Hindu ‘cattle patrols’ in India seek to protect cows from beef eaters

Nov 10, 2015

By Rama Lakshmi

YADAVNAGAR, India — Dozens of men spread across the moonlit farm, hiding behind trees and wielding long-handled machetes and hockey sticks. They are devout Hindus, ready to fight for their religion.

They are lying in wait for smugglers’ trucks carrying cows.

“I am a Hindu. It is my duty to protect the cows,” said Rajendra Prasad, 35, who makes religious statues. “I will not allow anyone to smuggle cows for slaughtering.”

“Either we die or they die. But we won’t let anyone eat beef here,” said Vijendra Singh, a 22-year-old farmer.

Almost 80 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion is Hindu, and many Hindus avoid beef because they believe cows are sacred. Eating beef and slaughtering cows are banned in many states and always have been hot-button political issues in the country.

But the mob killing last month of a man wrongly suspected of eating beef has prompted a national debate and calls for tolerance from India’s civil and political leaders, as beef-related clashes have escalated.

Prasad and Singh are members of one of dozens of cow protection squads or “beef vigilante” groups operating across India. These aggressive Hindu squads patrol the streets for smugglers by night and work at charitable shelters for elderly cows by day.

India’s secular constitution directs the government to protect cows, and states that ban their slaughter impose varied punishments for violations. But many Hindu activists say they must step in because authorities are not enforcing the laws.

“Our gods and goddesses reside inside the body of the cow,” said Satya Pal Acharya, a Sanskrit school teacher and a cow protector. “As long as our cows are healthy and alive, our civilization will thrive. Sometimes we have to strengthen the hands of the government to implement the laws.”

The recent violence began in September, when an angry Hindu mob broke down a door and dragged a 50-year-old Muslim man from his home outside New Delhi, following rumors that he had eaten beef. The mob then kicked him and beat him with bricks until he died. When the police sent the meat stored in his refrigerator for forensic testing, it turned out to be goat.

Two weeks ago, another vigilante group fatally beat a truck driver transporting cows in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. In Kashmir, a mob burned a Muslim teenager over rumors of cow slaughter. When a Muslim lawmaker in Kashmir held a “beef party” in protest, he was assaulted by lawmakers from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the floor of the statehouse, as cameras rolled.

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30 comments on “Hindu ‘cattle patrols’ in India seek to protect cows from beef eaters

  • H. L Menken said it (I paraphrase) “Never underestimate the stupidity of the human race, Then of course there is the slaughter of 100 elephants. Very quickly the human race is making the planet uninhabitable for human beings. I wonder what will happen to religion when our ignorant species begins to experience Global Climate Change on a massive level, up front and personal and all our silly religions and “gods” will not save us?

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  • @OP- “Our gods and goddesses reside inside the body of the cow,” said Satya Pal Acharya, a Sanskrit school teacher and a cow protector. “As long as our cows are healthy and alive, our civilization will thrive.

    God-delusions in the bovine-grade brain – A new variant of “mad-cow-disease” perhaps?

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  • There is a kind of sense to a lot of these kind of dietary restrictions.

    In india due to the monsoons and terrain the only effective way of plowing is to use an ox or cow. Now I can see where religious leaders might choose to make cows sacred to prevent someone without a lot of foresight killing their cows and eating them and then not having anything to plow with for the next growing season.

    Similarly the middle east used to be a fairly lush forested region where it was easy to raise pigs. The climate changed to a drier climate making it resource intensive to raise pork for consumption. So, to convince ignorant farmers to choose a more efficient way of growing food they claim God demands they stop eating pork. So the market for the meat dries up, the number of pigs raised decreases, and farming in the region becomes more efficient.

    Of course this doesn’t excuse the stupidity of killing people for eating beef or pork in the modern age.

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  • Hi William,

    You ask:

    I wonder what will happen to religion when our ignorant species begins to experience Global Climate Change on a massive level, up front and personal.

    The answer is probably that organized religions will receive a huge boost.

    The evidence from even modern disasters – I’m reminded of the huge boost religions received in those areas affected by the Pacific Tsunami in 2004 – is that, in the immediate aftermath: Religious affiliation, observance and donations rise. In addition, organised religions are useful to those politicians who would oppress.

    Most politicians, by their nature, are not natural oppressors. People enter politics, by-and-large, with the intention of doing good. The fact that the doing and the good are interpreted by others – often including those the Politician wishes to help – as not doing, or worse than doing, and not helpful, or the opposite of helpful, is what leads to most politicians (who are notoriously poor listeners and frequently dogmatic) using options that are oppressive.

    Organised religions offer politicians a palliative.

    This is characterized by Moses, the tame raven in Animal Farm by George Orwell, who’s Sugarcandy Mountain (read: Heaven) is used to show how politicians use religion as a way to pacify the oppressed people.

    For a more philosophical perspective try Karl Marx: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.”

    Two quotes that demonstrate that the misuse of religion cuts across the political spectrum.

    People seek solace – even shady comfort – from the harsh truths of disasters … and particularly from the evidence of their own folly. Politicians are merely playing the game that we set out for them:

    Every wise, just, and mild government, by rendering the condition of its subjects easy and secure, will always abound most in people, as well as in commodities and riches.

    David Hume

    Throwing the results of Anthropomorphic Climate Change in people’s faces – which Nature appears all the more capable of doing – is not necessarily going to make them give up living in an opiate-fed bubble. Rather, facts that deny their illusions will strengthen those illusions.

