Thursday, 29 October 2015

Hindus and their Bond with the Cow

      “Don’t kill a cow or eat its meat. This is India” say many Hindu Indians to all around.  A group of persons reply: “Dietry habits are a part of our freedom.  Have tolerance, don’t impose your religious beliefs and let not government ban slaughtering of cows”.  Newspapers and television channels continue the debate and views on this issue chiefly reflect one’s religious beliefs.  What then are other key factors here?

     First, some statistics from India’s 2011 census.  Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, Muslims 14.2% and Christians 2.3%.  Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are each in lesser numbers than Christians.

      You know that among Indians, Hindus consider the cow sacred and worship it in some way. They abhor killing of that animal or eating its meat, whoever does it.  Non-vegetarians among Hindus would also feel that way, as vegetarians do.  Muslims and Christians have no taboo with cow’s meat, and a tiny minority of Hindus also consume it by deliberate choice. Jains believe in not harming any living being or eating flesh of any variety.  As for Sikhs and Buddhists, a very large part of them would stay away from consuming cow’s meat, by their own preference and to respect dominant Hindu sentiments.

      Take a glimpse of a foreign scenario, with regard to dogs.  Americans love pets, as the world knows.  Reports say that all 50 states in the US have banned the sale of dog meat to the general public and its use in public restaurants.  According to the Humane Society, six of them – Virginia, California, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, and Michigan –  go further, specifically  prohibiting the consumption of dogs and cats, i.e., even by cooking their meat for use within the home (see  Wikipedia reveals that dog meat is considered taboo in Britain and France, has been prohibited in Germany and that it is not a feature of modern Japanese culture “because Japanese people believe that certain dogs have special powers in their religion of Shintoism and Buddhism” and that “in Japanese shrines certain animals are worshipped, such as dogs as it is believed they will give people a good luck charm”. 

      So you find a country not eating dog’s meat for religious reasons and some other countries abstaining from it for the love of the dog, one or two backing up with strict legal measures too.  Even in the hugely freedom-loving United States, disallowing the killing of dogs for their meat is not considered as violating individual freedom.

      If US dogs can win protection against destruction for meat, weathering arguments of “my freedom lost” or “religious intolerance”, Indian cows may surely butt aside similar arguments and have longer lives.

        It looks a good majority of Muslims and Christians in India, who know that butchering a cow or eating its meat offends the sensibilities of vast numbers of Hindus, would be inclined not to do such acts – to give comfort to the Hindu majority who have been inhabiting India since centuries before other religions sprouted here – and so they peacefully accept legal bans on slaughter of cows that are in place in 21 out of 28 states and in a few union territories.  In earlier periods, Mughal emperors Babur, Akbar, Jahangir, Ahmad Shah and the last of them Bahadur Shah Zafar are known to have banned slaughter of cows in their regimes in India.  So did kings Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan who ruled from Mysore.  Maharaja Ranjt Singh, the founder of the Sikh empire in Punjab, had also prohibited cow slaughter which remained a capital offence during the Sikh reign.

       In the present day, persons of non-American origin living in the US, who could be used to dog meat, respect the American ban on that food rather than protest the law on grounds of individual freedom.

        In India, it is mainly some groups of Hindu intellectuals who claim that killing a cow or eating its meat is a matter of one’s freedom and that it should be freely allowed or that banning such acts is religious intolerance – giving a false impression to many lay persons that most Indian Muslims and Christians may have a stubborn clash of ideas with Hindus on this issue.  

      Some of those Hindu intellectuals also argue that cow’s meat was consumed by all in India during Vedic period and till Buddhism began spreading in India, to stress that Hindus need not specially protect the cow’s life today.  But I think their views are insensitive and against ground realities. 

       Even assuming cow’s meat was in the diet of Hindus of ancient India – about 2,000 to 4000 years ago - for several centuries past till now Hindus have been saying no to that food for religious reasons, which is enough to settle our issues.  And surely, history cannot be rolled back for 2000 years – not even for 200 years, as we know, for most things in life – to urge today’s Hindus to follow the diet habits of their forefathers of such hoary past.  Likewise, Indian history cannot also be unwound for a shorter length of around 1000 years for another object – that is, though Hindus of that period were converted to another religion, for that reason all their living descendants of today cannot be expected to return to the Hindu fold.  

        To Indians who still ask for cow’s meat to be allowed freely in this country, here is a question. If they were living as a religious minority of around 15% in a huge Muslim majority nation, would they reject the religious beliefs of that land and ask for liberty to eat pork which is taboo for Muslims, arguing that local Muslims could abstain from pork but others should be free to consume that meat? They would be wrong if they answer yes.

