As a reluctant non-vegetarian, and an incorrigible cooer at buffalo calves, the traction bovine-protection is receiving on my social media news feeds should be heartening. I must report, it is not.
From cracking done-to-death ‘where’s the beef in it’ jokes and seeing cowlicks as take-that political stances a few short months ago, I’m now at the jaw-hits-floor position when consuming my daily news staple.
That cows (and bovines at large) have captured a nation’s (with problems a plenty) imagination in the way they have is ‘beef’uddling. It seems that the cattle-lines are drawn, and we, the (hapless) people are being divided into rough, opposed categories of either consumer or protector. Where do these narrow boundaries leave people like me? People who don’t profess a deep, dark desire to eat beef and yet, tired of the vegetarians-eat-grass wisecracks are loathe to being judgmental of others’ meal preferences. And as residents of said limbo, are we automatically aligning ourselves with consumers and therefore courting a gau rakshak’s wrath?
There is also the question of the actual protection being offered to bovines through this rhetoric, prior to their arrival on the “infidels’” dinner tables of course. By the bigoted sermons some public servants are making on this meaty matter, it would seem the problem is resigned solely to the actual slaughter for consumption as food, more particularly by members of certain communities. How they fare up till the point of reaching the abattoir seems to be a matter entirely forgotten.
The Leather section on the Make in India website calls attention to the following statistics: “A strong base for raw materials – India is endowed with 21% of the world’s cattle and buffalo and 11% of the world’s goat and sheep population.” I’m assuming the bovine population mentioned in the lines above are not therapy agents for the poor sheep and goats headed for tanning. And for the argument that only sick cows reinvent themselves as bags and shoes, I have this to say: if the cow be our mother are we not duty bound to protect her, in sickness and in health?
Also, no Indian I know can claim to not having seen untended, gaunt cows astray in fields and on roads (many ending in road kill) or chowing down at overflowing garbage heaps where plastic, and resultantly asphyxiation, abounds.
So, why again are we chewing the cud on cows as repast alone?
Another unfortunate fallout of this ludicrous agenda is the counter movement of the let’s-just-stuff-ourselves-with-beef kind. In our attempt to reclaim our freedom to consume as we like, we’ve moved to the other end of the spectrum: tit for tat. We’re like the little kid who wants to grow up to be a doctor to have her revenge for all the hypodermic jabs she received in her childhood. That’s not how it works.
There is also a voice ahoof being ignored entirely: the cow’s. What does our holy keepsake really want for herself and how far are these johnny-come-lately protectors privy to her innermost thoughts? To close, I borrow a phrase from a popular sitcom’s character: it seems the cow’s weighing-in on its own well-being is ‘a moo point; it just doesn’t matter.’
Postscript: My sarcasm is intentional. It in no way attempts to trivialize Mohd. Akhlaq’s murder. My deepest condolences to his family.