Why Do Hindus Not Eat Beef [Google Questions Answered]

Another search engine question that I found is:

Why Do Hindus Not Eat Beef?

I’ve addressed this a little bit here and there, but always as part of a larger post. Today I’m just going to talk about beef and cows…

Growing up in America, beef is every where. For some Americans, it’s part of every dinner. It is the thing our diets are most based on. Without meat, and often specifically beef, it’s not a meal.

I think to many Americans not eating cow seems arbitrary. Certainly some Hindus are fully vegetarian but many others eat some meats but not beef. How strange, the American thinks, how could it be okay to eat chicken but not cow?

For Hindus who grow up in America, not eating beef or stopping eating beef can be an enormous challenge. Beef eating is all around us and if we don’t eat it, we are viewed as extremely strange and forced to explain it every time. It can get pretty exhausting.

My understanding is (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that Hindus growing up in India have a very different perception of the cow. It is simply not a meat animal. How could that be? Well, my American peers, think about the stories of some cultures eating dogs. Is it true? I have no idea. But I know that shocking rumors go around from time to time about how in some countries you might accidentally eat dog meat.

Why are they shocking? Because to us, a dog is not a food animal. It occupies a different position in our brains than those animals we would eat. A dog is not for eating.

To Hindus, the cow is the same way. It is not an animal for eating.

There are other reasons why a Hindu might also be a vegetarian. One reason is that one of the important principles of Hinduism (and several of the other Indian religions) is ahimsa, the principle of non-harm. Hindus try to minimize the harm that they do to anyone or anything. (Did you know that in strict Jainism food cannot be plucked from trees or pulled from the ground to minimize harm to plants? Traditionally Jains do not eat root vegetables and fruits must have already fallen from the tree).

Another reason is the belief that when you take the meat into your body, that meat is infused with the emotions of the animals and that you are also taking in the pain and fear connected with how that animal died.

As you have probably heard, cows are revered in India. Some say it is because Krishna was a cow herder and so it is an animal special to him. Others will say it is because the cow is a great symbol for selfless giving. She provides us with milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.

In practice, I think cows wandering the street may be just one more pest. For some, anyway. When I was in India, I mostly saw people swatting cows away in annoyance!

During Diwali there is a day (Dhanteras) when, in some regions, cows are decorated and pujas are performed to them.


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Rohan

    Why do Americans say there is no meat in India when chicken and mutton(goat and lamb meat) are widely available , just that beef may not be due to religious reasons.

    • Ambaa

      Very true! I hope that I did not imply that meat isn’t commonly eaten. I did not intend to say that!

  • Sathish Balakrishnan

    we have come a long way from broad minded spiritualists to narrow minded and self-confined fundamentalists…

    accorning to NO classical hindu text/scripture cow is worshipped…however, it was tought to value every life since in life exists divinity…

    however, the socio-economic life of ancient and medievel India was often revolving around the concept of primary activities of agriculture and cattle herding…

    And in this context, as we analyse, we see that d value of cow/bull, in a greater perspective is much higher than the absolute value of their meet; these animals being used in farming, most housefolds raised dem for milk and related products, animal wastes being a good manure for organic farming and to satisfy the energy requirements of a rural economy….
    To kill an animal/categories of animals with these many values for meet is really uneconomic.

    But, it would be an obvious blunder to acknowledge and educate every individual on this matter…
    Considering that, the easiest and simplest solution would be to bring religion into picture and hence giving divine status to cows, which, in the present day scenario is of absolutely no use…

    and people still say, “according to Indian/Hindu mythology/culture cows are worshipped and should not be killed…”
    every day 100s of humans are killed, are their lives any less important than that of cows in the name of which a good share of these political assaults and communal riots spark in….???

