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Andrew Buncombe's Asia Diary

The Independent's Asia Correspondent Andrew Buncombe is based in Delhi. His dominion ranges over India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, occasionally parts of South East Asia and - or at least he is hoping - The Maldives.

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AndrewBuncombe

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I like to think of myself as someone respectful of the beliefs of others, especially when it comes to religion and food. If a Muslim wishes to avoid eating pork I have no problem with that and I would not eat pork if I was sitting with them and thought it would upset them. Likewise, despite the wretched condition of many of India's cows, I realise they are considered sacred by a number of people and can understand that they would have no wish to eat beef. [In India, McDonald's only serves chicken and goat.] Likewise, I have no problem with veggies. Indeed, my splendid partner is one, meaning I rarely eat meat at home.
 But am I wrong to eat beef myself? I was thinking this last night after consuming one of the most delicious meals I have had since arriving in India, some slices of perfectly cooked tenderloin beef that a friend had cooked for dinner for a largely ex-pat crowd. It was sensational, having been marinated overnight in herbs and olive oil and then seared in the pan. 
 The meat had come from a Muslim butcher, well-known among meat-eating of foreigners alike and whose contact details are passed around discreetly, as though he was selling drugs. But as I sat there yesterday evening, enjoying this rare treat, I contemplated that I was and my friends were breaking the law. According to the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act of 1994 it is illegal to slaughter cattle or else eat the flesh within the city. [Buffalo is ok.] Indeed, similar laws exist across most of India, with the exception of Kerala (and perhaps Goa). 
 It was not always so. The pressure to enact bans on the slaughter of cows has come largely from right-wing Hindu groups and there have been plenty of protests from both intellectuals and Dalit groups (Dalits or untouchables have traditionally been permitted to eat beef) who argue that the bans are unfair and unconstitutional. Dalits have also traditionally been the makers of hide and leather for shoes, worn by everyone else - except for high-caste orthodox Brahmins.
 In recent weeks the debate has returned with added vigour because Hindu nationalists are threatening to disrupt the upcoming Commonwealth Games if organisers go ahead with their plan to serve beef to visiting athletes.  The organisers argue that if India wishes to host a global event, it cannot object to international dietary requests. 
 So was I wrong to have indulged or are these laws banning the eating the eating of beef hypocritical? I certainly know which way my stomach votes. 
 

Comments

Here is a good video on meat:
mherzog0 wrote:
Monday, 15 March 2010 at 06:27 am (UTC)
danielz33 wrote:
Friday, 16 April 2010 at 08:24 am (UTC)
We're never wrong when we respect others beliefs even if we don't agree with them.


Daniel.
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georgelim wrote:
Monday, 28 June 2010 at 02:36 pm (UTC)
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