Thursday, June 12, 2008

Letting our Mothers Die

An integral part of life in Varanasi [and in almost all Indian cities] was the presence of stray cows [and Bulls, in Varanasi's case] on the street. I must say that I miss them at times here in LA, when I have to throw away part of a meal that I have not been able to finish, thanks to the huge portions in USA.

Now, as most of you know, Hindus treat the Cow as a sacred animal, many believing that the cow absorbs celestial energy and stores it in its milk, and even its urine and dung. I am sure many protests have been held in India to ban cow slaughter, and indeed, a fatwa was also issued for it by Darul-Uloom.

But there is another killer of the holy bovine Gau Maata in India, and one which is much, much harder to apprehend. It is our own apathy and laziness. The following NPR story shed more light on the threat that plastic bags post to stray cows. In case you did not know, many cows die in India because they ingest whole plastic bags with food in them. Imagine starving, being able to see and smell food in a bag, but not being able to open it. Is that treatment worthy to be given to the mother?!

On the solution side, I remember being told as a kid to not tie tightly the plastic bags which had food in them, so cows could easily shake them open and eat the food. The above NPR post talked about an amazingly convoluted method that the administration came up with. The idea was to make the ultra-thin plastic bags illegal -- so the bags that are used end up being more attractive to the garbage collectors, who pick them up from the garbage piles, emptying them for the cows to eat.

Nice plan, isn't it? The plastic makers make more money per bag sold, the rag pickers make more money per bag thrown, and the consumer foots the bill.

The only problem is regulation. How does one measure if a bag is "thick enough" [20 microns is not the usual resolution of the human eye, you see]? Apparently, the enforcers of this ban were supposed to be equipped with devices to measure bag-thicknes; but alas, due to budgetary constraints, it could not happen. When the NPR reporter suggested that the thicker bags could have a simple image, perhaps a smiling cow, to mark them, the admin guy went "ah, we never thought of that!".

At some level, the above scenario sounds comical -- reminiscent of Yes, Minister even. However, when I think of the end-result -- painful death of the poor stray cows, and the hypocrisy of the so-called followers of the sanatan dharma, my blood boils!

I searched on the website which recently launched a protest against the Love Guru, and was unable to find a campaign to prevent cow-death arising out of plastic bags.

If any of you know of such a campaign, please let me know.
P.S. This post does not reflect my views on cow-slaugher, merely on cow-murder by negligence, perpetrated by its sons and daughters.
P.P.S. In case you didn't click on the link above, read/hear the NPR post -- Very moving.


  1. Well, i would like to bring to notice a slightly related issue which I at least I believe in and think it's important to spread the word

    While we worship the cow, we are almost sure that when we use milk as part of a pooja/religious rituals, we are indirectly killing a calf or shortening the life span of the person

    At a recent function in a temple in the US, I found gallons and gallons of milk being used for a ritual ( not even organic or something)-and I felt that the same guys who are worshipping the cow as mother are doing their part to slaughter it

  2. nice observation ! It never occurred to me before.

    BTW .. u have been tagged :)

  3. Anonymous10:53 PM

    Point noted, but aren't these animal-unfriendly techniques are employed largely by super-industrialised 'Big Agriculture' in the Western world, where the main aim is usually to increase productivity (and therefore profit margins) regardless of the cost/harm incurred ? Is it true of small farmers who constitute the majority of the Indian dairy/agriculture industry ? Wouldn't think so. I also doubt very much that the humble few-cow-owning doodhwalla - who is probably responsible for providing most Indians with their daily milk - treats his animals the way the West treats theirs. And wrt religion, shouldn't the very fact that Hindus worship the cow imply that she be milked in the most respectful and gentle way possible ?

  4. @anon: I agree that cows can be milked in a "humane" way so as not to harm either species. However, the I am not too sure how hormone-free our Indian cows are. From what I know, oxytocin injections are pretty common in Indian dairy.

  5. we have no right of blaming any organization or rather the lack of any organization, only we alone r responsible for this. how many of us actually care about giving some time to our own mother cow, we only have to change ourselves and indian parents need to give a cultural teachings as well rather than just focusing on how to make the best clerk out of their wards, and believe me now parents only want their ward to be the first in class and nothing more than that. there is something wrong in our own attitude

  6. Someone once told me that if the cow is to be treated like a Mother, then we can't possibly be selling it's milk. There's a point. How can one sell their own Mother's milk?