This is Dr Ambedkar quoting Gabriel Tarde to explain the Hindu taboo on beef
Coming to Manu there is no doubt that he too did. not prohibit the slaughter of the cow. On the other hand he made the eating of cow's flesh on certain occasions obligatory.
Why then did the non-Brahmins give up eating beef? There appears to be no apparent reason for this departure on their part. But there must be some reason behind it. The reason I like to suggest is that it was due to their desire to imitate the Brahmins that the non-Brahmins gave up beef-eating. This may be a novel theory but it is not an impossible theory. As the French author, Gabriel Tarde has explained that culture within a society spreads by imitation of the ways and manners of the superior classes by the inferior classes. This imitation is so regular in its flow that its working is as mechanical as the working of a natural law. Gabriel Tarde speaks of the laws of imitation. One of these laws is that the lower classes always imitate the higher classes. This is a matter of such common knowledge that hardly any individual can be found to question its validity.
That the spread of the cow-worship among and cessation of beef-eating by the non-Brahmins has taken place by reason of the habit of the non-Brahmins to imitate the Brahmins who were undoubtedly their superiors is beyond dispute. Of course there was an extensive propaganda in favour of cow-worship by the Brahmins. The Gayatri Purana is a piece of this propaganda. But initially it is the result of the natural law of imitation. This, of course, raises another question: Why did the Brahmins give up beef-eating?
I must admit that I can make no sort of sense out of this. The killing of four legged animals, including cows, was prohibited in Buddhist countries like Japan. There were no Brahmins in Japan but there was Untouchability.
Gabriel Tarde's law of imitation cuts both ways. If the Brahmins practiced animal sacrifice then they could not be the originator of the custom. Rather, they must have adopted it from some class or sect they held superior to themselves. The Sramanic Religions, especially Jainism, are an obvious candidate for this superior class. Even to day we find the adoption of 'Jain-Vegetarianism' - i.e. rejection of root vegetables, tubers, honey, etc- as a method of one-upmanship within Hindu sub-castes.
Brahminical animal sacrifice was a costly affair and was connected to a metaphysical theory such that the sacrificed animal gained the realm of the gods. Poor Brahmins would have the strongest incentive to adopt vegetarianism since they could not afford to host a 'potlatch' animal-sacrifice.
Dr.Ambedkar, however, sees something sinister in the Brahmin espousal of vegetarianism.
'That the object of the Brahmins in giving up beef-eating was to snatch away from the Buddhist Bhikshus the supremacy they had acquired is evidenced by the adoption of vegetarianism by Brahmins. Why did the Brahmins become vegetarian? The answer is that without becoming vegetarian the Brahmins could not have recovered the ground they had lost to their rival namely Buddhism. In this connection it must be remembered that there was one aspect in which Brahmanism suffered in public esteem as compared to Buddhism. That was the practice of animal sacrifice which was the essence of Brahmanism and to which Buddhism was deadly opposed. That in an agricultural population there should be respect for Buddhism and revulsion against Brahmanism which involved slaughter of animals including cows and bullocks is only natural. What could the Brahmins do to recover the lost ground? To go one better than the Buddhist Bhikshus not only to give up meat-eating but to become vegetarians- which they did. That this was the object of the Brahmins in becoming vegetarians can be proved in various ways.'
Why does Dr. Ambedkar think it only natural that there should be 'revulsion in an agricultural population for the slaughter of animals'? The reverse is the case. In Europe, when animals were slaughtered with the onset of winter, it was an occasion of public rejoicing. At least some of the meat was roasted and enjoyed while the remainder was salted and dried and put away for the lean months of winter. Animal sacrifice is generally a joyous occasion. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem, on Festival days, presented an awesome sight as the blood of thousands of kine ran through its stone channels and conduits.
Ambedkar invokes Garbiel Tarde but, blinded by his suspicion and resentment of the Brahmins, he comes up with a conspiracy theory for Brahmin vegetarianism.
Tarde's Laws of imitation, as is increasingly becoming clear from the work of Latour, Deleuze and Actor network Theory, have far greater explanatory and prescriptive power than Dr. Ambedkar allows in his polemical work.
The truth is simpler.
Buddhism was the religion par excellence of mega-power, mega-money, mega-magic and of course, karma-as-caste.
Vegetarianism, Poverty, and Stupidity were and are the best defense against Buddhism. Live well, spend money with a free hand, speak in a cultured fashion and what is the upshot? Various shady monks and nuns will start turning up at your door pretending to be terribly humble while also claiming incredible magical powers.
As Ambedkar notices, everybody in India is untouchable to everybody else. Why? Because a stupid Religion came along saying 'the World is a vale of tears' and everybody has to become a monk, in not in this life, then the next life, because otherwise everybody will burn in Hell.
When Emperor's decide to adopt this sort of crazy and fraudulent Religion, Tarde's Law of Imitation comes into play. Everybody should act like an untouchable to everybody else because the 'fountain of Honor' has been poisoned at source. Social mimesis is now a fool's game. Everyone needs to go into quarantine.
Ambedkar, of course, became a Buddhist and is now a Boddhisattva. That's one up on being a Mahatma. So Gabriel Tarde was right. There is something in Society which corresponds to his Law of imitation. But, Gresham discovered it first- bad money drives out good.