The recent incidents of killings by cow vigilantes show that the concept of cow protection has been taken to loony heights by some zealots.
The veneration of the bovine by Hindus has been a subject of ridicule by westernised Indians. In fact, the Hindi heartland of India is rather disparagingly referred to as the “cow belt”.
Hindus revere not only the cow but also the banyan tree, the Ganga and a host of other natural objects. The Isha Upanishad states that after God created the world, he chose to stay within his creation. Hence all creatures are sacred to Hindus. The cow is considered sacred by Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs also, mainly because it produces milk, manure and draught animals.
Cuba had proscribed cow slaughter to increase milk production and give agriculture a boost. Carrying beef in the communist nation invites worse consequences than carrying cocaine. Anyone caught killing cows or carrying beef has to spend four to 10 years in jail. An owner of a cow can only milk it, not slaughter it. To buy or sell a cow, one requires permission.
Since the time of the Young Bengal movement (started during the Bengal Renaissance by Henry Vivian Derozio), westernised Hindus have a proclivity to consume beef to prove that they are modern and sufficiently westernised. The trend continues.
However, wanton vigilantism will only damage the cause of cow protection instead of advancing it. A more pragmatic approach can be found from the annals of the nabobs of Lucknow.
The cuisine of the nabobs included a delectable array of meat dishes. To accommodate the concerns of Hindus, the nabobs moved from cow meat to buffalo meat and mutton. The rich consumed mutton, whereas the poor ate buffalo meat. Nahari, the standard breakfast of Lucknow, was made with buffalo meat during the days of nabobs.
Cow protection can start by including in the pedagogic material of students the importance of the cow.
A movement similar to the one to save the tiger can be started to generate interest among the public about cow protection. Muslim and Christian brethren must be slowly encouraged to move on from cow meat and include more of buffalo and goat meat in their daily diet.
India is one of the world’s largest exporters of buffalo meat.
The world over, domestic livestock is identified with an ear tag. Ear tags using radio frequency identification device (RFID) technology are referred to as electronic ear tags and can be used for electronic monitoring of livestock. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) of Australia regulations require that all cattle be fitted with an RFID device. Movement of livestock from a given property must be reported to the NLIS. A similar system can be introduced in India. This will stop cattle smuggling, especially to Bangladesh, and enable the government to have a realtime headcount of cattle in India.
The cow protection movement in India needs more than the enactment of law and vigilantism to be successful.