Should ISKCON make dairy products from protected cows commercially available?
Thank you for the articles on cow protection. If we are to establish Krishna consciousness, it is imperative that we live our philosophy and support cow protection by supporting employment of the cows and oxen.
But it doesn't seem we are doing so well in that regard. Looking over the information about the farms, I noticed with interest that only a small number of the cows are actually being milked. For example, at Gita Nagari 2 of 69 were fresh [newly calved and therefore milking], and I suspect that more are dry than retired.
A devotee friend of mine explained to me that it's a matter of economics: the farms simply cannot afford to keep the cows fresh. I heard this with great astonishment. If we as a society are committed to cow protection, then we must arrange for it to make sense economically. Otherwise, as the article pointed out, cow protection will be abandoned.
Every temple, I am sure, uses large amounts of milk products. Why aren't these products of our own farms? My friend pointed out that the temples can buy dairy products from the store for less than what it costs to make them ourselves, because the store products are government subsidized.
But is that an excuse? That means we value dollars above cow protection. As a society we spend millions of dollars a year to distribute books and prasadam because we understand the great need for these programs, even though they may not pay for themselves. Why should cow protection be considered less important?
Many nondevotee vegetarians shun commercial dairy products because these products are linked to the slaughter of calves. Yet we, who profess to champion cow protection, buy these products instead of our own dairy produce because they're cheaper.
This doesn't make sense, nor is it morally sound. Not only should we not buy commercial dairy products, but we should offer our own nonviolent dairy products. Charge what we must, there are people out there willing to pay for it to support the principles they (and we) believe in.
I would like to ask the leaders of our farm communities to make these options available to us. Let us stop voting for cow slaughter with each dollar spent, and let us instead vote for cow protection when we make our purchases.
Hare Krishna Devi Dasi replies:
Historically, we in ISKCON have made the mistake of putting the cart full of milk cans in front of the ox. In other words, over the long term we can't have milk from protected cows without working oxen. Most of us have not yet grasped the need to work the oxen as a basic feature of a sustainable Krishna conscious society. And that’s the reason we're not getting milk from protected cows.
Another crucial point: The Krishna conscious economy Srila Prabhupada describes is a localized subsistence economy based on ox power and cow protection. It's not a centralized market economy that depends on petroleum and a highly technological infrastructure. Ultimately that means that if we don't serve Krishna within ten miles of a Hare Krishna farm, it's unfair for us to demand that milk products from protected cows be shipped to us by petroleum-fueled trucks.
Spiritually advanced people naturally want to avoid foods that support the sinful cow-slaughter industry. And in fact the most practical way to do this is to help work the oxen and protect the cows on a Krishna conscious farm. As Srila Prabhupada tells us, "Agriculture and cow protection are the way to become sinless and be attracted to devotional service."
Finally, those of us who can't directly work on a farm should stick behind those who have dedicated their lives to this part of Srila Prabhupada's mission. We should understand the courage and incredibly hard work of the devotees who make it their priority to care for cows. And we should support their decision to switch from pumping milk into the commercial market in favor of only breeding cows to yield oxen and milk for their communities.