Economics or Emotions – Beef

This has been in the news recently because the present CM of Uttar Pradesh is having a strong crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses. Most of the people employed in these slaughterhouses are Muslims. They either work as butchers or raise animals necessary for meat production. For years, they continued in one industry. Some even generations and now they feel alien when their livelihood is taken away.

I can understand their sentiments. I have been a teacher for the last 7 years and if I were to take up a new profession, I would still find it very difficult to escape the comfort zone to do something different. My expertise and my craft would be taken away. I am guessing that is one of the several challenges these Muslims would have to face now.

Are they targeting one community here? More specifically are they targeting Muslims with closing these meat production houses? This I cannot agree, it is a coincidence that Muslims are the majority in this industry. Just like how a community called the Vysa or Arya Vysas are involved in the business of making or selling gold. This community was hit when the government decided to levy excise duty on gold. Are they targeting one community here? No, again it is a coincidence that historically this community have been merchants or business owners. It is incorrect to say the government has something against the Vysa community.

In the closure of these slaughterhouses, I wish the government had done something to rehabilitate the people who were working here. So many were happy that thousands of cows are going to be spared and this is where the emotions vs economics debate is introduced.

In my opinion, the present breed of cattle is so far away from their wilder cousins in Bandipur and the other forests of India that its sole purpose has been to be a raw material for various industries. It isn’t surprising to know that these animals give us everything from leather to the foods your pet dog or cat consumes. Therefore, cattle are so extensively used in the meat and allied industries. It is just that these animals are capital goods. They can be used to make so many commodities which bring in revenue for the economy.

But at the cost of our sentiments? Yes! Deal with it! Before we isolate our love for the cow, let me argue about why we don’t use dogs or cats or pet animals in the similar manner. Simple, they don’t have any economic value except for therapeutic value as pets. A cattle farmer will stop taking care of his cattle when they stop giving him milk and send them away to the slaughterhouses because these animals turn from profit centres to cost centres. He knows by feeding them he could get milk in return or have them plough his fields but now feeding them yields nothing. Don’t they do the same to human beings in organizations when they stop generating revenue and are instead increasing costs?

What is the economy going to do with millions of cattle which were supposed to generate revenue in the form of meat but are instead in shelters that are expensive to run? Isn’t this like our population crisis? So many people, so many unemployed and so many compromising on their lifestyles to support their big families.

Why is our focus so much on sentiments? I love animals, there are numerous dogs and cats I have rescued in my life but I know the cost of keeping them. Numerous times I have told ‘No’ when people have requested me to adopt more animals simply because I do not have the financial or spatial resources to look after so many of them. To be honest I find it easier to keep cats because I don’t need to walk them and they are relatively independent. Also, it is fun to see them murder pigeons.

It is okay to accept that cattle are ideal for meat production and the other allied industries it supplies. We get numerous products whose ingredients are from animals. The baking industry would not have been possible if it weren’t for the poultry industry, the leather industry would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the meat industry. There are no puritans here who say that they have never used a cattle product in their lives.

Why don’t we extend our emotions towards other industries? Why don’t we acknowledge the slave labour that goes into making your wedding jewellery? Let us stop buying gold and stop festivals like Akshaya Tritiya! Why don’t we talk about the severe exploitation of the cocoa farmers of Ghana who provide the raw materials to make your Cadbury silk? Let us ban chocolates and throw away that expensive and overrated Nutella. Why do you not do anything when you see a child pick up your plate from the table at the local Darshini? Let me stop having coffee from these places and go to a Barista and pay 20 times more because they have more organized labour.

By Vipin MK

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