Review of “India’s Sacred Cow” by Marvin Harris
The recognition of cows in India is quite a big cultural difference especially when you compare a cow in the United States to a cow in India. Obviously, judging by the large beef section in our supermarkets, we don’t view the cow as those in India do.
We can argue that the cow is a source of nourishment and having too many cows would just be like having stacks of money walking around for no reason. Although I personally do love myself a good steak, the way India views their cows is a beautiful thing. I believe it helps their environment, provides ample energy without worrying about too many horrible toxins getting into the atmosphere and overall doesn’t seem to be doing much harm.
Americans (And I’m using Americans because I personally feel like we are gluttons and take our food sources for granted) would argue that the cows are meant to be eaten and it’s a great way of gaining profit. We always tend to think of how we can take something and make money off of it without really thinking about other factors. If India were to gather their cows and start a large business I’m sure they would do well but at what future cost?
After a few years India’s “free roaming” cow population will begin to diminish and they will have to start worrying about efficiently reproducing cows. They will have to worry about keeping their cows healthy so that no diseases spread to the meat. Large facilities will have to be built for slaughter, packaging and shipping of the meat. This all costs money in the long and short run.
It’s no wonder India see’s these animals as “sacred mothers” and it’s a beautiful thing to me to be able to know that there are people out in this world who care about something so deeply that an entire country is behind these cows. A cow can provide much nourishment through milk and it doesn’t need to be killed to stay within the circle of life.
I have an Arabic friend that said when he was younger his mother used to force him to drink milk even though he didn’t like it at all (much like my mom would force me to eat veggies) After reading this article and doing a bit more research online about the topic I see why he was always forced to drink this milk. The milk is the sacred nourishment that the cow provides and it is mostly for this reason that they are not killed.
The cows also provide great sources of cooking energy and saves tons of money by using manure rather than oil. The burn off products of manure are much more environmentally friendly than the oils we use and there is obviously a large abundance of manure so the cost is slim to none.
The cow gives the Indian people something to believe in. It’s a unifying factor throughout India due to the fact that no matter what the individual does with their lives, the cow is always seen to them as a sacred animal. There are laws protecting the cows from anyone who wishes to harm or slaughter any cow in India. I’m sure most of the population of India doesn’t mind this law being in effect especially because it is also a part of their religion.
The tradeoff between the energy they provide, nourishment and something to believe in, I believe, makes the cow such a great asset to the Indian culture and society. They deserve their place and protection amongst the population of India.
Thoughts © Maria Campagna