In Muslim majority Bangladesh beef is in high demand. More than 90 percent of the 160 million people who live there are Muslims and for them beef is a delicacy.
The country's meat producers estimate that slaughterhouses need up to 3 million cows every year to feed Bangladeshi appetites, and to help meet demand, Bangladesh is eyeing neighboring India. Cows are everywhere in India, but the cow is considered holy in the Hindu-majority country. In fact, slaughtering cows is banned in many Indian states, and New Delhi refuses to export them.
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That refusal hasn't done much to deter the demand for beef in Bangladesh, however. In fact, say officials inDhaka, beef has become so valuable it's spurred a dangerous cow smuggling trade across the India-Bangladesh border.
More than 2 million cows are smuggled from India to Bangladesh every year and most of the illegal trade takes place through the Indian border state of West Bengal, says Bimal Pramanik, an independent researcher in Calcutta, India.
"Bangladeshi slaughterhouses cannot source even 1 million cows from within the country. If Indian cows do not reach the Bangladeshi slaughterhouses, there will be a big crisis there," says Mr. Pramanik, adding that 3 out of every 4 cows slaughtered in the country are from India.
"In this thriving trade, [herds of] cows worth 50 billion rupees [$920 million] are sent across to Bangladesh every year. It's the sheer economics of the trade that drives the smuggling," says Pramanik.