Cows have been a symbol of abundance and sanctity of life across all cultures, faiths and religions; not just Hinduism but Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and even Judaism and Christianity.
The Indian civilisation survived for 6000 years, when other civilisations of its time did not, mainly because it was a cow - based civilisation. Almost every household had a cow as a member of the family. Its calves – both male and female were reared at home. The animals would contribute to the welfare of the family by providing transportation, agriculture inputs and nutrition without incurring any additional costs as they were taken out for grazing. This symbiotic relationship we shared with the animals is now disappearing due to frantic commercialization.
The intensification of husbandry practices though needed for meeting the food needs of our burgeoning population puts the animals under varied type of stresses that compromise their welfare. Increasing local and international demand for milk, meat and leather from bovines added to their misery. Commercialization of animal rearing, related exploitation and changed priorities of our population relegated the welfare of cows to a restricted sector. This sector was dominated by religious ideals and hence cows gradually got detached from the mainstream of animal welfare work in India. The cow recognized as a Mother by the Hindus is often used by political parties as a polarization factor for their own vote bank politics without anyone showing real concern for its welfare and economic sustainability. The cow is a rural animal and its real well-being is possible only in a farmers house. But demand for fresh milk by the urban populace has added to its misery.Presence of illegal dairies in Cities is a cruel truth where cows and its progeny are kept in cramped dark overcrowded quarters. The dry cows and calves are left near garbage dumps to fend for themselves.The urbanites have got used to the sight of cows foraging there without being really concerned for their welfare and gaushals proved to be the only places where they found shelter if they were picked by the Municipal Corporation. The changing scenario of housing cows in India brought Gaushalas under extreme pressure to manage large herds with limited resources. This led to further compromise in welfare of cows and today, almost all gaushalas are facing animal management challenges.
Holy Cow Foundation is an NGO that assists the Gaushalas/gausadans to reach a level of sustainability where they can provide good lives to the animals with good management practices.. This is done by facilitating exchange of technical know-how in manufacturing Panchgavya products (which in Sanskrit means a blend of five products obtained from the cow, viz. dung, urine, milk, ghee and curd), organizing training workshops to manufacture these products and sharing skills of marketing them. The Foundation also promotes cow-based therapy through lectures and workshops to introduce people to benefits of products derived from the indigenous cows. These workshops also act as a platform to connect like- minded people to work collectively for the welfare of cows. The aim of the foundation is to bring discussions on cow welfare to the centre of public debates. To support this, we organize awareness events, organic bazaars, back to nature workshops, and promote direct interaction with animals. A popular event is the Holy Cow Music Festival where contemporary and traditional spiritual live music performance is organized along with Ahimsak and Organic Bazar. This also provides a platform to local NGOs to showcase their work.
In its wider vision, Holy Cow Foundation aims to re-develop the ‘vedic village’ concept which sustained our civilization for many years. These self -sustained models are based on the cow. There is a need to improve and protect the quality of indigenous cattle and promote natural (organic) farming which has become a dire health need in the modern era. The Cow, which is the giver of Health, Wealth, Devotion and Wisdom, must be restored to its former glory if we are to benefit from it, as exploitation and greed will only harm us and our environment.