    To add, as it was mentioned in one of the previous posts, during vedic era animal sacrifices were common in many sects and it only follows dat non-vegetarianism was also in existance.
    However, it is also mentioned in the vedas as well as the holy text of Gita, that it is always good to remain veg…mostly because of the health (not just physical) related aspects and to teach ppl to value and respect life in every form so dat no ego of superiority props in.
    Now, there were shaivic sects, which still axisting away from mainstream society, whose dieties are of slightly darker nature according to conventional believes.
    And the followers of these sects consume not only non-veg, but even animal/human/self waste. Perceptional definitions and esplainations can be given to each of these acts.
    Shaktism also uses uses animal sacrifice of most terrifying kinds in some of it’s tantric methodology….

    To sum up, you are what you eat…so it is you who should decide what you eat. And this is what the culture of Hinduism is. It inculcates a freedom of thought, logic and rationality and never just blind following.
    And this is the only reason this pagan culture is still existing while every other similar cultures like egyptian, greek, roman and norse has been wiped off the earth surface….

  • Pea

    Kerala state in India has beef eaters. I am one of them. I have checked even with my great grandparents. They all have eaten beef, despite not belonging to lower castes. I am mentioning the caste system here as it used to determine your food system those days.

    Manusmriti (Chapter 5 / Verse 30) says, “It is not sinful to eat meat of eatable animals, for Brahma has created both the eaters and the eatables.”

    Maharishi Yagyavalkya says in Shatpath Brahmin (3/1/2/21) that, “I eat beef because it is very soft and delicious.”

    Apastamb Grihsutram (1/3/10) says, “The cow should be slaughtered on the arrival of a guest, on the occasion of ‘Shraddha’ of ancestors and on the occasion of a marriage.”
    Rigveda (10/85/13) declares, “On the occasion of a girl’s marriage oxen and cows are slaughtered.”
    Rigveda (6/17/1) states that “Indra used to eat the meat of cow, calf, horse and buffalo.”
    Vashistha Dharmasutra (11/34) writes, “If a Brahmin refuses to eat the meat offered to him on the occasion of ‘Shraddha’ or worship, he goes to hell.”

    Hinduism’s greatest propagator Swami Vivekanand said thus: “You will be surprised to know that according to ancient Hindu rites and rituals, a man cannot be a good Hindu who does not eat beef”. (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand, vol.3, p. 536).

    Adi Shankaracharya’ commentary on Brihdaranyakopanishad 6/4/18 says : ‘Odan’ (rice) mixed with meat is called ‘Mansodan’. On being asked whose meat it should be, he answers ‘Uksha’. ‘Uksha’ is used for an ox, which is capable to produce semen.

    · The book ‘The History and Culture of the Indian People’, published by Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay and edited by renowned historian R.C.Majumdar (Vol.2, page 578) says: “this is said in the Mahabharat that King Rantidev used to kill two thousand other animals in addition to two thousand cows daily in order to give their meat in charity”.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! It’s great to get another perspective on this issue! I appreciate all the quotes you provided as support too!

    • HARRY

      @Pea I have nothing against the people who eat beef or any other meat, like I said, it’s all about personal choice. But you can’t throw the Rig veda or any other literature in the comment to convince me for your personal choice of diet.

      Agoris are also Hindus and cannibals and that is also justified by them in what they do. The way they see things is, nothing should go to waste. There is more to this then that, but I’m not going to go in to that.

      Hinduism is the only religion which allows broad spectrum of practise in its faith because it tells us that we are all individual in this universe and it includes everybody and every kind, where, this is not possible with any other faiths of people who practice their faith based on a books.

      When you talk about Manusmriti, it clearly states that the one with fangs will always eat the one without it, which is the statement before the one that you written yours from. One thing I will say is, we don’t have fangs. But at the same time it also tells you to do other thing which people normally will never follow but they will only do thing, that suits their life style.

      Other examples that you have given here are based on TRADITIONS NOT ON OUR RELIGION. Traditions are regional variation of the practice and they are not part of Hinduism. I like the way you have thrown the Rigveda in the equation which is the oldest text and has variety of different translations to it depending on where and when it’s done and also by whom. But the real Question is why don’t people throw in the examples from Samveda or Yajurveda because if they did then, this sort of anomaly doesn’t exist in them due to precision in writing, and by the way, you need to read the real text, not the translated one.

