Long read in relation to public health and gender/sexual mores, Katherine Mayo's Mother India (1927) has rarely been viewed from an animal studies perspective. This article proposes that the animal, tethered to the woman question and to the figure of the Muslim, is integral to the book's imperialist apologetics. Investigations of physical cruelty to women and to animals build Mayo's case against Hindu nationalists' bid for self-rule. Highlighting cruelty alongside the question of dietary choice, Mayo interrogates the self-representation of the Hindu vegetarian as nonviolent, rewriting him instead as rapacious carnivore in every sense but the literal. Mobilized in different contexts and modes, the abused animal becomes part of Mayo's arsenal of shaming rhetoric, as does the figure of the “internationalist” Muslim who is imagined as bulwark against the Hindu vegetarian and as dysgenic threat and “world-menace.” Mother India's political-theological engagement with “the Muslim” as the iconoclastic meat eater pits him against the unfit, diabetic Hindu in a fantasy of carnivory and carnage that enacts a wished-for solution to the problem of defending empire.

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