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Why Doesn’t ‘Cow Protectionism’ Extend To Dairy Farms?

Answer: Because it was never about the cows, or even animal rights.

24/07/2017 9:43 AM IST | Updated 24/07/2017 12:29 PM IST
Cathal McNaughton / Reuters

The "inspiration" for prejudice and victimisation can come from many sources, including religion, culture, politics, and paradoxically, "animal rights". The latter of these, when fully realised, leads to language that considers any taxonomy of animals as "specie-ist". It does not recognise the suffering or killing of a cow as being any more worthy of our consideration than a chicken, fish or even a human. How is it, then, that in the name of gau raksha or cow protection, gangs are ready to take the law into their own hands? How is it that they abuse and kill those who consume beef or transport cows—legally or illegally (depending on the context)—rather than utilising the political system to call for proper implementation and strengthening of laws, so that their demands are met? After all, it is the present government which seems to, in part, signal support for the "cow protection" principles behind these attacks, while being critical of the attacks themselves.

Methods [of impregnating cows] include leaving the cow in an enclosed space with a mating bull, with no opportunity to escape. How do the milk-drinking cow lovers feel about these invasions foisted on their "mother cow?"

It is not automatic that belief in the sacredness of an animal will result in support for or actual violence. But in this instance, it is a toxic mix of religious fundamentalism, identity politics and the claim of animal rights which fuels this phenomenon. The question which remains unasked, however, is why the staunchest of cow lovers still wear leather, and those who do avoid leather, are still avid consumers of dairy. There is no cover-up, no collusion between biologists and the dairy industry, that cows must be pregnant to produce milk—often leading to artificial insemination of cows. India's National Dairy Plan aims to use artificial insemination on at least 35% of all fertile animals by the end of 2017 against their will. Other methods include leaving the cow in an enclosed space with a mating bull, with no opportunity to escape. How do the milk-drinking cow lovers feel about these invasions foisted on their "mother cow?" Post birth, male calves are usually sent to slaughter—the motherly status ascribed to the cow seems to be irrelevant if it kills her male babies, all in the name of making a glass of milk more affordable.

True love for the cow would mean letting it be free to mate as it pleases, letting its offspring drink its milk as and when it pleases.

It is then not a leap of faith to understand that this concern for cows is rooted in wilful ignorance and a false sense of outrage. It is simply an excuse to persecute minorities in the context of an increasingly anti-globalisation, identity-politics-driven world. True love for the cow would mean letting it be free to mate as it pleases, letting its offspring drink its milk as and when it pleases. Interference in this process excludes one from being a true devotee of the cow. But perhaps this devotion is a problem in the first place: if humans are superior, followed by the cow and then other animals, it is not difficult to understand how this taxonomy could remove some humans and re-categorise them with the group of animals less worthy to have their life protected, simply because they are not sacred (chickens, for example). If devotion for the cow was sincere, then it might take into consideration all the ways in which cows are tortured—not just when the torture (read: slaughter) is carried out by certain communities.

The view that only the cow is a sacred animal is a view which implies a devaluing of the life of a chicken or dog. Sentience and a central nervous system is a shared trait among these "devalued" and "sacred" animals—this is the only objective means through which to establish a taxonomy in considering our treatment of human and non-human animals. Recognising that humans share these traits—along with the trait of empathy—how can we then proceed to devalue any human or animal in the name of an imagined taxonomy of superiority and inferiority? It is now well established by respected international bodies such as the American Dietetic Association that one can obtain all adequate nutrition on a balanced, completely plant-based diet, even excluding dairy products. With this being the case, on what grounds can we justify this cycle of violence to human and non-human animals?

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