32. Cow Protection

The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection. Cow protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution. It takes the human being beyond his species. The cow to me means the entire sub-human world. Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Why the cow was selected for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow was in India the best companion. She was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture in the gentle animal. She is mother to millions of Indian mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The ancient seer, whoever he was, began with the cow. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forcible because it is speechless. Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow...

Hindus will be judged not by their tilaks, not by the correct chanting of mantras, not by their pilgrimages, not by their most punctilious observances of caste rule but by their ability to protect the cow.

Young India, 6-10-'21

Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Hers is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother when she dies means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body her flesh, her bones, her intestine, her horns, and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reason for my worshipping the cow.

Harijan, 15-9-'40

Criminal negligence is the only cause of the miserable condition of our cattle. Our pinjrapoles, though they are an answer to our instinct for mercy, are a clumsy demonstration of its execution. Instead of being model dairy-farms and great profitable national institutions, they are merely depots for receiving decrepit cattle. Whilst professing the religion of cow protection, we have enslaved the cow and her progeny, and have become slaves ourselves.

Young India, 6-10-'21

But let me reiterate... the legislative prohibition is the smallest part of any programmed of cow protection... People seem to think that when a law is passed against any evil, it will die without any further effort. There never was any grosser self-deception. Legislation is intended and is effective against an ignorant or a small evil-minded minority; but no legislation which is opposed by an intelligent and organized public opinion, or under cover of religion by a fanatical minority, can ever succeed. The more I study the question of cow protection, the stronger the conviction grows upon me, the protection of the cow and her progeny can be attained, only if there is continuous and sustained constructive effort along the lines suggested by me.

Young India, 7-7-'27

Then how can the cow be saved without having to kill her off when she ceases to give the economic quantity of milk or when she becomes otherwise an uneconomic burden? The answer to the question can be summed up as follows:

1. By the Hindus performing their duty towards the cow and her progeny. If they did so, our cattle would be the pride of India and the world. The contrary is the case today.

2. By learning the science of cattle-breeding. Today there is perfect anarchy in this work.

3. By replacing the present cruel method of castration by the humane method practiced in the West.

4. By thorough reform of the pinjarapoles of India which are today, as a rule, managed ignorantly and without any plan by men who do not know their work.

5. When these primary things are done, it will be found that the Muslims will, of their own accord, recognize the necessity, if only for the sake of their Hindu brethren, of not slaughtering cattle for beef or otherwise.

The reader will observe that behind the foregoing requirement lies one thing and that is Ahimsa. If that supreme thing is realized, everything else becomes easy. Where there is Ahimsa, there is infinite patience, inner calm, discrimination, self-sacrifice and true knowledge. Cow protection is not an easy thing. Much money is wasted in its name. Nevertheless, in the absence of Ahimsa the Hindus have become destroyers instead of saviours of the cow. It is even more difficult than the removal of foreign rule from India.

(Note: The average quantity of milk that the cow in India yields is said to be roughly 2lbs. per day, that of New Zealand 14lbs., of England 15lbs., of Holland 20lbs. The Index figure for health goes up in proportion to the increase in the yield of milk.)

Harijan, 31-8-'47

I am amazed at our partiality for buffalo milk and ghee. Our economics is short-sighted. We look at the immediate gain, but we do not realize that in the last analysis the cow is the more valuable animal. Cow's butter (and ghee) has a naturally yellowish colour which indicates its superiority to buffalo butter (and ghee) in carotene. It has a flavour all its own. Foreign visitor's cow's milk they get there. Buffalo milk and butter are almost unknown in Europe. It is only in India that one finds a prejudice in favour of buffalo milk and ghee. This has spelt all but extinction of the cow, and that is why I say that, unless we put an exclusive emphasis on the cow, she can onto be saved.

Harijan, 8-2-'42