      And the story about the Rantidev is a good one, and I have heard it before, but you have missed few details. If he carried on the way it is stated like that for a year then you wouldn’t have any animals left in entire Hindustan let alone in his own kingdom at the time. BTW most of his subjects were hard working sudras. This may be part true, but I not buying this as a fact.

      Most examples that you have given here so far are cultural not religious.

      Dearest Pea, you are from prawn state and most people who lives there are non veg, but when ever you go in to any temple in that state and the only food and prassad that is served in there is vegetarian.

      Why do you think that is?

      Because Amhinsa is par Dharmum that is the code of conduct temples runs on. This is same as pig is not allowed in diet of any Muslims or Jews, but there are load I know who eats it.

      • a keralite

        Muslims and jews and even some christians dont eat pork because it is considered unclean….it eats its own feces(shit)….not like vegetarians who consider the cow sacred…..that’s the difference….study other people’s history and traditions properly first….not just your own hindu one….and another thing….we humans may not have fangs but we do have canine teeth….which is used to cut into meat as well as vegetables….i’m not very much interested in a debate with you people But the vegeterians and vegans are very much affected by their anger and ego causing them to become indifferent to other people and communities….i’m sorry to say that india is on the verge of ruin….

    • Raj

      Hi Pea I read your reply and impressed that you did some research about the subject being discussed.I was a meat eater(once in a year type)always feeling guilty after doing that somehow even when a child.Never knew where that feeling came from and when grew up turned fully vegetarian.I do not want you to change your views or say anything to upset you.I am posting a link for everyone to go through including you Ambaa and analyse yourself about ancient hindu scriptures about meat eating.

      http://www.thespiritualscientist.com/2012/01/do-the-vedic-literature-allow-meat-eating-did-hinduism-adopt-vegetarianism-from-buddhism/

  • Karthik K

    well the irony is India is one of the largest exporter of beef in the world (among top 3 nations); and yes Dog delicacy is pretty popular in North East, especially Nagaland, Mizoram…

    • sarita989

      Now that’s just SAD!

  • Neeraj Singh Dadhwal

    those animals are relative or athach form religions or any religion never we kill those animals for all religions.

    thank u

  • Jitendra Joshi

    Inthe ancient times we the Aryas did not know horse or cat.
    The bull used to labour with us all day long in our fields. He used to transport us in a bullock cart. His wife, the Cow always produced milk always greater than the daily requirement of her calf (puzzle to you: Why ?)
    That excess was available to us as healthy food.
    In the rainy season, dried cow dung can be used as fuel.
    The urine of cow when used with proper knowledge is medicinal and generally unharmful to human body.
    Through thick and thin this faithful animal was our friend.
    Because of Cow,s service to us and our service to Cow, she earned her rightful place as a mother in hindu mind.
    As the centuries passed, hindus learned through experience and meditation that they can spare the whole animal kingdom from using as a food.
    Not only that, they also discovered a minimum set of total available plant kingdom needed to sustain a healthy human life so that other plants can be spared from felling and uprooting.
    Even today this is a work inprogress.
    A hindu always thank all those grain plants and vegitable plants that sourced his food on the plate. Each day.
    In doing so, he redoubles his wish even to spare these plants if possible in future.
    Thus not only cow, some subset of hindus do not eat any animal at all. Cow being the first spared animal when that peocess started a few milleniums ago !!

  • Chandu Srinivas

    According to Vedas.. If any one helped us don’t forget them wheather it is a human or an animal. Just like, Hindus don’t eat beef(even by a non-vegetrian) because

    . Hindus treated cow as goumaata
    . goumaata= gou+maata gou=cow, mataa=mother.

    Mother gives milk to his son for only few years then cow gives milk to us.
    so, the cow treats us as his child.
    We drank cow milk. So, the cow is mother to us.
    To Hindus killing cow means killing there mother. So they don’t eat beef even by non-vegetrians

    Not only in hindism. Killing ox or cow is sin in christanity.

