In a country where cows are revered as holy, it may seem strange to learn that tens of thousands of people have taken to Twitter to decry a ban on beef. Indeed, citizens of India responding to Maharashtra’s beef ban, which went into effect on Monday, have created one of the world’s top trending hashtags: #beefban.
The politics behind the ban are a little tricky. Hindus make up 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population, and most abstain from consuming beef from cows as part of their devotion. However, India is a secular country that avoids institutionalizing religious practices. Banning beef wasn’t necessarily intended to translate Hindu beliefs into a requirement for all Indian citizens, though, but it’s clear the ban was enacted as a measure to help protect cows and bulls from slaughter. The ban makes it illegal to slaughter any bovine for meat, as well as to be in possession of cow’s meat.
The hashtag conversation on Twitter is wild, yet divided. At the time of writing, more than 22,000 users have chimed in on the topic. Many are upset about the beef ban, feeling that it equates to “vegetarian terrorism” and forces those who do not share Hindu religious views to adopt, in at least some aspect, the lifestyle. Other Twitter users support the ban, feeling that it’s a natural translation of the desires of the majority of Indian residents.
Maharashtra is India’s largest state, home to India’s most populous city, Mumbai. Although it’s come to light that most of the beef in India does not actually come from sacred cows — it comes instead from water buffalo. In Maharashtra, though, buffalo meat is said to account for only 25% of the beef market. Critics of the ban are concerned about its effects on India’s poor, since beef is typically cheaper than other meats like chicken.
We’ll just have to follow the #beefban to see how the Twitter conversation unfolds.