Millennium Post

Making anaemic women

A research paper states that cattle slaughter ban may turn today’s girls into anaemic women in their prime reproductive age

A ban on cattle slaughter will impact women's health in the long run owing to unavailability of red meat, says a recently published research paper. No consumption of beef will lead to a deficiency of micronutrients like iron at an early age and will cause anaemia at a later stage, says the paper titled 'Do cattle slaughter bans during early life affect anaemia decades later?'.

It adds that most vulnerable are those girls who do not get to complete their primary schooling or those who come from poorer families. "Women exposed to cow slaughter bans in their year of birth have lower levels of haemoglobin and are up to 10 per cent more likely to be anaemic in their prime reproductive age between 15 and 35 years," say researchers from Ashoka University, Sonepat, Rice University, Houston, and University of Alabama in Huntsville.

This is when around 50 per cent of Indian women already suffer from at least mild to moderate anaemia. The BJP governments in states such as UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and others have strongly regulated informal slaughterhouses and this has impacted people's food habits.

According to the paper, reduced consumption of animal protein, which is rich in iron, is likely to be harmful to pregnant women who need iron-rich food in significant amount during pregnancy.

"We conclude that cow slaughter bans can have long-term harmful effects, particularly for women of reproductive age among minorities which historically consume beef," says the paper.

The researchers have drawn these conclusions after studying the Indian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2005-2006, states' policies to ban cattle slaughter between 1950 and 2012, and the report of National Commission on Cattle in 2002. The authors have also analysed 1.69 lakh samples of DHS data of both men and women in the age group of 15 to 54 years. Of these, around 1.3 lakh samples were of women aged between 15 and 49 years and 65,000 of men aged between 15 and 54 years.

The researchers also say that their study had certain limitations as it focused on iron deficiency in context of cattle slaughter ban only when there could be other possibilities like reduced option value of cow ownership and change in access to dairy products.

But even Down To Earth had found that owing to strong regulation, the number of

stray cattle was increasing as people left their cattle out once their market and milk value reduced. This reduced the availability and, in turn, the consumption of milk by village dwellers.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

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