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Scientific, Ethical and Cultural reasons for banning cow slaughter in India

Cow slaughter has always been a contentious topic in India, mainly because of the skewed system of secularism that is peddled in India. Other than religious concerns of Hindus, there are many other reasons why slaughtering of cows is counterproductive. Perhaps the greatest injustice has been the liberal hounding when cow slaughter is spoken again, simply to diss the Hindus, while the entire world seems to be waking up to the scientific and ethical reasons to ban the same.

Scientific Reasons:

A UN report named “Livestock’s Long Shadow” categorically stated :

  • The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.
  • It also leads to huge mismanagement of available land-mass. The total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33% of total arable land globally. In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.
  • In the United States, a staggering 50% of antibiotics produced get used on livestock. In 1998, half of the 22.7 million kg of antibiotics produced in the United States was used on animals (Harrison and Lederberg, 1998). One can only imagine the impact it will have on human health when such meat is consumed.
  • When a substantial portion of the antibiotics or hormones administered to cattle does not get absorbed in the animal but passes from the faecal waste into water sources like rivers and lakes, if not treated properly can have a negative effect on human health.
  • The amount of food diverted to feed livestock is mind-boggling. Some 670 million tonnes of cereals (maize, barley etc) were fed only to livestock in the year 2002, representing a cropped area of around 211 million hectares. About 45 million tonnes of roots/vegetables, 17 million tonnes of pulses, 14 million tonnes of oilseeds (like soybeans etc) was cultivated in 2001 just for this purpose. Is this the best use of food when we have millions of malnourished people with the shortage of food?

As recently as Nov 2017, world scientists signed a ‘Warning to Humanity’ calling for, among other things, drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of meat.

‘Consumers Union’ in the US has concluded that there is a real and growing threat to public health from the overuse of antibiotics animals bred for food. Humans are at risk both due to the potential presence of superbugs in meat and poultry. These superbugs also migrate into the environment, where they can transmit their genetic immunity to antibiotics to other bacteria, including bacteria that make people sick.

Air pollutants generated by animal farms can cause respiratory illness, lung inflammation, and increase vulnerability to respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Ethical Reasons:

Ethically, the treatment meted out to livestock has been horrendous. In many cases, chickens are de-beaked (i.e their beaks are removed or clipped), piglet have their tails cut and teeth removed to prevent them from injuring each other when fighting.

Male calves are taken away from their mothers when they are just a day old and are locked in small crates to keep their meat tender by not having them walk around. They are killed after only a couple of months to keep their meat tender.

Cows which are not able to walk due to injury or ill-health are called ‘downers’ in the US are in some cases have ropes or chains tied around their legs so that they can be dragged off the trucks for slaughter. They are forced through a chute and are stunned to reduce the pain of being cut up. Because the line moves fast in the slaughter-house, there have been many instances where the cow is conscious while each part of its body gets cut off.

Cultural Reasons:

The predominant religion in India is Hinduism. It would naturally have an influence on the traditions and culture of the country. Just like in the US and other western countries, it is frowned upon eating a dog or a horse because of their love and sense of loyalty to these animals, so in India, the traditions of this country should govern the laws.

In the Hindu culture, the cow is treated as a mother. The three forms of the mother are the biological mother, mother earth and the cow mother as per Indian traditions.

Even in our Vedas, the importance of cow has been stated unequivocally –

  • A cow is like a mother for all those who are bachelors until the age of 25 years, a daughter for those who are 26 years old and a sister for those who are 48 years old. – Rigveda
  • Cow brings well-being and purity in the house. She is a source of wealth and prosperity. – Atharvaveda
  • A guru, a teacher, a father, a mother, a brahmana, a cow and a yogi all should never be killed. – Manu-Samhita
  • Cow as an adobe of 33 crore Hindu Deities and hence Cow is considered as sacred in Hindu Dharma – Atharvaveda
  • It is definitely a great sin to kill innocents. Do not kill our cows, horses, and people. – Atharvaveda

There are specific festivals where the cow is worshipped –

  • Govardhan Puja, a day before Diwali.
  • A cow is worshipped on the 3rd day of Pongal
  • A cow is worshipped as goddess Laxmi in Nepal during Diwali
  • Gaijatra in Nepal is dedicated to the cows where a big procession is carried out

The Hindu Gods are shown as protectors of cows – Gorakhnath (another name for God Shiva) is the protector of cows. He is also called Pashupatinath. God Krishna is deeply affectionate towards cows and has been called Govinda for that reason.

An excerpt from Mahatma Gandhi’s views on cows was “The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection. Cow protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution……”

Article 48 of the Constitution of India mandates the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

With so many valid reasons for protecting the cows, it’s utterly abominable that cow slaughter is still permitted in India. It is also tragic, that just the liberals have not only disregarded the cultural reasons of the Hindu majority, but also the scientific and ethical reasons that the world is now waking up to.

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