Meat ban in Delhi: What the battle to define India as vegetarian misses – BBC News

Until now, the battle over food was largely restricted to beef. Hindus consider the cow sacred and its slaughter has long been banned in most Indian states.

But the war on beef has intensified since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government swept to power in 2014. His party has shuttered slaughterhouses in stronghold states and Hindu right-wing groups have lynched Muslim cattle farmers.

There is a visible effect – when beef does appear on menus in cities such as Delhi now, it’s often described as just “meat”; upscale meat sellers – who offer imported pork ribs and lamb shanks – don’t stock it; and those who eat beef sometimes half-jokingly whisper the word.

This runs counter to the fact that while many upper-caste Hindus do not eat beef, millions of Dalits (formerly untouchables), Muslims and Christians across India do. It’s also a popular meat across communities in the southern state of Kerala where only a minority avoid it for religious reasons.

Game meats were integral to Indian diets since 70,000BC, says Manoshi Bhattacharya, a nutritional therapist who has researched Indian dietary traditions.

History suggests that beef and even pork were consumed widely in ancient India as far back as the Indus valley civilisation. Animal and cow sacrifices were common in the Vedic era, between 1500 and 500BC – the meat was offered to the gods and then consumed at feasts.

So, it wasn’t Muslim kings or invading armies that brought meat-eating to India, as the right-wing often suggests. Rather, existing diets changed in response to new empires, trade and agriculture. Over centuries, beef and then meat disappeared from the diets of brahmins and certain other upper-castes. The reasons vary but religion was not the only driver.

Source: Meat ban in Delhi: What the battle to define India as vegetarian misses – BBC News