The Ashram ideal is to do without milk, as it holds that the milk of animals like meat is no food for mankind. For a year and more no milk or ghi was used in the Ashram, but as the health of the children as well as the adults suffered under this regime, first ghi and then milk had to be added to the Ashram dietary. And when this was done, it was clear that we must keep cattle in the Ashram.
Ashram believes in goraksha (cow protection) as a religious duty. But
the word goraksha savours of pride. Man is incompetent to 'protect'
animals, being himself in need of protection from God who is the protector
of all life. The word goraksha was therefore replaced by goseva
(cow service). But as the experiment of doing without milk or ghi and
thus serving the cow without any selfish considerations did not succeed,
cattle were kept in the Ashram. We had buffaloes as well as cows and
bullocks at first, as we had not yet realized that it was our duty to keep
cows and bullocks only to the exclusion of the buffalo.
it became clear day by day that cow service alone at present stood for the
service of all sub-human life. It is the first step beyond which we have not
the resources to go for the time being. Again cow slaughter is very often
the cause of Hindu-Muslim tension. The Ashram believes that it is not the
duty of a Hindu, nor has he the right to take away a Muslim's cow by force.
There is no service to or protection of the cow in trying to save her by
force; on the other hand it only expedites slaughter. Hindus can save the
cow and her progeny only by doing their duty to her and thus making her
slaughter a costly act which no one can afford to do. Hindu society does not
discharge this duty at present. The cow suffers from neglect. The buffalo
gives more and richer milk than the cow, and keeping a buffalo costs less
than keeping a cow. Again if the buffalo brings forth a bull calf, people do
not care what becomes of him because buffalo 'protection' or 'service' is
not a religious duty for them. Hindu society has thus been short-sighted,
cowardly, ignorant and selfish enough to neglect the cow and has installed
the buffalo in her place, injuring both of them in the process. The
buffalo's interest is not served by our keeping her, but is in her freedom.
To keep the buffalo means torturing its bull calf to death. This is not the
case in all the provinces, but where the buffalo bull is useless for
agricultural purposes as in Gujarat for instance, it is doomed to a
On account of these considerations, buffaloes were disposed of and the Ashram
now insists on keeping cows and bullocks only. Improvement of breed,
increasing the quantity and enriching the quality of milk by giving various
feeds, the art of preserving milk and extracting butter from it more easily,
least painful methods of castrating bull calves, — all these things are
attended to. It is in an experimental stage, but the Ashram does believe
that the cow will pay for its keep if she is well treated and all her
products are fully utilized.
Many perhaps are not aware that a man cannot simply afford to keep a cow and
slaughter is inevitable so long as that is the case. Mankind is not so
benevolent that it will die to save the cow or allow it to live on itself as
a parasite. The cattle population at present is so large that if it is well
fed, the human population will not have enough food left for itself. We must
therefore prove the proposition that the cow if well kept is capable of
If this proposition is to be proved, Hindu society must discard some
superstitions masquerading as religion. Hindus do not utilize the bones etc.
of dead cows; they do not care what becomes of cattle when they are dead.
Instead of looking upon the occupation of a tanner as sacred, they think it
unclean. Emaciated cattle are exported to and slaughtered in Australia where
their bones are converted into manure, their flesh into meat extract and
their hides into boots and shoes. The meat extract, the manure and the shoes
are then re-exported to India and used without any compunction.
This stupidity makes for the destruction of the cow, and puts the country to huge
economic losses. This is not religion but the very negation of it. Tanning
has therefore been introduced in the Ashram. None of us is still a skilled
tanner. No tanner from outside who would keep the Ashram rules has been
available. But all the same tanning is an integral part of Ashram industry,
and we have every hope that it will be developed and propagated like
spinning. The cow will cease to be a burden to the country only if dead
cattle are fully utilized. Even then there will not be any profits. Religion
is never opposed to economics, but it is always ranged in opposition to
profits. If the cow is to pay for its keep, dead cattle should not be
allowed to go to waste or to swell the profits of large-scale tanneries.
This cannot be done by force. But Hindu society should keep the cow, treat
her and her progeny well so long as they are alive, cherish them in their
old age, and fully utilize their carcases when they are dead. Thus alone can
the cow be saved, and in saving her we shall perhaps learn how to save the
rest of the sub-human creation. Thanks to our ignorance, laziness and
hatred, the cow today is hastening to her destruction. As for the other
cattle, the less said about them, the better.
The Ashram suggests that all goshalas and panjrapoles should be
organized religiously and scientifically. The rich should have their own
goshalas and insist on using cow's milk and ghi only. Trading in
cow's milk should be looked upon as a sin, and the well-to-do should manage
public goshalas so as to make both ends meet. The cow would then soon
The Ashram at present has a limited object in view: to conduct a model
goshala at the Ashram, to breed good cows and bullocks, to utilize their
carcases fully when they are dead so as to show that cowkeeping is an
economic proposition, to train workers and provide for their employment upon
the completion of their training. This work is going on at present. There
are many difficulties, but we are fully confident of success.