India is not a major producer of beef, despite its growing wealth. Its population is more than a billion, and the average disposable income has risen nearly 95% over the past six years. However, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched a campaign against the slaughter of cows and pigs, which is part of the livestock industry. The party has gained sweeping victories in the local state elections this month, and beef is not a major issue in the upcoming national election.
The majority of India’s population is Hindu, and the country has a long tradition of vegetarianism. Cattle are considered sacred by Hindus. Although cattle slaughter is allowed in some states, most religious sects discourage cattle slaughter. Most of India’s cattle are raised in traditional agropastoral systems. In fact, two-thirds of the livestock sector is based on pastoralist production. Pastoralists are farmers who share an extensive social network with their herders. They are responsible for maintaining their livestock and marketing them.
Hindu nationalists in several states have launched campaigns against the beef trade, with some calling for a ban. They have seized cattle bound for abattoirs and even stopped meat processing plants. Some groups have close ties to the BJP, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.
According to the USDA, India is the world’s second-largest beef exporter, behind Brazil. India’s beef exports could increase to more than 1.8 million tons in 2013. The market for meat is expected to continue to expand, with a 5 percent rise in outbound shipments forecast for October. That is expected to be aided by rising demand for beef and buffalo meat from China, which is currently not an official customer for Indian beef.
India’s beef trade has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. It is believed that the BJP government in Delhi has strengthened the influence of vigilante groups who want to ban beef. These groups say they have an extensive network of informers who can stop trucks transporting beef. As a result, many traders are concerned about the BJP’s stance on beef.
Some of the states that prohibit cattle slaughter have also seen reports of illegal slaughter of cattle. One official with the Home Department told reporters that “cow protection committees” in local areas are enforcing their own restrictions on the meat trade. He added that the police have pledged to crack down on anyone who prevents access to a slaughterhouse or impedes the movement of cattle.
India’s meat sales have increased steadily over the last six years. The government census shows that the population of cattle has grown. However, the population of buffaloes has declined by about a third. During this time, the buffalo trade has grown rapidly. This has been especially true in India, where the country has about half the world’s buffaloes.
As part of the cow protection movement, Sikh and Hindu groups have launched several initiatives to encourage people to love cows. One such campaign is called Love 4 Cow. Another group, called Indian Cow, promotes the importance of the cow as a symbol of unity.