead cows. Shouldn’t secular nation-states discontinue traditions that clearly have theological roots and do more harm than good? What are the implications for creating criminals out of ordinary people who commit victimless crimes that otherwise hardly warrant attention? Once thing, however, is for certain: Beef is off the table, for years to come.

Published: 19-04-2017 07:58

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