Much of the outrage over the recent Maharashtra government nod to a bill banning the sale and possession of beef in the state is rooted in ignorance, say people in the hospitality industry. What is sold as beef in restaurants and other smaller eating joints is actually buffalo meat, as the ban on cow slaughter and its meat has been in place in Maharashtra since 1976, they said.
Riyaaz Amlani, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, said all restaurants are currently serving buffalo meat and not cow or bullock meat. “Cow meat has been banned for a long time. It’s already illegal for restaurants to serve it,” said Amlani, who is based in Mumbai. “Some high-end hotels use actual beef, but only the imported kind. I am not even sure if this practice is still in place,” he said.
The outrage, said Amlani, was a result of a national sentiment that the public is increasingly being told to not do this or that. “The angry reactions are basically because of the way the amendment to the bill has been handled,” he said.
Sukesh Shetty, secretary of the Association of Hotel and Restaurants (AHAR), which has around 8,000 Mumbai restaurants under its umbrella, was of the view that beef is hardly popular in Mumbai restaurants and will not make even a marginal difference to the hospitality business. “Only a tiny fraction of the restaurants serve beef, and its consumption adds up to a miniscule portion of the total consumption in this business,” he said. “Beef, whatever meat it is, is served by either the very high-end or the most economical of eating joints.”
Chef Rakesh Talwar from The Spare Kitchen in Juhu also dismissed the concerns of meat-lovers. “It’s out of sheer ignorance that people are reacting with so much outrage, even when they were already not eating any real beef,” he said.
While restaurant owners and meat traders are demanding more clarity on the ban, some communities are questioning the inclusion of bulls and bullocks into the ban. “We understand cow slaughter is banned because it is sacred to a community. But why, bulls, bullocks and calves? This is sheer majoritarianism,” said Ashfaq Ibrahim Ansari, a garment dealer from Mazgaon.