    • Venkat

      Good!! very simple explanation and straight forward. Hinduism develops from this idea of gratitude. Just as one’s mother feeds her child, people consume milk of the cow and hence this injunction to refrain from harming the cow.

      But Hindus are by and large vegetarian, even those who are normally, non-vegetarian refrain from consuming meat on certain occasions. Thus it is not a personal choice, this is rather cultural or you may say religious.

      There might have been a time when Hindus consumed more meat as pointed out by some of the readers quoting ancient texts. But Hindus do not go by texts alone, they are more influenced by their own gurus and saints, who have from time to time exhorted people to either refrain from meat eating altogether or at least minimize the consumption. The reason being that in this Kali yuga, the minds are naturally aligned towards materialism and away from spirituality. Hence many great saints have recommended abstention from meat, in order to prepare the human minds for spiritual growth; since meat eating is considered to be one of the factors inhibiting spiritual growth.

    • sarita989

      Chandu, I just have to disagree with that last line. I never heard anything about it being a sin in the Bible; Christianity comes from Judaism, where at times people were commanded to kill cattle. But there is a scripture about not causing your brother to sin. If you can tell me where in the Christian (or Jewish) scripture, people are commanded not to eat beef, I would really like to know, because I’ve read the Bible a number of times and haven’t seen that. But I think the sin would be killing cattle or eating beef around devout Hindus who will be harmed by that action. I avoid beef and pork now, though it is hard to do in America (I’ve had to send salads back), but it’s more about not doing harm to others than about what Christianity says. Please do tell me where you have read that it is a sin! Personally, I don’t like to kill anything at all — but I did learn to kill flies when I was in India; it bothered me to do it, but I was more bothered by seeing them land on children’s eyes!

  • Demonislam

    Some people try to just fool others like zakir naik, and heres someone who posted the thing below by copying it from a fake rediculous facebook page. My hindu brothers and sisters u people can check it in the link the truth :: ” http://www.vedicgranth.org/misconceptions-on-vedas/misconception-3—violence-against-animals-meet-eating-etc “.

    Manusmriti (Chapter 5 / Verse 30) says, “It is not sinful to eat meat of eatable animals, for Brahma has created both the eaters and the eatables.”

    Maharishi Yagyavalkya says in Shatpath Brahmin (3/1/2/21) that, “I eat beef because it is very soft and delicious.”

    Apastamb Grihsutram (1/3/10) says, “The cow should be slaughtered on the arrival of a guest, on the occasion of ‘Shraddha’ of ancestors and on the occasion of a marriage.”
    Rigveda (10/85/13) declares, “On the occasion of a girl’s marriage oxen and cows are slaughtered.”
    Rigveda (6/17/1) states that “Indra used to eat the meat of cow, calf, horse and buffalo.”
    Vashistha Dharmasutra (11/34) writes, “If a Brahmin refuses to eat the meat offered to him on the occasion of ‘Shraddha’ or worship, he goes to hell.”

    Hinduism’s greatest propagator Swami Vivekanand said thus: “You will be surprised to know that according to ancient Hindu rites and rituals, a man cannot be a good Hindu who does not eat beef”. (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand, vol.3, p. 536).

    Adi Shankaracharya’ commentary on Brihdaranyakopanishad 6/4/18 says : ‘Odan’ (rice) mixed with meat is called ‘Mansodan’. On being asked whose meat it should be, he answers ‘Uksha’. ‘Uksha’ is used for an ox, which is capable to produce semen.

    · The book ‘The History and Culture of the Indian People’, published by Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay and edited by renowned historian R.C.Majumdar (Vol.2, page 578) says: “this is said in the Mahabharat that King Rantidev used to kill two thousand other animals in addition to two thousand cows daily in order to give their meat in charity”.

    All this shit huhhh….. People are more concerned about disrespecting other’s religion. Huhhh…. Go and study ur holy book u converted cheaters. Almost the entire kerala.

  • Bharathi

    Hinduism is the right path of our soul…

    • Ambaa

      It certainly seems that way to me though I try hard not to assume that for everyone’s soul. It’s tough, though, when it really seems so perfect!

