In last three editions, I wrote on the current situation about cow vigilantes whereas as in today’s article I will show you how different religions have different faith towards cows and other animals. One section acknowledges that the Vedas do mention sacrifice, but not killing the animal. The proponents of vegetarianism state that Vedic teachings explicitly teach against killing, its verses can be interpreted in many ways, that the correct interpretation is of the sacrifice as the interiorized spiritual sacrifice, one where it is an “offering of truth (satya) and self-restraint (damah)”, with the proper sacrifice being one “with reverence as the sacrificial meal and Veda study as the herbal juices”. The sections that appeal for vegetarianism, including abstention from cow slaughter, state that life forms exist in different levels of development. Some life forms have more developed sensory organs, that non-violence towards fellow man and animals that experience pain and suffering is an appropriate ethical value. It states that one’s guiding principle should be conscientious atmaupamya (literally, “to-respect-others-as-oneself”).
Jainism is against violence to all living beings, including cattle. According to the Jaina sutras, humans must avoid all killing and slaughter because all living beings are fond of life, they suffer, they feel pain, they like to live and long to live. All living beings should help each other live and prosper peacefully, according to Jainism, not kill and slaughter each other. In the Jain tradition, neither monks nor laypersons should cause others or allow others to work in a slaughterhouse. Jains have led a historic campaign to ban the slaughter of cows and all other animals, particularly during their annual festival of Paryushana (also called Daslakshana by Digambara).
The texts of Buddhism state ahimsa to be one of five ethical precepts, which requires a practicing Buddhist to “refrain from killing living beings.” Slaughtering cow has been a taboo with some texts suggest that taking care of a cow is a means of taking care of “all living beings”. Cattle is seen as a form of reborn human beings in the endless rebirth cycles in samsara, protecting animal life and being kind to cattle and other animals is good karma.
Amritdhari Sikhs, or those baptized with the Amrit, have been strict vegetarians, abstaining from all eggs and meat, including cattle meat.
According to the verses of the Quran, such as 16:5–8 and 23:21–23, God created cattle to benefit man and recommends Muslims to eat cattle meat, but forbids pork. Chapter two (The Cow) of Quran permit cow slaughter with certain restrictions such as verse 2.68 states “a cow neither with calf nor immature; (she is) between the two conditions”, “cow has never tilled a land or watered the field” (verse 2.71), “cow should be bright yellow in colour. Muslims sacrifice cows during the Bakr-Id festival. Though, goat slaughter is an available alternative for the Islamic festival, according to Peter van der Veer, Muslims have considered it “imperative not to bow down to Hindu encroachments on their ‘ancient’ right to sacrifice cows on Bakr-Id”.
Cow protection has triggered riots and vigilantism ever since the 19th-century. According to Mark Doyle, the first cow protection societies on the Indian subcontinent were started by Kukas of Sikhism. In 1871, states Peter van der Veer, Sikhs killed Muslim butchers of cows in Amritsar and Ludhiana, and viewed cow protection as a “sign of the moral quality of the state”. According to Barbara Metcalf and Thomas Metcalf, Sikhs were agitating for the well-being of cows in the 1860s, and their ideas spread to Hindu reform movements.
The cow protection societies petitioned that the cows are essential economic wealth because “these animals furnish bullocks for agriculture, manure for enriching the soil, and offer milk to drink and feed the owner. Further, these societies stated that cow slaughter be banned in British India for public health and to prevent further famines and reduce price inflation in agriculture produce, and that such a policy would benefit Christians, Hindus and Muslims simultaneously. By the late 1880s, bands of cow protection activists would seize cows on their way to slaughterhouses and cattle fairs and take them to cow shelters. During the religious riots of 1890s, those who slaughtered cows and eat beef were denounced in public meetings.
The self-appointed gau-rakshaks (cow protectors) have created a reign of terror in the country since then. Attacks on Dalits and Muslims in the name of protecting the “holy” cow are being reported from various places. The Hindutva goons have become a law unto themselves, beating people, thrusting cow-dung in their mouths and sometimes even killing them. Undoubtedly, there has been spurt in cow protectors’ goondaism ever since the Narendra Modi-led government came to power, but the attacks on innocent people, particularly Muslims and Dalits, in the name of saving the cow have a long history. However, today we need to control ourselves, as we the citizens of independent democratic India, need to be fearless and safe in our own country. We have law of land and judicial system. No one has right to take law into his/her hand and brutalize fellow Indians. I hope, Prime Minister may act strongly on this issue. This is the concluding part of the four parts series on the topic.
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