At the moment, as an animal, the cow might be the most controversial animal in the world. Alleged murders are being carried out in the name of protecting the cow. Cries of human rights violation are being raised in the name of not being allowed to eat the cow.
The situation has reached such a state that whether you are communal or secular depends on whether you say “I love cows” or “I love eating cows”, respectively. Love cows? Shame on you! Go to the communal side. Love eating cows? Welcome to the secular club!
I belong to the “I love cows” camp, so there, no secular club for me, but I’m not going to lose my sleep over it. I love cows not in the sense I love dogs (dogs are adorable and cuddly) but I love cows because firstly, I like to believe I love all animals, and secondly, historically our culture and tradition considers them holy. Though, our historic love and veneration for cows doesn’t get much reaffirmation when you see the sorry state of the emaciated cows munching on garbage or the oxen being tortured to make them pull some cart faster.
Our society is full of contradictions but it doesn’t mean if we want to revere the cow we stop doing it because certain people ill-treat the cow or couldn’t care less whether you eat it or turn it into a carry bag. It would be like repealing all the laws that protect the minorities just because some members of the minority communities misuse these laws. We have to weigh the greater good against aberrations.
Various governments at their various stages of clarity and obfuscation have assured protection for the cow, but just like the Ram temple in Ayodha, in most of the cases the cow is used as an emotive issue to polarise people. If some serious effort is made, it is mostly made by voluntary organisations and private individuals.
But if people really want to save the cows it needs to be an all-out effort. Simply telling people not to eat cows, especially due to religious beliefs, isn’t going to be very fruitful. My suggestion would be, instead of lecturing people or forcing them, conducive conditions for cow-preservation must be created. Here are the 7 things that come to my mind:
1. Target the school curriculum books
In school books, we tell kids to adopt a healthy lifestyle. We put stress on good diet and regular exercise. How about telling the kids the economic and environmental costs the country has to pay for eating meat and the benefits of not eating it? Most of the lifestyle-related ailments have meat eating as the root cause. People who stick to a vegetarian diet suffer less from ailments like heart problems, hypertension, kidney infections, diabetes, obesity, and liver problems.
Essay competitions can be organized on the benefits of keeping cows.
Schools should be encouraged to keep a cow or two and students should be given the responsibility of taking care of them and this activity should give them extra marks.
2. Encourage books and movies on cows
The Americans have zillions of books and movies on animals they love. They have movies on dogs, horses, lions and even dolphins. The Black Beauty is world famous. Why can’t we have a Black Beauty or a Biscuit, for a cow-related book or movie in India?
Munshi Premchand wrote Heera aur Moti -the story of two oxen who loved their owner and wouldn’t part with him. We should have more such stories.
3. Have cow parks in the cities
Have designated city parks where stray cows can go. Residents and kids should be encouraged to visit these parks and feed the cows.
4. Create cow gift shelters
Gifting a cow can be a cumbersome undertaking. There’s a nice park in Delhi where you can dedicate a tree to your loved one’s memory, or gift the tree for a birthday. You can pay the park care takers to take care of the tree and people can visit their tree whenever they want to.
The same concept can be applied on cows. When a cow is gifted, the person who receives the cow doesn’t have to take the animal home. He or she can keep the animal in a shelter. For a monthly fee or a one-time fee the cow can be kept in the shelter and people can visit their cow whenever they want to.
5. Start an “Adopt a Cow Campaign”
It’s like the gift concept, bit in order to take care of a cow there’s no need to wait for someone to gift it to you. One can adopt a stray cow and then that cow can be put in a shelter.
6. Extra tax benefits for people running cow-based dairies
Make people feel that taking care of cows makes financial sense. Tax concessions can be given to people who run cow-based dairies. They should be able to buy or lease land easily and veterinary services should be subsidised.
7. Declare cow the national animal
The tiger has been our national animal for many years. I think if we want to protect the cow, we should declare it the national animal to drive the point across that we are really serious about saving it.
These are a few steps different state governments and private resident organisations and associations can take to save the cow.