Origin and History of Cow Slaughter and Beef Eating in India

  • Those were the times when India was at the peak of Mughal Rule. The rulers of a large part of India were muslims and guess what, they had banned Cow Slaughter in that Mughal Empire. Nobody dared to kill cows and eat beef in that Muslim Empire.

The Mughal Empire and Cow

  • Babur, who invaded India all the way from Kabul and established the Mughal Empire in India, despite being an orthodox Muslim had banned Cow Slaughter in his empire. All successive Mughal Emperors – Humayun, Akbar, Shah Jahan, Jehangir, Aurangazeb, and then even Ahmad Shah had banned Cow Slaughter in their kingdoms. Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan who ruled the Mysore State in the present day Karnataka had made cow slaughter and beef eating a punishable offense and the crime would be punished by cutting off the hands of the person who committed the crime!
  • Today in India we have over 36000 slaughterhouses! How did this massive turn around take place?

Cow and The Hindu Civilization

  • To understand that first, we need to get back to the importance of cow in the ancient Hindu civilization of India. Cows are the most sacred animals to the Hindus and this is not without any reason. In fact, the very word Cow in English is derived from the Sanskrit word Gau for Cow.

Hindus believe that all Gods and Goddesses live inside a Cow

  • One of the most important reasons is that cows have been the backbones of Indian families and the Indian agricultural system ever since the dawn of this ancient Hindu civilization. Apart from the extensively used Cow’s milk which the ancient Indians used to collect only after the calf has had its share, the most important use of Cows was in Agriculture. Without Cow, the Indian agriculture in those days was as good as gone, and this was one of the prime reasons why Hindus being nature worshippers also worshipped Cow.
  • Cows had their own shelters called Gaushalas (large places where the cows lived) which were many times larger than the homes where people lived. There used to be people exclusively to look after the well-being of the cows here and many times they used to be the cow owners themselves who used to clean the Gaushalas every day, feed the cows, take care of their health and so on. Every single festival of harvest had cow worship, housewarming ceremonies had the ritual of taking the cow inside the house first and then pray to it to make the house prosper and flood with food grains, milk, and butter.
  • Note that those were the days when food was grown in a healthy natural process. There was no industrial revolution, no artificial fertilizers, no chemical pesticides, and insecticides. The entire Indian agriculture was based on nature’s best fertilizer – Cow dung and one of nature’s best pesticide – Cow’s urine (along with the neem based solutions) were used extensively in the agriculture. Buttermilk again which is a derivative of Cow’s milk was used as an effective fungicide and weedicide.
  • And not without any reason, Indian agriculture in those days was extremely productive thanks to the cow products. Farmers were happy, crops came on time, yield was high, prices were low for food crops, kingdoms even used to export their agricultural output, granaries were always filled, milk was abundantly available and so were its derivatives like Butter, Ghee etc which formed an important part of the Indian diet. Every religious institution, big farms, farmers, dairy owners all had thousands of cows – the cows which had made the Indian economy rich and healthy.
  • Even today in African deserts were growing food is difficult and whatever grows must give a rich yield for people to have adequate food, fermented cow’s urine is used as a natural pesticide. Compare this with farmers today who spend thousands and thousands of rupees on artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, which not only make the food unhealthy but also make the soil unproductive over time.
  • In India states like Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka etc have already banned Cow slaughter (Karnataka being a very recent addition). Cuba banned cow slaughter after its people virtually ate up all the cattle leading to a scarcity of dairy products. Even Iran has banned Cow slaughter and notes that it was at the request of a non-muslim – Seth Merwanji Framji Panday that Iran – a Muslim dominated nation banned cow slaughter. Now compare this with India today where our politicians are prepared to sell anything in return for votes.

British Rule and Slaughterhouses

  • Both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru had declared before Independence that they would ban Cow slaughter in India after Independence. Obviously, they didn't impose it. Why? Thanks to Robert Clive who had converted the Indian Muslims (who never ate beef till the end of Mughal era) into believing that beef eating was their religious right. Cow slaughter had become a vote bank issue. How? Read below.
  • Robert Clive – the so-called Founder of the British Empire in India who was twice the Governor of Bengal too – on entering India was astonished and amazed to see the success of the agricultural system here. He went on researching the reasons for the success of Indian agriculture and discovered the root – The Holy Indian Cow. The entire Hindu lifestyle revolved around this animal, not just religiously, but socially. The cow was an integral part of a Hindu family as was any other human member in the family. He even found that in many places the total number of cattle was more than the number of humans living there.
  • OK, so he decided, to break the backbone of agriculture in India – the holy cows have to be targeted. And thus was opened the first slaughterhouse of cows in India in 1760 by Robert Clive at Kolkata. It had a capacity to kill 30,000 cows per day. And anyone can guess within a year’s time how many cows would have been killed. And within a century India had very little cattle left to sustain its agricultural needs. And Britain as an alternative started offering artificial manure, and in this manner urea, phosphate etc started getting imported from England. Indian agriculture had started becoming dependent on west invented artificial products and was forced to give up homegrown natural practices.
  • Guess what, till 1760 most of India had banned not only cow slaughter, but also prostitution and drinking wine was banned as well. Robert Clive made all three legal and removed the ban.
  • Now the British had hit two birds with a single stone by this move. The first was to break the backbone of the Indian agriculture ie making cattle not available for agriculture. And the second?
  • Well, obviously Hindus did not work as butchers at the slaughterhouses opened by the British. And of course the British were well known for their divide and rule policies which they practiced throughout their colonial kingdoms then. So what did they do? Well, they hired Muslims as butchers and this was done in almost every slaughterhouse they opened. And this slowly pushed the Muslims into believing that beef eating was their religious right.
  • What the Mughal empire had banned had been turned into a practice by the British empire. What Babur and Akbar termed as a crime was converted into a norm by Robert Clive. And today the soil of India is filled with artificial fertilizers and pesticides while the holy Cow cries in the slaughterhouses. While there were over 70 breeds of cows in the country at the time of independence, today we have only 33 and even among them, many breeds are facing extinction.
  • Guess what happened to the man who started all this? Robert Clive became an opium addict and later committed suicide by stabbing himself with a pen knife after being unable to withstand the pain caused by the illness that had resulted from opium addiction.

Dark Chapter of Cow Slaughter

  • 1760: Robert Clive established in Calcutta the first abattoir of the country.
  • 1861: Queen Victoria wrote to Viceroy of India prompting to hurt the Indian sentiments towards cows.
  • 1947: At the time of independence, India had a little more than 300 abattoirs. Today there are more than 35,000 approved ones. There are thousands of unapproved slaughterhouses. The cow-breeds have fallen from 70 to 33. Even among the remaining breeds, some are at the verge of extinction. Cow population has reduced by 80% after independence.
  • 1993-94 : India exported 1,01,668 ton beef, with a target of 2,00,000 tons for 1994-95. We slaughter the cow for its hide to make vanity bags and belts, bone-meal for toothpaste, blood for vitamin tablets and intestines (especially of calves) for making gold and silver wafers to stick on sweets. It is believed that a series of earthquakes like the ones at Lathur in 1993 and in Bihar in 1994 are caused because of cow-slaughter.