      • Sandeep

        great thread , I just saw today and I really appreciate everyone’s experiences.
        one point though we are overlapping religion and dharma here, both are different.
        Hindu is religion, ahinsha is dharma, hindus follows ahinsha dharma that’s why in hindu religion eating non-veg is no no.
        Hindu religion is very big , it is , their philosophy of having close to a 100 million gods is the indication that they want to move in the direction of dharma and not religion. this philosophy simply means that every one has their own path to walk and reach their destination.
        weather you eat non veg or not it doesn’t matter, what matter is your intentions, but as you know when ever we travel we always do prep work right? if you going to mountains then you pack warm clothes, if you going towards rain forest you pack rain clothes and if you go to desert you pack accordingly, same way life is a journey, and body is a vehicle, when we born as an human , we have some privileges and based on that now we have to choose which journey we want to take, if the journey is towards God, or moksha ( we can discuss that too later) or towards CEO chair that will then influence our preparation work.
        in order to walk toward God or to find him or do a self realization, we need to balance our emotions and day to day activities, that’s calls for a need to be vegetarian..
        Hindu when choose to be vegetarian, they actually prepare for that journey, I have studied few books, and I have never read that Hindus ever had meat, esp beef, even if I assume the same then also logically, medically that’s not true, if you study genealogy, u can simply establish that.
        but again its, one’s choice if that person want to eat meat or not,
        but if you eat meat then you are no longer hindu, u can still practice hindu religion of any form but you will no longer a Hindu.

  • justin timberlake

    Hello,

    I am a hindu who read through all your replies in this thread and was very impressed with your knowledge. Can you give me some sort of contact email, or a guide in the comments, on how to know as much about my religion as you do?

    Thank you,
    An indian-born hindu

    • Ambaa

      Wow, thank you for such a large compliment! Probably the best way to reach me is through the messaging on my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thewhitehindu Even there I’m not great at responding right away, I’m sorry to say.

      But as far as knowledge, I just love to learn and soak up as much as I can. I like to listen. I work hard to setting aside my ego and any defensiveness I might have to really listen to different people’s ideas and perspectives.

      Whether it’s good or bad, I’ve never been able to see the world as “I have the right answer and everyone else has the wrong” so I’m always very aware of the variety of beliefs and practices within Hinduism.

  • Dilawar

    Author has given sad, biased theories and mug up stories, People are not eating dogs because Dog and Pig is eating any thing of environment even faeces, and its muscles become source and house of lot more diseases causing agents. Americans are not our creators what they are doing is not Creator or almighty’s order for us they are humans like us not any divine source their eating and non- eating the cow is not making any difference. Hinduism has allowed to eat the meat check the below given links how your people and holy books have allowed to eat the meat 1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Brahmin_diet 2) http://beef.sabhlokcity.com/
    3) http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/meat-eating.asp

  • ahmadfouzan

    MUST READ IT ………………………………………………………………………
    A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state orcountry purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion,By the very definition of secularism, the state cannot ban cow slaughter citing the reason to be: “Banned in Hinduism”. The state has no right to ban cow slaughter simply because it is banned in Hinduism just like it has no right to ban idol worship simply because it’s banned in Christianity/Islam. (Before you accuse me of pseudo-secularism, know that I support Uniform Civil Code as well)

    Coming to economic arguments, what is the economic benefit of keeping bulls or dried up cows? (If the cows are artificially inseminated and the fields are ploughed by machines, it is a burden on the farmer to feed bulls). The cows slaughtered for beef are not the milk-giving ones. India leads the world in beef export and it fetched India Rs.13725.23 crores in 2012. So in purely economic terms, it is an unsound decision to ban cow slaughter.
    Now let’s come to how the lifestyle of the people is affected. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation UN (FAO) report titled Livestock Information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch says the largest consumed meat in India is beef (Note: meat does not include chicken) . The total consumption of beef in India per year is 26 lakh tonnes[1], as compared to 6 lakh tonnes of mutton and 14 lakh tonnes of pork. Given that this is the case, a nation-wide ban on cow slaughter will have a considerable effect on lifestyle and is an encroachment on the fundamental rights

