Cow-related Violence Hindering Indian Beef and Leather Exports

20 February 2019

According to a new report released by the international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch yesterday, the so-called cow protection movement happening in India right now is hurting farmers and herders across religious and social lines.

Since 2014, growth of beef and leather exports, in which India plays a key role in the international market, has practically ground to a halt and stagnated. This has had an effect on India’s foreign currency reserves, the report states from an analysis of data from the commerce and industry ministry from 2010-11 to 2017-18.

Between 2010 and 2018, India reported 123 attacks of cow-related hate violence – 98% of these after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government assumed power at the Centre, according to the database that tracks such crimes. The Human Rights Watch report relies on this database, along with various others.

In India, many Hindus consider the cow sacred, and 99.38% Indians now live under cow-protection laws. In February 2019, the central government announced a national commission for cow protection.

“These policies and the vigilante attacks have disrupted India’s cattle trade and the rural agricultural economy, as well as leather and meat export industries that are linked to farming and dairy sectors,” the Human Rights Watch says.

India is the largest exporter of beef in the world, exporting buffalo meat worth $4 billion a year. However, since 2014, exports have mostly declined.

According to the report, the proliferation of cow vigilantes and the shutdown of hundreds of slaughterhouses has led to disruption in the availability of cattle hides.

“Hindutva leaders who are promoting this obsession with cows don’t realise how much loss they are causing to their own Hindu community, and damage they are causing to their country,” said ML Parihar, a Rajasthan-based author and expert on animal husbandry.

The violence is mostly targeted at minority groups, but economic fallout hurts majority Hindus too.

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