      But the issue has another dimension, and India has more sad stories about its cows. Some humans, some animals and some natural resources are to be worshiped or treated sacrosanct by Hindus – such as one’s mother (“matru devo bhava”, means “revere your mother as God”), the cow and the river Ganges.  But today they are frequently or grossly disrespected, neglected or ill-treated and defiled on our land.  Among them the cow, in most cases, is not properly fed by its owner, has no shelter, and is let loose on the streets to eat rubbish along with plastic bags containing scraps of food which damage its stomach and shorten its life.  It is also given harmful injections to induce an abnormal high yield of milk. Keeping in place a ban on cow slaughter is right.  But saying that the animal is sacred to us and yet doing all those things to the poor cow would be a a paap or sin, isn’t it?

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2015


  1. To a great extent I agree, but then it needs a debate among our own Hindus!?!?!?

  2. Very well articulated and written without bias. May be worth being published in a newspaper for wider audience?

  3. You are absolutely right. I Only wish that reference to I'll treatment of cows could have been reserved for another blog, as it may dilute our main purpose, viz., exposing the hypocrisy of "Sickularists". Very good article however. Regards. Prof N. Ramanathan

  4. Very nice article. Protecting cows also will improve the village economy. The dung can provide Bio Gas, organic fertilizers,could help in producing vermicompost, reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides etc.
    I suppose the ban is for Cows only and not for buffaloes.

  5. Love for an animal- its relation to the animal's meat consumption by people: What an amazing argument! free of all stale religious and progressive arguments...! Polished one can go to The Hindu.

  6. Dear sir,
    You went great lengths to establish your feelings. I have some comments:
    1)We are a nation where forced insemination, male infanticide, life-long bondage and curtailment of basic instincts, including maternal instincts of a certain mother-like animal are totally acceptable but its consumption as food is absolutely not. Should we stop cow milk as well?
    2) what about Indonesia, country with largest Muslim population? Pork is not banned there. I don't want to talk about middle East as those are not democratic nations.
    3) in Europe and usa, beef is consumed on daily basis. Dog is not (even before the ban). It's about a regular food and not a special food. Can not compare dog and cow.
    4) Hindu shastra also idolised fish(matsya avatar) and pork (baraha). Shastras clearly mention their Sacredness. Those should also be banned?
    5) most importantly, it's not about majority in a democratically secular country. It's the decision taken by elected members. There is a difference. Even you can constitute the majority of one. Otherwise, majority wanted dowry to be there. But, government said no. If majority was the decisive factor, then would have still be there. Is it not?
    6) I don't want to go into details of what Vedas say about beef eating.
    7) Hindus call themselves as the most open wisest religion of all. Is this the most generous way to handle the issue?

    1. 1) One abhorrent activity does not entitle us to commit another abhorrent activity. Excretion of milk is not injurious to cow. Further, traditionalists consume cow's milk only after the calves have had their feed.
      2) Indonesia's position is unclear. In the year 2014, the Indonesian authorities conducted detailed search and seize operations when there were rumours that Cadbury's chocolates contained the dna of pigs.
      3) Distinction between regular and special food is a red-herring.
      4)Article 48 of our Constitution mandates prohibition of cow slaughter. Avoidance of beef is not merely a religious sentiment, it is also a legal desideratum. Consumption of what is sacred is not prohibited per se. Basil leaf (tulsi) is held in high esteem and revered. Yet, it is used in ayurvedic medicine. In fact, Hindus hold that all plants are holy. This does not mean we should avoid consuming vegetables.
      5) Our Constitution says no to cow slaughter and hence to beef.
      6) Vedas recognise slaughter of cows as a grievous sin.
      7) Whether Hindus are wise or not, they believe in kindness to all lives. It is not unwise to avoid beef.

  7. I agree with your views. Article 48 of our Constitution stresses the significance of respect for cows." Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry: The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle". Only a depraved mind will plead for the right to eat beef.

  8. Nice and well articulated thoughts. This issue should definitely not be used to brand the government and Hindus as intolerant.

  9. Sir. Article 48 of the Constitution obliges the State to protect cows.

    48. Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry.—The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

  10. The issue is that this cow slaughter issue is highlighted because BJP is in rule now . this issue cannot and should not be used as benchmark to judge the government and hindus .

