And a conflict in India
Cattle have supported human life for many thousands of years. They provide milk, meat, leather and even inspiration, but opinions about India's cows continue to create storms of controversy.
The general thrust of human evolution if you can call it that has resulted in most of the worlds population consuming meat and it's only a small percentage of people who are vegetarians. The people who are vegetarians choose this diet either because of the health benefits, or because they recognise the value of life to the creatures that are often killed and eaten. There is also a recognition of the negative karma which is generated by killing as well as the consequences of eating animal flesh.
It is well documented and scientifically proven that vegetarians suffer fewer health complications and live longer than meat eaters. So one of the karma's for eating meat is to be less healthy and to have a shorter lifespan.
Experts contend that if the human species became completely vegetarian, we could support twice the current human population on less land area than what is currently devoted to agriculture. This would also have positive benefits for the planet because the animal population is out of balance with nature.
So India has this problem where those who are perhaps more 'spiritually minded' or 'moral', who see all life is sacred and are opposed to any animal being killed for food are demanding that laws be made to prohibit the killing of cows and the consumption of beef. In some states, new laws have been drafted to this effect which is causing a great deal of argument and some conflict.
Unfortunately one cannot impose one's beliefs or even knowledge on someone else, therefore the beef ban as it is known is an unjust law which will have negative effects on both the population and the economy.
Cattle make up an integral part of the agricultural cycle and they are also an important economic and social aspect of ordinary rural life. Even when the people are vegetarians, cattle are needed to eat the grass and plough the fields. This means that after harvest, a farmer may buy cattle to do this work, but when it comes time for planting there is no need of these cattle so they may be on sold either for work or for their meat. The beef ban breaks this rural life cycle because the farmer may not be able to on sell his cattle causing hardship not only to himself and his family, but to an entire village or district.
While so many people love cows and some even want to increase the population, India actually has far too many cows and as one travels across the country, one continually comes across sick and mangy cattle that scrape a living from eating garbage. In order to be healthy, cows need access to good vegetation and clean water that so many are going without.
The beef ban is also creating an underground or criminal economy because cattle are being secretly taken across borders and the meat secretly returned to meet a high consumer demand. This also leads to a great deal of animal mistreatment and unnecessary suffering.
Until such time as everyone can exist happily on a vegetarian diet, the cattle population must be regulated so that every animal has some quality of life and this requires requires human management. But until such time as people voluntarily adopt a vegetarian diet and see cows as an integral part of life, it is unjust to try and force change onto those people who still like to eat meat.
In those places where beef bans have been enacted, those rules should be suspended and more effort made by government and animal welfare bodies to ensure that all cattle are adequately fed and cared for.
To continue with or extend beef bans will create further division within communities and allow other influences like Islam and Christianity to take advantage. Non-dharmic groups will take any opportunity they can to usurp power and profits.
As much as I would personally like to see a major shift to vegetarianism, it's not going to happen anytime in the near future unless people can be persuaded to meditate, and to do that, they need a peaceful environment. The arguments over eating meats shatter that peace and stifles our evolution towards a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle.
When animals are raised well with good nutrition and good treatment, then slaughtered with due care and respect, there can also be a degree of harmlessness and the avoidance of the streets running red with blood.