Some of these dietary laws are so deeply entrenched that there have even been instances of property developers not selling apartments to meat eaters.

Restrictions on cow slaughter have become politically contentious in India in recent years, as many among the country’s majority Hindu population consider the animal to be sacred.

While Goyal emphasized the new plans are not meant to “alienate any religious, or political preference,” the company has received a huge backlash on social media.

Some users criticized the move as “casteist,” as many Hindus from dominant castes tend to be vegetarian, while many people from marginalized castes are not.

India’s caste system was officially abolished in 1950, but the 2,000-year-old social hierarchy imposed on people by birth still exists in many aspects of life. The caste system categorizes Hindus at birth, defining their place in society, what jobs they can do and who they can marry.

Zomato’s move was also slammed as risky for both meat eaters and delivery staff.

“Unsafe and illogical,” wrote one user on X. “This strengthens an artificial divide between veg-non-veg eaters. Enables … colonies to identify and persecute citizens on basis of food preference.”

Following the outcry, Zomato has rolled back plans to dress riders delivering vegetarian food in green. “All our riders — both our regular fleet, and our fleet for vegetarians, will wear the colour red,” Goyal said on Wednesday.

“This will ensure that our red uniform delivery partners are not incorrectly associated with non-veg food, and blocked by [housing] societies … our riders’ physical safety is of paramount importance to us,” he said.

“We now realise that even some of our customers could get into trouble with their landlords, and that would not be a nice thing if that happened because of us,” he added.

“The science in cows must be explored,” RKA Chairman Vallabhai Kathiria told a news conference Tuesday. “I am a cancer surgeon myself, so I can attest to that.”

A member of the opposition Indian National Congress Party, Priyank Kharge, criticized the move on Twitter.

“These jokers want to explore ‘Cow Science’ during pandemic & don’t give a damn about scientific protocols to be followed by companies while vaccinating the entire population,” said Karge, referring to India’s emergency approval earlier this week of two coronavirus vaccines.

Several of India’s most widely practiced religions include strict dietary laws. For instance, Islamic teachings have guidelines for halal eating, forbidding the consumption of pork and other products. Many Jains avoid not only meat but also root vegetables to avoid destroying the entire plant, which is seen as a form of violence in Jain theology. And restrictions on beef consumption and cow slaughter, linked with the Hindu concept of cows as sacred animals, have become a politically charged topic in India.

The survey finds that about four-in-ten Indian adults say they are vegetarian. And many others restrict meat in their diet in some way, either by abstaining from eating certain meats, by abstaining from eating meat on certain days, or both. Altogether, about eight-in-ten Indian adults limit their meat consumption in some manner, including majorities in all major religious groups. Jains (97%) are the most likely to restrict meat in their diet, while Muslims (67%) and Christians (66%) are the least likely.

Many Hindus and Jains also say they won’t eat food in places where the rules around diet are different from what they personally follow. For example, 51% of Hindus and an even larger share of Jains (72%) say they would never eat food in the home of someone whose religion has different rules about food than theirs. Buddhists (37%), Muslims (33%) and Christians (28%) are much less likely to say they would avoid eating food in these circumstances.

Most Indians are not vegetarians, but majorities do follow at least some restrictions on meat in their diet

The majority of Indians do not describe themselves as vegetarians: When asked if they are vegetarian, 61% of Indians say “no.” (While there are many ways to define “vegetarian” in India, the survey left the definition of vegetarian up to the respondent.)

Nearly four-in-ten adults in India (39%) say they do follow a vegetarian diet, including 44% of Hindus. Most Sikhs (59%) identify as vegetarians, as do an overwhelming majority of Jains (92%). Muslims (8%), Christians (10%) and Buddhists (25%) are less likely to say they are vegetarians.

In addition to those who say they are vegetarian, many other Indians abstain from eating meat in some manner. About four-in-ten Indians (42%) say they are not vegetarian but that they abstain from eating meat on certain days and/orabstain from eating certain meats, including three-in-ten who follow both of these restrictions. Altogether, 81% of Indians limit their meat consumption in some way – either they are vegetarians, or they avoid certain meats and/or avoid meat on certain days.