HOLY COWS, SACRED COWS, PLASTIC COWS, BULLS THAT CRY, COWS THAT GRIEVE, COWS FOR SHOES AND LEATHER GOODS, COWS, COWS...
“The next symptom of the age of Kali is the distressed condition of the cow…The cow’s calf is not only beautiful to look at, but also gives satisfaction to the cow, and so she delivers as much milk as possible. But in the Kali-yuga, the calves are separated from the cows as early as possible for purposes which may not be mentioned in these page of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The cow stands with tears in her eyes, the sudra milkman draws milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk, the cow is sent to be slaughtered. These greatly sinful acts are responsible for all the troubles in the present society…”(Srila Prabhupada’s “Protect a Cow” and Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 1, Chapter 17)
Before going any further, I would like to urge the reader to watch the video online called “The Plastic Cows of India” and/ or read the report by the Karuna Society for Animals and Nature called “The Plastic Cow Project”… Those beautiful creatures who give so plentifully of the milk intended for their own babies need our help and FAST!
The plight of the Holy Cow of India…once so revered and protected, is now so distressing from every angle that I simply cannot do justice to the subject in this article. The problem is massive…those apparently ‘healthy’ cows wandering peacefully in the streets in India are in fact often full of plastic bags which they consume in their desperation to find food. Not only do they suffer from excrutiating pain as a result of this, but the milk they produce is tainted with carcinogens from that plastic. Many working cows as well as those whose useful life is over, are let loose each morning to fend for themselves on the streets, to forage for food wherever they can find it. This leads to the phenomenon of plastic cows. The Karuna Society for animals and nature, a charitable organisation based in Puttaparthi, Andrah Pradesh, has performed many operations on cows thus afflicted. In one case, 70 kilos of plastic had to be removed from a cow. While plastic bags are used so abundantly and while there continue to be open landfill sites as there are in India, the problem will not be solved. The sad situation of feeding on plastic not only affects cattle, but also other stray animals such as dogs, cats and others. One elephant was found to have consumed 750 kilos of plastic.
The lot of cows, worldwide, especially in intensive dairy farming systems, is a far from happy one… though some fare better than others depending on who their farmer is. However, the cows dwelling in India seem to be getting it from all sides. Tragically the situation in which they were once venerated and regarded as holy has deteriorated to about as far as it can go. Cow slaughter, although once forbidden, now occurs on a massive scale. Beef export is big business for India and India is the biggest importer of leather. In fact, inspite of exemplary animal welfare laws in India, its treatment of cows is among the cruellest in the world according to a report by PETA. To learn more, one should read their report on leather production. The hideous cruelty and callous abuse that cattle, both young and old, are forced to endure to this end just beggars belief. Driven to slaughter houses in what are called death marches, these cattle, exhausted, weak and possibly injured or dying, are forced to keep moving by having hot chilli peppers rubbed into their eyes and their tails repeatedly broken…this is like breaking a finger. This is just the start of the horrors that await them… just to make handbags, shoes and other luxury leather items.
Outwardly placid, cows are actually very emotional creatures. Tim Sell (Chairman, National Farmers’ Union, United Kingdom) has this to say:
“They are individuals and all have their own characteristics. They are tremendously curious. They have emotional upheavals. When it is a miserable cold day, they will all be miserable, but when it is nice and sunny, you can almost see them smiling. Cows use their body posture and vocal chords to express a whole range of emotions, including contentment, anger, interest and distress. They mourn the death of those they love, even shedding tears over their loss.” Well, he should know!
Cows have best friends and make friends for life…they can bear grudges too for life if another cow or human has mistreated them! They have strong familial bonds and grieve when separated from their loved ones. They like an intellectual challenge and get a kick out of solving problems. When they do this, according to Professor Broom of Cambridge University “their brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up and some even jumped into the air. We called it their Eureka moment.”
They like music. They are intelligent, some more so than others of course. Young calves, like any other children, love to play. Author of “The Secret Lives of Cows”, Rosamund Young, an organic dairy farmer in the UK with a difference, has filmed her young calves frolicking, chasing each other and joyfully playing just like any other young animals and what a joyous, heart-warming sight it is. This is something that many of these young ones never live to do. In the intensive farming methods now used all over the world, the female calves are torn away from their mothers at around 24 – 48 hours old, although a little later with organic farming methods. The male calves are either shot at birth or sent to cruel veal crates. Cows are maternal and truly grieve when their babies are snatched away from them. While it suits farmers and others to dismiss their distress as insignificant, Dr Temple Grandin, a world renowned expert in matters relating to cattle and someone who is able to empathise emotionally with them, totally disagrees. Mother cows frantically call for their babies, sometimes for weeks, even running after the lorries that carry away their calves. One Australian observed, after hearing the pitiful bellowing of cows and calves on separation: “The sound was an utterly overwhelming wall of despair, that’s what it was.” According to John Avizienius of the RSPCA in Britain, one cow he came across was desperately upset by the removal of her calf for at least six weeks. He says, “When the calf was removed, she was in acute grief; she stood outside the pen where she had last seen her calf and bellowed for her offspring for hours. She would only move when forced to do so. Even after six weeks, the mother would gaze at the pen where she last saw her calf…it was almost as if her spirit had been broken…” (From“Cows are Cool” by Dr Sahadeva Dasa). Think about it…how must a maternal being feel to have her baby abducted from her repeatedly while she is kept pregnant and lactating her whole life long just to produce milk for another species? Can it possibly be fair? And think too that approximately 250 million dairy cows worldwide go through this on a regular basis.
