The Holy Cow

The poor humble cow seems to be in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The cow is worshipped by millions of devout Hindus in India. The very sight of a cow first thing in the morning is supposed to confer good fortune.

The mere thought of slaughtering cows or feeding on it is repugnant and alien to Indian culture. But we have to look at the issue calmly from all angles. At a time when planet earth is fighting the grave danger of global warming, consuming meat is not just a religious taboo but also a monumental environmental hazard as innumerable studies have shown. So it is better to pause and think from an environmental angle rather than just focus on religious taboos.

As land is being taken away for cultivating fodder for cattle which will be sold as meat, there are problems that are cropping up in many ways for the rest of the world. There is a huge land crunch and small farms are disappearing in many parts of the world. Fresh water supplies which are already dwindling are going dry as both man and beast compete for the limited supply. In Africa, the cost of maize which is used as livestock feed keeps increasing and it is also the staple diet of many Africans.

Animal carcasses and remains are further polluting the environment and causing environmental degradation. Many diseases are jumping from animals to humans in the modern world, Bird flu, Mad cow disease being a few. Another problem is that these cattle are fed with large doses of antibiotics to keep them disease free and all these end up in the consumer’s stomach. In the US alone 55% of antibiotics manufactured by pharmaceuticals are fed to animals. Just imagine the harm it can do to the health of those who consume the meat produced from these treated animals.

So in the interest of our health, it is best to focus on the practical implications rather than getting carried away by xenophobic hysteria.

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