Cattle & economic development of India

Ever wondered if the milk producing ability of indigenous Cows was far inferior to buffaloes both in quantity & quality/fat content, why are cows sacred and buffaloes not? In India, it is probable that the elimination of meat eating came about in a slow, practical manner.  In an agricultural society, crop failures are common and the success of the civilization depends on how quickly one could recoup and take advantage of the favorable conditions that follows. After a period of drought or natural disaster, the farmers who decided not to eat their cattle, were the ones who had oxen left. They were the ones who were able to cultivate their land to the fullest and save most grains for the hard days ahead. The ban on slaughter of cows came from the practical need to maximize the ability of the village to cultivate their farms. Today tractors have taken up this role. Do you think it is time to revisit our old practices that have been codified through religion?

Recently I read an interesting article on “Role of Lactose Tolerance in Pre-Colonial Development”. Essentially the author says with statistics & proofs that ability to digest milk allowed some civilizations a huge advantage over others. The babies whose diet was supplemented by cattle milk were stronger (less prone to infant mortality) and grew faster. The mothers could safely wean off their kids earlier, hence allowing for larger families & faster resuming of household duties. All this allowed the lactose tolerant societies to replenish their population faster & support larger numbers on any piece of land.

The author’s premise is that animals were raised primarily for draught (heavy work/muscle power) and meat. The ability of some civilizations to use them also for milk (a much smaller and less valuable by-product) was good enough to give these civilizations an edge. In China, the symbol of house is a roof over a pig. It highlights the importance of cattle as a ready source of converting inedible organic waste into useful proteins and fats. (Both of which are scarce and valuable throughout the history of mankind)

The mangroves of the Coastal India does not have the luxury of strong timber trees, but they more than compensate by effectively using what they have. I have a Mallu friend that cannot stop appreciating the Coconut tree. According to him the entire coastal economy is dependent on coconut tree & its products. From water, oil, firewood, husk, shell and leaves no part of the tree is wasted. As a result Kerala and coastal India is probably more prosperous than the rest of the nation. Three of the four largest cities of India are on the coast.

Societies that flourish are able to maximize the productivity of the resources at their disposal. Today the country has malnutrition rates that are more serious than the poorest part of the Sahara deserts. Yet rather than solving the problem of protein, iron & fat deficiency of the country, we are contemplating banning even slaughter of goat. The rising food prices could be solved by allowing the country to better use its cattle. Rather than having aging cows roam the streets of the country, can we use them to provide affordable proteins & iron?


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