Jugaad and informality as drivers of India’s cow slaughter economy

Dr Yamini Narayanan1

1Deakin University


India’s intriguing status as among the world’s largest milk producer, beef exporter, and one of the top leather producers – industries which are substantially sustained by the mass slaughter of bovines – implausibly coexists with its legislative prohibitions on cow killing. How is this scale of cow slaughter possible in a country that imposes  criminal penalties on the slaughter of cows, bulls and calves, and possession, consumption and sale of beef? India’s cow protection laws and politics sidestep the fact that dairying is also a slaughter industry. India has the largest ‘dairy’ herd in the world. To facilitate cow slaughter in a country where it is largely prohibited, this presentation argues that jugaad, a complex Indian sociological phenomenon of corruption and innovation, is vital in enabling the illegal slaughter of cows in the informal economy. Jugaad is enacted through ingenuous alterations to social processes and material products in informal spaces that are rendered exceptional to formal governance: (1) illicit transportation to slaughterhouses, and (2) intricate social contracts between stakeholders along this production line. Through these processes, the bovine body itself is transformed by way of jugaad from protected dairy cow to contraband beef cow.


Yamini Narayanan is Senior Lecturer in International and Community Development at Deakin University, Melbourne. Her work explores the ways in which other animals are instrumentalised in racist, casteist and even fascist ideologies in India. Yamini’s research is supported by two Australian Research Council grants. Yamini’s work on animals, race, and development has been published in leading journals including Environment and Planning D, Geoforum, Hypatia, South Asia, Society and Animals, and Sustainable Development.

Email: y.narayanan@deakin.edu.au

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