Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy cow...myth or reality?

I get regular posts on my Facebook wall from some of my Indian FB friends about their anger against cow slaughter, how we need to save cows from getting slaughtered and how it is evil to eat cow meat and so on, basically all these posts say that it's our (all Hindus) duty to save cow because she is a sacred animal in Hindu religion. Eating or selling cow meat (beef) is a big no no in most parts of India, cow is considered as a sacred/holy animal by most of Hindus and killing her is considered as a big sin, above that selling her meat is greater sin and then eating that meat is unforgivable sin. But this should not give anyone an impression to that Indians are vegetarians (plant eaters) or they don't eat any meat or they are very protective about all animals, and believe me many foreigners do get this impression that if you are from India you must be a vegetarian, I still wonder from where and why they get this impression. So the the question to ask here is if many people in India are not against eating animal flesh then why they are so against cow meat? What is so special about this particular animal?

If any country or religion or community is against animal slaughter or using any animal products (as vegans are) then one can understand their opposition for eating animal flesh, but here opposition is not about eating animal flesh but flesh of only a particular animal (cow in case of Hindus and Pig in case of Muslims), the question is what is the logic or rational behind it? I understand that Muslims or some Christians don't eat pork just because it's mentioned in their corresponding holy books (Qu'ran and Bible) not to eat it, so it's a very simple thing, there is absolutely no logic behind this, just follow the instructions, don't ask why, just follow the book, very simple, even if this instruction was given in a book written some several hundreds of year ago (when pig was considered as dirty, filthy animal), just follow it. In this case also people are not against eating pork because they are against animal killing or care about these animals but just because some book (and remember this is not any medical science or diet book) says not to eat it without giving any logical reasons. Then what is the reason for Hindus not to eat cow? Well for Hindus there is no single book which can be called as Hindu religious text, there are many books and some of them even clearly indicate that cow sacrifice was very common practice in those days when these texts were written, so the origin of this belief (sacred cow) is not some particular book but there must be some other factors also.

So for me the question was how cow became holy or sacred in India or Hinduism? I think the main reason why cow attained this holy status was because of agriculture based economy. Cow is very useful animal in agriculture based economy as she can provide milk, cow dunk (used in dried form as fuel, insect repellent), ox/bullocks were used for farming. Cow was a very important animal in economical and social life of any family in agriculture based economy, it was very useful animal and if people kill it just to eat her meat then it would have reduced their number and in turn harmed the economy. It was economically more productive to use them as agriculture and dairy animal rather than killing them for their flesh. But then the problem was, how to convince people to stop their killing just for meat? How to solve this problem? Difficult option was to explain people the importance of cow for welfare of their family and tell them to follow some sustainable lifestyle and where they can strike a balance between number of cows so that their ratio is not adversely affected (lot of economics and complicated stuff which common people don't want to listen). We all know from experience that this strategy is very difficult to implement, we see many species becoming endangered (plants as well as animals) and some even getting extinct because of aggressive hunting or killing by humans for so many reasons (flesh, skin or for any other body parts). The easier option was to declare the thing holy or sacred, this automatically protects that object (animal, land, tree or anything). This practice is still used in India, any land or tree or any thing one wants to protect or occupy, built some temple or mosque or any religious center there and then one can see that people of that religion are willing to sacrifice their life to protect that structure or tree or animal but if one tries convincing people about necessity of having sustainable lifestyle hardly anyone pays any sounds ridiculous but it's the reality..I am sure this will change in future but right now this is the case in most parts of the country.

People who are against cow slaughter or think she is sacred animal equate cow with mother, the reason they give is we drink her milk like we drink our mother's milk as a infant, but they don't give same status to buffalo, goat (these are also animals whose milk humans drink) or to soybean or almonds (vegans and many people with lactose intolerance problem only drink plant derived milk), can they explain why they use this double standard? Why preferential treatment only to cow but not to other animals or plants? I know that they may not like this question but I am curious to know their answer (logical answers, not just a reference to some thousand year book which is no more relevant today).

Some of these people are willing to massacre people who kill cows and all this in the name of saving the holy cow, does this make any sense? What's use of killing poor people who are trying to earn their living by doing their job (I am not talking about the owners of slaughtering houses but people who work there). I used to feel really gross when I used to see people drink cow urine (because they believe it's sacred), I still can't understand the logic behind it. I know the uses of cow dunk but I never saw people eating it, but drinking urine of some animal was totally illogical and foolish act according to me, but people used to do it (may be they still do it, as many still believe that cow is sacred). Book "The myth of holy cow" written by D. N. Jha, where he discussed various aspects related with this issue is already banned in India (as expected, no surprise) and even author was threatened, and any one can guess the reason, people just don't want to read about the other side of the story, it hurts their religious sentiments?? it's a sensitive subject, culture, tradition...regular reasons...opposition to cow slaughter is not at all related with Hinduism, this religion is much more than that but somehow few people are using this issue for their personal and political benefit. If people are so against animal killing then they should request government to ban all meat based products and make a law to enforce this action, but to create a drama using cow slaughter as a religious issue doesn't make any sense to me.

