Yes Minister? What’s your beef?

The cattle population in Maharashtra, India has been abuzz lately with the news that the state government has banned the eating of beef and is cracking down on the slaughter of cows, bulls, buffaloes and their kin. At first, when the news broke, loud moos were heard trumpeting a celebration.

There was a moo moo here and a moo moo there….E-I-E-I-O!*

When the euphoric moos died down, consternation set in.

What’s that? Oh, you want to know what beef could the cattle possibly have with such a ban? Well, listen in on the talk at a council meeting called by the elders of cattle county, Maharashtra.

Parabrahma*, the chairman of the cattle council, “My children, this ban is going to cause problems in the future.”

The cattle in the audience look puzzled. Several could be heard whispering, “What is he saying? What problem? This ban in Maharashtra has freed us. We don’t need to worry anymore about the daily, frequent human incursions across our border.”

More whispers, “Is he crazy? We are safe now and can spend our days happily grazing on all the available greens around us. Plenty of fodder, here!”

“Order, order,” raps Shakti*, an elderly bull and secretary of the council.

When the moos die down, Parabrahma takes a deep breath and continues, “The humans in Maharashtra, and maybe all of India, are contemplating banning the slaughter of all animals on the grounds of cruelty.”

More cattle whisper, “What’s that to do with us? That too, is a good move. Three cheers for the animal kingdom.”

Shakti moos loudly to drown out the whisperers.

Parabrahma continues, “If you keep quiet, I will explain. Apparently, some humans, from faiths other than Hinduism, filed a petition challenging the ban on slaughtering and eating us.  Your council sent a few elders to listen in on the proceedings. When the Maharashtra High Court was in session hearing the case, our fellow cattle citizens wandered into the court grounds and munched on the plants outside the courtroom window, listening in. No one shooed them away. I don’t need to tell you why.”

“Anyway, they came back and reported that advocate general Sunil Manohar, representing the Maharashtra government, defended the ban by saying that the government may consider taking the ban further to covering all animals so as to instill in citizens a sense of compassion towards all living beings*.”

Shakti steps in, “That’s where we see an issue. If all humans turn vegetarian, we will soon be competing with the human race for plant fodder. Looked at another way, they first milk us and butcher us. Now they say they want to save us but will end up competing with us. One bad monsoon and they will end up driving us away from green areas. To survive, we may even have to become predatory and turn into non-vegetarians.”

“That’s not all,” Parabrahma says, taking back the mike. “There’s is a much larger issue here. If these humans are serious about compassion towards all living beings, they may, one day, ban eating plants as well. They are ignorant now. But soon they will get round to reading Daniel Chamovitz’s book What a Plant Knows. Then they will discover that, I quote the Director of Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University here, “Plants are complex organisms that live rich, sensual lives…if we realize that all of plant biology arises from the evolutionary constriction of the ‘rootedness’ that keep plants immobile, then we can start to appreciate the very sophisticated biology going on in leaves and flowers.”

“The human sect known as Jains already think in these terms. They believe that souls inhabit all matter, even mineral bodies, water, fire, earth and the vegetable kingdom, ” Shakti interjects.

“After weighing the matter carefully, your council has concluded that the Maharashtra government is on a very slippery slope here. It will take only one power hungry soul or religious zealot to ask for a ban on eating plants as it is shows lack of compassion for a living being. There is also the question of environmental activists who may want to save all plants in the interest of reducing CO2 emissions,” Parabrahma says, ending the council session.

Loud moos break out. Cattle heads are seen nodding their heads wisely and agreeing, “None of us want to be killed and end by being served up on a plate. But the council is right. Humans should leave the ecosystem and food chain alone. If nothing else, we certainly don’t want to become non-vegetarian.”

You understand now?

What’s that? Oh, you want to know what happened next?

Well, last I heard herds of cattle were seen weaving their way through Mumbai streets, causing huge traffic pile-ups.

I understand they were all making their way to Mantralaya, the administrative seat of the Maharashtra government, to ask, “Yes Minister. What’s your beef?”


Disclaimer:  The author is not a card-carrying beef eater or card-carrying anything. She just believes that no government has any business mixing religion with governance. And, that too, in India; a country with a secular constitution. The author is also a proponent of understanding life through the study of anthropology. Her views on vegetarianism can be read in an earlier blog In the wake of tradition.

  • with apologies to the creator of the lyrics of Old MACDONALD had a farm

*Parabrahma – in Hinduism, the word means the Supreme Being in his absolute aspect, beyond space and time. Para Brahma (Sanskrit, from para beyond + Brahma (neuter) universal self or spirit), or that which is beyond Brahma, is the self-enduring, eternal, self-sufficient cause of all causes and the essence of everything in the cosmos. The Rig Veda proclaims, “Ekam sat viprãhã bahudã vadanti,” meaning “Truth is one, but the wise describe it in many ways.” Hindu Dharma is monotheistic, worshipping one but with respect for all Gods and spirituality.

*Shakti – meaning strength.

Reference Links:

Featured Image Credit: Cattle, bearing a brand – Doc Searls ( CC BY 2.0)

Hindustan Times: Why ban only on slaughter of cows and bulls? HC asks Maharashtra govt –

Gareth Cook. Do Plants Think? Scientific American –


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