When a cow called Blackie was sold at a market in England and her young calf sold to another farmer, she was very distressed and kept calling for her baby. She could not settle peacefully in the new farm and that night, she escaped. She jumped over the gate and walked 6 miles across fields and through hedgerows to find her. She did not know the countryside through which she travelled – it was all strange to her but somehow and by some miracle, she finally found her calf in a barn on another farm 6 miles away – a farm she had never been to before. She got into the barn and the next morning the farmer found the two of them snuggled up together. The farmer was amazed and could not understand how she had found her way there. Apparently his heart melted and he bought Blackie so that she and her baby could be together…who knows for how long though. (From “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home” by Dr Rupert Sheldrake.
On the matter of Cows that Cry… I refer the reader to an earlier article on this website, “Why be Vegetarian”, where an amazingly poignant and true story is told of a cow that shed tears when about to be slaughtered in an Australian prison.
Now on to the subject of bulls. Most of us are terrified of bulls. Yet even they can grieve as the following story shows: “German farmer Alfred Grunmeyer was known for treating his animals like pets. When he died, one of his animals, a bull named Barnaby, began to pine. To everyone’s amazement, he got out of his field, found his way to the cemetery a mile away, jumped the wall, found his owner’s grave and stayed by it for two days, resisting attempts to coax him away…” (Farm Animal Voice, Spring 2009, Compassion In World Farming, UK).
A story reported in early 2012 in Weekly World News, Hong Kong and translated from the original Chinese about a Crying Bull may seem hard to believe! A bull was being lead to slaughter at a packaging factory for meat products. When he was near the front door of the slaughter house, he suddenly stopped, knelt down on his two front legs and tears started running down the side of his face. He ‘knew’ what awaited him. Mr. Shiu, a butcher, recalled, "When I saw this kind of so-called "stupid" animal sobbing and with his eyes in fear and sorrow, I started trembling." "I called the rest over to see. They were just as surprised. We kept pushing the bull forward, but he just didn't want to move and sat there crying.” Billy Fong, owner of the packaging factory said, "People thought animals didn't cry like human beings. However that bull really sobbed like a baby." The workers at the slaughterhouse were so touched that they too started to cry, unable to believe their eyes. No one felt like killing the bull… what to do with him? They decided to raise the funds to buy him and send him to a temple where he would be looked after by Buddhist nuns for the rest of his life. Once this decision had been made, an extraordinary thing happened. A worker said, "When we promised this bull that we will not kill him, he started moving and followed us." Mr. Shiu said "Believe it or not? This is real although it sounds unbelievable."
In the western world anyway, so much milk is wasted. I have personally witnessed this myself in many workplaces… milk blithely thrown away by the litre, often because of so-called Health and Safety regulations. This is particularly saddening when one considers what the poor cows and their babies go through in order to provide milk for unthinking and greedy humankind. In intensive farming, many suffer badly from mastitis most of the time, a painful condition that can take years to heal and laminitis, another very painful condition of the hooves causing lameness…the result of carrying an unnaturally heavy burden of milk. According to vets, laminitis is as painful as having one’s fingers crushed in a door and then stamped on. Their natural lifespan of around 20 years is cut short to around five in modern dairy farming. Organically farmed cows, where animal welfare is a high priority, fare much better in certain ways and recently I visited an exemplary little farm on which both cows and calves were clearly very well cared for and well loved. And what beautiful, gentle creatures they were. However, their eventual fate is the same.
Another more humane, compassionate form of dairy farming exists. Such farms are run along ancient Vedic lines in which no calf or cow or bull is ever slaughtered; the milk is shared equally between calf and humans and the calf is not separated from its mother until it is weaned naturally. The animals are cherished and looked after lovingly until they die at the end of their natural lifespan. Such farms are non-profit making but this is an ideal well worth aspiring to and one such farm, owned by the Hare Krishna Organisation, can be found at Bhaktivedanta Manor near Watford, UK.
“The last of the jagnas is the BHUUTHAJNA – Steps to Comfort and Keep happy the animal collaborators and companions one has around him – bullocks, cows, goats, horses, which help you by their toil, and dogs, cats and other pets which make your home pleasant and full of joy. You should not keep them hungry or overwork them. If any animals depending on you for love and care sheds one tear in your home or farm, remember you will suffer greatly therefore.” (Sathya Sai Baba: Sathya Sai speaks Volume IX)
(Article written by Mercini Sherratt for Vedanta Empire's charity incentive)
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