By Dave Hanks
How often I have mused about the Hindu tradition of sacred cows and how asinine it is. Ridiculous because millions of people starve while a source of food is running free in the streets. Not only is the meat lost but the cattle put a lot of heavy competition on the human population for the valuable vegetative matter. How tragic – to live by a system that allows this to happen.
However, I have come to realize that India is not the only country with the “sacred bovine”. The desire to elevate the animal seems to run through all cultures and is manifested in various ways. The Children of Israel made their “Golden Calf”. African tribes revere the Zebu – scrawny beasts that contribute little except as status symbols. They repay the tribesmen by being scourges upon the landscape. Other peoples have a more practical relationship. Laplander cattle are their reindeer. Eskimos and northern Indians look to the Caribou with the same reverence. The American Indian felt the same about Bison until “Whiteman ” arrived to slaughter the vast majority of them. Only, in their turn, to replace them with European-type cattle.
Are the “white man’s” cattle sacred? I thought not, but have since had a change of mind. You have to look hard to find another industry that is subsidized by the federal government to the degree that livestock producers are. Their animals run upon the public lands for a mere pittance of a fee. But even that is not as devastating as the greed that motivates the over population of the beasts upon the land in order to harvest every vestige of grass. Even though they damage ecosystems, it’s hands off – they must not be disturbed!
Cattle have always held a soft spot in my heart. To see them grazing on a hillside or in a meadow still causes my heart to “skip a beat”. Fond memories of 4-H projects from my teenage years were a major spur to cause me to seek my dreams in the cattle business. The quest for a high quality Angus herd was an obsession that filled my early adult life. It didn’t matter so much that this quest was, for me, economically unfeasible – what really mattered was that my bovines were of a kind that would place them at the top end of their breed.
Well, economics finally had the say in the end, but dreams die hard. My love for the “cow” is so deep rooted that I couldn’t bear to part with all of them. I would be better of without them. They tie-up my life activities – every trip away from home requires extensive preparations for their care and safety. They are also hard on fences causing constant attention to the same. When they do get out, they’re an irritant to the neighbors. NEVERTHELESS, I CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE THEM. There is something very beautiful about a large, beefy, sleek cow feeding in a pasture. A beauty that endears them as if they were actually a family member.
Yes, upon reflection, I can clearly see that the cow is indeed sacred!