As the clamour for a ban on the red meat grows louder, several groups in Chennai are holding private get-togethers where beef, in a variety of dishes, is the only thing on the menu. “Beef is not only popular now, but a trending hashtag,” Vivek said. “I wanted to celebrate my birthday by registering my protest against people who call the shots on what is on my dining table. So I decided to bring out the grill and call over my buddies.”
Caterers too report a marginal rise in the orders they’ve been receiving for beef and beef-based dishes. “I have more new customers placing orders now,” said Sajan C, who gets orders for more than 15kg of beef items a day. “Many of them, I figure, are eating beef for the first time. They ask a series of questions about beef before placing an order.” “The meat is not limited to one section or religion. We get requests for beef from different communities,” he said.
Vani Venugopal, a 26-year-old copywriter, recently threw a ‘beef party’ for her friends. “Beef, they say, is a forbidden fruit, but I like eating it,” she said. “My religion is personal. I don’t need any group to tell me what I should eat.”
Psychologists say it’s not surprising that calls for a ban on beef have backfired, because forbidden things are always more satisfying for the very fact that they are forbidden. “If one bans something, people will be drawn to it as doing it gives them a sense of adventure,” clinical psychologist Keerthi Pai said. “You get attention. You’re doing something different from society. So biologically, you get a dopamine charge, and psychologically, an adrenaline rush,” she said. “Curiosity also draws people to something that is banned.”
Though the popularity of beef may be growing, its price has remained constant at 150 a kilo.
“We’ve had no major issues in Tamil Nadu. Although the slaughter of cows and calves is banned, consumption of beef is not,” Thendral Selvaraj of Tamil Nadu Cattle Traders Association said. “Anyway most beef consumed in Tamil Nadu is buffalo meat.”
Although Tamil Nadu’s requirement of beef is much lower than Kerala’s, the state consumes around 500 tonnes a day. Sixteen states in the country currently ban slaughter of cows and calves.