    Sacred Cows are not undermined by facts.

    A few politicians are not above using oppression. For them, a Sacred Cow can so easily be a means to a Scapegoat.

    The Politicians’ Rule: Never let the facts get in the way of obscuring what really matters.


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  • Thanks for your well reasoned comments and I would agree in part. However, global climate change will affect those parts of the world (Africa), that is presently experiencing the greatest recruitment of believers (backward, ignorant, disease ridden, badly educated and corrupt governments). Also, there is a world wide wave of loss of belief in organized religion, especially by the young and as science advances. The ignorant, anti-science, anti-evolution. anti-gay rights areas of the world will be the most affected, and will result in starvation, drought, and mass migrations etc. It is interesting that after the Holocaust, many Jews lost their faith. You might be right, but we will see, much can happen in the interim. Dawkins believes that much or organized religion will be dead in a hundred years.

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  • 13
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    The irrational behavior of people who foster strong religious belief is brilliantly illustrated in an analogy given by Daniel Dennett during one of his conferences:

    The Fluke parasitic worm invades the ant’s brain and makes a mental zombie out it. As a result, the ant climbs a blade of grass until it reaches the top and falls to the ground. The ant repeats the process ad-infinitum until…

    a) it dies of hunger or exhaustion or…

    b) it is eaten by a cow while climbing a blade of grass.

    Option b is the goal of the Fluke since it can only reproduce in the gut of a ruminant animal such as a cow. Hmmm… I wonder if that makes Flukes sacred parasites?

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  • 14
    maria melo says:

    The plasticity of the human mind working out to give differnt or arbitrary meaning to almost everything, even religion (funny isn´t it, remember to keep this in mind when mentiong the word religion).

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  • How can someone justify murder for killing a cow? I can understand it for killing a whale, but not a cow.

    Oddly, those who oppose eating pork are fine with killing them. The motive for avoiding eating is diametrically opposed.

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  • Those gods and goddesses must be really slumming it living in cows when they could quite easily live in…Tigers!

    As an aside that’s a strong assertion of a direct causal link between cows and Indian civilisation. Could someone please produce some cow health/population metrics through the ages and correlate them to Indian civilisation rise and fall?
    I need a good laugh.

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  • I see delusional cow-protection is no limitation on doing business or being given VIP status!


    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in the UK for a three-day visit as a guest of his British counterpart, David Cameron.

    The first day of the visit will be marked by a Red Arrows flypast before Mr Modi makes a speech to Parliament.

    Also during the trip, he will meet the Queen, visit a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and address crowds at Wembley Stadium.

    I wonder if he will be escorted by the “Beefeaters”?

    The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, a point the Yeomen Warders acknowledge.

    .Downing Street protests.

    The visit comes at an unsettled time in India, where Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party lost a recent regional election.

    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered the defeat in the northern Indian state of Bihar, amid concerns over a rise in religious intolerance in India.

    His supporters will hope his visit will help him spring back from that defeat.

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  • Quite true. However evolution means more than just biological/genetic evolution. It also means cognitive, intellectual and educational evolution. This is occurring which is why the religious community is so frightened by science, the gay movement and education because they challenge their basic, ignorant beliefs (religion is also a business). Therefore much of the world is being left behind and that includes the ridiculous claims of most religions. the Bible and Koran, and the Book of Mormon are not the word of god but of men (males), Jesus was probably married etc. etc., the list goes on and on. The more a behavior, habit or belief begins to go to extinction, superstition increases and there is more pushback. That is what we are witnessing with more to come.

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  • The Beef Eaters are part of “Disneyland on the Thames”, strictly for tourists. Also, the “Stratford man” did not write “Shakespeare. Anyone who knows the creative process will understand why “Wil Shakespeare” could not have written all those plays and poems. They had to be written by an insider. Like many things, like religion (which is also show business) the “Stratford man”, is a con, a lie, purely for the tourist industry business.

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  • Tigers

    If only. Perhaps they’d (Bengal) not be on the endangered species list.

    On the other hand – cash made from Asian (e.g.) black markets, and agriculture demands, probably would toss any god to the side of the road right quick.

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  • Those who will be “left behind” will be the informed, educated, prepared and flexible peoples, not the so called “Christians” who will not be transported to a non-existent paradise.

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  • On a technical level, I don’t actually have a problem with this. I think they’re going about it in a loopy way for loopy reasons – but showing meat eaters exactly the same ‘courtesy’ they’ve shown to countless others? Nope. No problem here.

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  • superstition

    Friday the 13th ; )

    ‘Ark Encounter’ Ken Spam just announced opening date for next summer. Infuriating news. A Patheos / Friendly Atheist { Blog } breaks down the financial aspect. Sic ’em!

    A wish – ‘Nature Conservancy’ buys back the land for “no child left inside” nature park.

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  • Yes as I understand it the reasoning behind looking after cows was to provide a means of ploughing the feilds. Over time this has become corrupted into a religious belief.
    It’s a bit like saying to children “because I say so'” rather than giving a rational explanation as to why they should behave in a certain way.
    Child psychologists say we should veiw children as ‘small people’ rather than dismissively calling them ‘just kids’. In the case of religiots maybe we see them as ‘big chidren’. We just have recognise that when they ‘misbehave’ they can be a lot nastier, but in the end they are just big kids who need to be kept away from too much responsibility and not permitted to influence other children with their bad example. Oh! What are those churches, mosques, temples …… for?

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