    If it’s about animal rights, why be partial to cows? What about pork or mutton?Reference
    [1]: UN FAO Report: Livestock Information: Sector Analysis and policy branch. Consult page 10 table. 2600 thousand metric tonnes. The data is from 2002. At the mentioned annual growth rate of 1%, approx 29 lakh MT can be estimated as current consumption

    Contrasting views within Hinduism about cow slaughter
    The verse in Hindu scripture which is said to ban cow slaughter is:

    Rig Veda 10.87.16: “yaḥ pauruṣeyeṇa kraviṣā samaṅkte yo aśveyena paśunāyātudhānaḥ,yo aghnyāyā bharati kṣīramaghne teṣāṃśīrṣāṇi harasāpi vṛśca”
    which specifically mention horse (asva) and not cow, and asks Agni to cut off the heads of those who eat horse and human meat.

    But another verse which speaks about slaughtering bulls as food,

    Rig Veda 10.86.14: uksnó hí me páncadasha sakám pácanti vimshatím, utáhám admi píva íd ubhá kuksí prnanti me v’shvasmad índra úttarahTranslation: Fifteen in number, then, for me a score of bullocks they prepare, and I devour the fat thereof: they fill my belly full with food. Supreme is Indra over all. (Indra eating bulls)

    and another on sacrificing ox & cow to Agni,

    Rig Veda 8.43.11: uksánnaya vashánnaya sómaprsthaya vedháse stómair vidhemagnáyeTranslation: Let us serve Agni with our hymns, Disposer, fed on ox and cow, who bears the Soma on his back.

    Swami Vivekananda writes in “The complete works of Swami Vivekananda (volume-3 page 174) :

    “There was a time when a Brahmin without eating beef could not remain a Brahmin”. (and on page 536)

    “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”
    Having said all this, it is irrelevant to me whether Hinduism prohibits cow slaughter or not. I am a Hindu who eats beef (it’s pretty common over here in Kerala). Hinduism is a pretty inclusive and tolerant religion. My whole family does and I don’t think the secular state has any right to tell me not to eat it.

  • Gautam

    Mr Harry looks like you do have some knowledge of Hindu scripture, I am glad atleast I found one person who can refer to script. Anyway coming to the point, I happened to read a little of sanskrit and the original scripts ( not the translated one) I did not came across any place where it specifically mention not to eat meat or cow. As far I remember it says cow is like mother, because it has lot of utility, which make sense because we never had horses in India so out only way of cultivating and was to use bull/cow and also used for transportation and not mention the milk. However I will be interested to read the part in script where is specify eating meat or beef is not allowed

  • sarita989

    I’m not a Hindu, but much of my family is! And I have the answer for not eating beef — among those who are non-vegetarians. The cow represents the Mother! So to many Hindus, eating a cow is almost like eating your Mother. That’s the reason you may be killed in India for eating beef. On our last trip, we just made up our minds to eat no meat at all, so no one would be offended. That worked well, until we were invited for dinner at a home where the husband apparently wanted to eat meat himself, so we were talked into eating mutton. I gave in reluctantly, so as not to make my host unhappy, but as it turned out, my hostess wasn’t so happy about it. I’m not sure what to do in a situation like that. But my advice is, when in India or in Hindu company, avoid beef (and in Muslim or Jewish company, avoid pork, bacon, ham, sausage, etc.) — I have found that none of these is needed for good health or satisfying meals! My husband and I now eat mostly veg, but we do slip occasionally.

    When we have a choice, we eat fish instead of meat!

  • arvind vyas

    After mother in India cow milk used to given to children.ie mother. She is like mother, try to keep a cow than tell your experience. Cow is only animal can feed milk to known dogs, monkey, cats without hesitation.. mother of all. How you can kill and eat mother. Cows milk is also having good to digest and having better nutrition value (commonly available). Leaving other religious parts. In other country, many animal killing and eating restricted, why? Reason may not be as strong as I gave above for cow,


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