Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Bovine economics

Farmers buy cattle for their economic value rather than for worship. The ban on slaughter in effect leaves them with no way to exit their investment

The Kafkaesque script rolls on. A few months ago, diligent policemen from a town in Maharashtra decided to click photographs of all the cattle in the area to ensure that they are not killed for their meat. Now the Union government says it will set up laboratories in the major ports to test whether beef is being exported. This is just the sort of madcap idea that customs officials will love for obvious reasons.

Here is a reality check. Most economic research shows that farmers buy cattle for their economic value rather than for worship. The ban on slaughter in effect leaves them with no way to exit their investment, as some farmer groups point out. And the cattle population in India is stagnating. Bullocks are already not needed for work as the size of farms has fallen. And foreign cow breeds are fast growing in importance for their higher milk yield.

A forecast: the ban on killing cattle will further dent their numbers rather than protect them.

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