    1. please tell me some-other bench mark VEERA. FOR EX;appointment of chauhan to FTII/sacking of Makesh from Nehru museum,appointment of Smiriti as HRD minister/ the list goes on & on

  11. well, at-last, cow has come !. 1. Note that there is no " hindu religion" as such. Law itself cud not define the word hindu; it says hindu is one who is not muslim,christian etc,....There is no specific hindu text/ scripture or what ever name u giv it like bible . An amalgam of people not belonging to certain other religion is known as 'hindu', right?. 2. SO, a non-religion posing as religion; having no basic text cannot say this is the religious rule and other people sud agree to it.3. Please note 'vedas' are different. It is not what now popularly interpreted. Of-course no one of us knows sanskrit, so read "The Rig Veda byRalph T.H. Griffith. You will find different thing in that.4. IF the STUPID AMERICANS BAN DOG MEAT OR " Mughal emperors Babur, Akbar, Jahangir, Ahmad Shah and the last of them Bahadur Shah Zafarbanned banned slaughter of cows" WHY SUD INDIA now in 21st century FOLLOW SUIT IN CASE OF COW OR CROW??. 5. 50% of Indians are below POVERTY LINE.DO SOMETHING TO PREVENT SLAUGHTER OF THEM , THEN WE LL FOCUA ON COW CROW COCKROACH AND ALL.

  12. Nobody is crazy about beef. Compared to mutton, beef is not a delicacy.
    This sentiment about cow is understandable. But we need to obtain the view of the cow in the matter. Firstly, does the divine cow want to be tied up all its life in some backyard, existing only to give milk and gobar to its benefactors?
    Given a choice, the cow would like to wander off into a forest and live a life of its own. But no. It has to be domesticated to satisfy the human need. That is straightaway a text book case of exploitation. Can the vegetarian, cow-loving, kind-hearted citizen of India forego his daily degree coffee, the main component of which is the frothing milk from a cow which has been artificially inseminated and tied up all its life only upto its milk yielding age. How does the vegetarian presume that the cow WANTS to give its milk to humans? No earthly reason. Will a human give milk to a calf ? Unheard of. The first culprit in the exploitation of the cow is the nice human being who drinks its milk. No adult animal on the face of the earth drinks milk. Logically, you would think that this sweet-natured milk loving, kind-hearted vegetarian would look after the cow till its natural death. Touch your heart, my friends.. In India, we have trouble looking after our aged parents. What chance does an aged cow have in our midst? This is where our hypocrisy gets exposed. When a cow goes DRY (after seven or eight forced pregnancies inflicted on it just to go on yielding milk), this kind, divine, cow-loving vegetarian SELLS the cow off to a third party. Takes money for an animal held divine till the other day.
    His sacred cow goes to the butchers because the cow-loving vegetarian has sold it off and he also knows very well where it is headed. The dreaded Muslim butcher is last in the chain of exploiters. He would be jobless but for the kind-hearted vegetarians who have sold their cows to him. Isn't this a silent conspiracy?
    I urge our vegetarian friends to look at their feet at the fine leather shoes they wear to office. Fine leather comes from cows. Please look at your belts, your leather wallets, your leather handbags.. The divine music coming off the mridangam and tabla comes from leather. By paying for these goods, the cow-lovers are DIRECTLY FINANCING COW SLAUGHTER. The entire leather industry depends on the crores of Indian cow-lovers who consume leather. Beef is just a final product. Leather is costlier.
    But do you think, just because I have pointed this out, suddenly the vegetarians will stop paying good money for leather products? Sorry. This is where suddenly they go silent; pretend they haven't read this piece; ignore this truth, brush it under the carpet, act as if they are too busy to have read this piece.
    It is also another story that the SILK SAREES our pious ladies wear comes from boiling alive thousands and thousands of silk worms. Do we have to pretend that we don't know this fact? Are we going to discard silk from tomorrow? Are you joking?
    Let us understand a simple fact: This beef issue is political; a sudden political assertion of a sub-continent that hasn't had a native aristocracy for around 800 years. And today, with a strident right-wing party in power, the political climate for religious triumphalism is ideal. It is good for our collective psyche, our self-esteem. The attitude is 'let us show them' !

    1. I do agree with all you views.Let me also add that we do tend to blow up issues to ridiculous heights. We are not ready to roll back history to 2000 years but we will roll it back to what matters now.
      I recently watched a documentary made by the Sai Baba Trust. It runs a cow ghoshala. the vet doctor there was saying that each and every single cow they got off the streets, which were abandoned had atleast 6kgs of plastic in its stomach !! This causes a lot of agony to theses cows.And this docu was done a couple of years back.
      In another TV debate, a VHP guy was gloating that they had set up over a 1000 ghosalas around the country to look after the abandoned cows. He was asked how many such facilities did they set up for the poor abandoned children - and he was left gurgling away some silly rubbish !!
      That then sums up our foolish priorities.