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The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle

Marvin Harris
Current Anthropology
Vol. 33, No. 1, Supplement: Inquiry and Debate in the Human Sciences: Contributions from Current Anthropology, 1960-1990 (Feb., 1992), pp. 261-276
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743946
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle
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Abstract

The relationship between human and bovine population in India has hitherto been widely regarded as an important example of resource mismanagement under the influence of religious doctrine. It is suggested that insufficient attention has been paid to such positive functioned features of the Hindu cattle complex as traction power and milk, dung, beef and hide production in relationship to the costs of ecologically viable alternatives. In general, the exploitation of cattle resources proceeds in such a way as not to impair the survival and economic well-being of the human population. The relationship between the human and bovine population is symbiotic rather than competitive; more traction animals than are presently available are needed for carrying out essential agricultural tasks. Under existing techno-environmental conditions, a relatively high ratio of cattle to humans is ecologically unavoidable. This does not mean, that with altered techno-environmental conditions, new and more efficient food energy systems cannot be evolved.

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