How India can end the beef standoff

My country India has a phenomenal diversity of religious beliefs and food habits among its citizens. And some of these evoke strong passions and emotions leading to ugly standoffs.

One such acrimonious case is that of beef consumption. Sizeable members of the Hindu religion worship the cow and feel hurt, outrage at it being slaughtered for meat and want to see an end to cow slaughter. On the other hand there are many communities that consume beef (includes buffalo, cow and bull/ox meat). Among these communities are Muslims, Christians and also sizeable sections of the Hindu population itself. Apart from food products for consumption, there is a sizeable population involved whose livelihood is at stake as they work in the business of meat processing, leather industry or industries that use animal byproducts from the beef Industry.

I call this issue a standoff as each party asserts its rights in a way that is mutually exclusive. Mired in politics and swinging like a pendulum between constitutional rights of an individual’s choice of food to constitutional directive principle’s that seeks to strengthen cow protection, today it stands degenerated into a “Might is right” and “free for all” solution. Vigilante violence and state complicity has lead to many headlines and I find the lingering standoff eroding away our national character, sapping away our collective strength which we need to take us forward, biting away our resources that are critical to matters of nation building.

It’s way past overdue that we bury this conflict and find a solution that each stake holder would be happy to take and walk away from the negotiation table.

With that in mind, I have the following proposal:
 1: Declare desi cow and her progeny (genetic versions unique to Indian sub-continent only) as a protected animal along the lines of the national animal (like Tiger) with similar punishment for harm/ harassment. Tax incentives to private organizations that work towards maintaining, propagating indigenous cows and her progeny.

2: Remove restrictions/ bans that prevent use of non-desi cows/ ox (e.g Holstein Friesian or Jersey cows), buffaloes for meat and leather industry. This industry too can be incentivized to invest in non India cow breeds that are more optimized to meat Industry.

3: Hybrid varieties of cows are still debatable, but we should be open to suggestions on this front and each side should have a large heart to let this go either way (banned or permitted).

For those that are well versed with the intricacies of this conflict know that it is only the Indian (desi breed varieties) of cows that Hindu’s revere. It would only be fair that only this variety is offered state protection under appropriate laws and state should also protect, regulate, nurture and promote legitimate businesses related to beef from other animals. Also, if on a first pass, this solution has has not rung a bell with the readers on secondary implications here’s an example of why this solution breaks deadlock on previously uncharted territories.

The current government finds its hands tied behind its back in states that have a strong presence of beef consumers e.g. Goa, Kerala, Bengal and several North Eastern states leading to non uniform laws related to cow slaughter thus aiding further conflict. This solution I hope can be implemented pan India and these states too can be convinced to go along which is a huge plus for those seeking ban on cow slaughter and for the rest of the folks, this would hopefully put an end to the fear, violence and loss of livelihood and food source that accompanies eating or trading in beef across India.

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