The beef ban in India, the world's largest exporter of buffalo meat, is stunting rural growth and affecting agriculture, Adi Godrej, the chairman of Godrej Group, has said in an interview with the Indian Express. He is one of the few industrialists to openly voice his concern as many states seek to strictly impose the ban on beef.
Godrej also said that there was nothing wrong with Hindus eating beef as it was not considered a religious practice.
"Some of the things are affecting growth, for example, the ban on beef in some states. (This) is clearly affecting agriculture, affecting rural growth. Because what do you do with all these extra cows? It is also affecting business, because this was a good source of income for many farmers. So that’s a negative," Godrej said.
The beef trade in India, home to 300 million cattle, is mainly controlled by minority Muslims, and tougher anti-beef laws have hurt Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus who rely on the cheap meat for protein, Reuters reported, quoting critics of the ban.
"There is nothing against beef in our religion. It is a practice that evolved over years of drought, and the elders said don’t slaughter cows, preserve them for milk for children. That has turned into a religious belief. This is ridiculous. Vedic Indians were beef-eaters,” said Godrej, in comments that add to the ongoing controversy over the issue.
The Bombay High Court recently upheld the decision of the Maharashtra government to ban slaughter of bullocks in the state but decriminalized possession of beef brought from outside the state.
Last year, President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill, which had been pending for 20 years, extending a ban on the killing of cows, considered sacred by Hindus, to bulls and bullocks. The law calls for up to five-years jail for anyone found in possession of beef.
There is nothing against beef in our religion. It is a practice that evolved over years of drought, and the elders said don’t slaughter cows, preserve them for milk for children. That has turned into a religious belief.
Violent clashes have broken out over the consumption and possession of beef. Beef exports are banned, but suppliers of buffalo meat have also been roughed up in the past by by Hindu mobs, according to Reuters. Cows are revered in Hindu culture and their killing is banned in some states.
Godrej also raised another contentious election issue, being raised in some of the states going to polls -- the debate around prohibition.
"In order to win elections and get women’s votes, some states are doing that. Bihar has brought prohibition. Kerala has brought prohibition. Prohibition is bad for the economy," he said.
Click here for the full interview.