People of that time found this easy solution (declaring them sacred or holy objects) to protect cow as well as some trees (in India specially in villages still some species of trees are not cut just because people believe that they are sacred and cutting them will bring bad luck to them or their village), it was need of that time and I think this trick worked very well and served its purpose. Then the question now is, do we still need this same trick to save cows in India? After so much progress in animal husbandry and science do we have any logical reason to stop people from eating beef or pork? I am not advocating non-vegetarian diet (specially eating of beef) or slaughtering of animals for food here, this post is not in support of any particular form of diet. I am just putting a question, why a meat of only a particular animal (which is legal to sell) is forbidden for people who want to eat it? People who don't want to eat meat should not eat it, no one is forcing them but they should allow others to eat it as long as it's legal, we should learn to respect each others feelings and choices.

People who oppose cow slaughter for whatever reasons put the argument that then people will also demand human meat, will that be OK? This question doesn't have any logic, people say this just for the sake of argument. My point is, if it's legal and allowed by law of that land then people don't have any right to dictate what others should eat, diet is a personal choice like clothing. There is nothing wrong in encouraging vegetarian or non-veg diet by showing their merits and demerits but to ridicule one form of diet for some illogical reasons doesn't make sense to me. Whatever food we eat, it should be a healthy food, according to me it is hippocratic to kill and eat some animals of our own choice (like chicken  goat, sheep, deer, pig, duck, etc.) and force others not eat animals of their choice (pork or beef).

I also don't accept the logic of vegetarian people that their diet doesn't involve killing of living things, so called vegetarian diet just doesn't include animal flesh and doesn't involve animal killing, but all plants are living things and people do kill them to consume them, so these two categories are named according to their origin or source from where food originates and there is nothing pro or anti life in both of them. There is simple rule in nature, every living thing survives at the cost of other living thing, and this is true for everyone including humans. I hope that people around the world realize and acknowledge this fact and learn to respect each others choices, we need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle which is good for the health of our body, our planet and its environment, rest all is secondary.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

1. The Myth of Holy Cow- D. N. Jha (
5. (another example how Dr. Zakir Nayak uses his medical degree to fool people)

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 


  1. Your references speak for themsleves about the value of this blog.

    1. Again thanks a lot for your comment..references in every blog of mine are for further reading, for readers to see and read about both sides of the topic, they might explain some points mentioned in the blog in much more detail. The opinions expressed in the blog are my personal opinions. Thanks for reading.

  2. Interesting read...well a lot of your blogs raise interesting points and questions. Im a Hindu, but I'm borderline atheist/agnostic and I eat beef and every other meat. And because of my personal lifestyle, Ive come across many situations where people try to enforce religion on me and try to convince me that being a vegetarian is the way of the point where it really makes me question whether or not these people really understand the ulterior motive of religion or are they just trying to enforce something because it's the "right" way to live. So, I like how you point out in a few of your blogs including this one..that we need to respect people's choices and the freedom of expression.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comments Anonymous, I am gald that you took the post in right spirit, believe me many people fail to do that. It's our duty to ask question and validate things before accepting them blindly.

      Many of this customs and traditions originated because of need of that time, we need to change them or modify them as time moves on. Dietary habits should not be decided or dictated by religion, they are normally based on region and climate, you can clearly see that. Even if you look at all the religions you can clearly see that they recommend different types of diet based on the place where that particular religion originated.

      Veg or non-veg is personal choice and decision. I am also moving towards vegetarian food but not because of any religion or fear but because it's my personal choice. People are free to believe that their religion is right way to live for THEM but they are terribly wrong if they feel that it is the ONLY right way for EVERYBODY, then it creates the problem and sectarian mindset is born our of this which forces others to follow their own path or brand them sinners.

      To respect others and give them freedom of choice and speech is a sign of progressive society and believe me Hinduism started like that, it's the only religion (or way of life) in which atheism was also included and had equal importance, but things changed and now we see very ugly form of organized religion.

      Thanks a lot for reading and keep on asking questions thats the only hope and way which will help us to change the things.

  3. All living things are not equal.. Suffering is a concept that varies from creature to creature. So don't compare a plant to an animal with a CNS.. Unless you have no compassion in you and you view living things like some object which is how most meat eaters view them.

    1. You are absolutely right, all living things are not equal as per human perspective, our behavior clearly shows this bias and I don't think there is anything seriously wrong in it. This is not about vegetarian or non vegetarian at all, all of us treat animals as inferior living objects which are their for our personal use, just look around and you will realize it. No country hangs any human for killing an animal, take a note, "NO COUNTRY"...most religions are OK with animal sacrifice, so look at our past as well as present and then please comment about compassion and objectification of animals. These terms are conveniently used in arguments to score some brownie points over opposition, so don't fall in that trap and try to look at it objectively.

      Diet is a personal choice just like religion or clothes, people can chose whatever they like from available menu, no need to judge them based on what they eat. This is simple logic which I follow, I don't judge morality of people based on what they eat or wear or what religion they follow. If you like meat I have no issues, you like vegetables I have no problem, what type of meat or vegetables you want to eat is your personal choice, but if you try to force your choice on me then I have a problem.