Sacred Cows?

Two cows were grazing by a highway when a tank-truck of milk, on its way to the distributor, happened to pass by. On one side of the vehicle in big red letters was a sign that read, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin A added.”  One cow turned to the other and said, “Sort of makes you feel inadequate, doesn’t it?”  One thing cows in India don’t have to worry about is feeling inadequate.  Here’s why.

India has one-third (33%) of the world’s cows, divided into twenty-six breeds, with most being distinctive for their hump, long ears, and bushy tail.  And because Indians in general view cows as being sacred (and thus not to be harmed in anyway), cows there are everywhere.  For instance, you’ll find them roaming the streets of towns and cities, having become somewhat accustomed to the speed of auto traffic and the general pace of human life – as they graze unmindfully on roadside grass and calmly munch away at old vegetables thrown away by street market vendors.  Even stray and homeless cows are taken in and looked after by the temples and their priests.  If you’re a cow, Hindu-land is the place to be.

However, contrary to popular opinion, Hindus do not worship cows (they’re not considered to be gods).  But Hindus do view cows as a sacred symbol of life to be revered and protected.  As a matter of fact, in their Vedas (scriptures), Aditi (the mother of all gods) is pictured as a pretty white cow who is garlanded with flowers as a sign of the faith’s special reverence for her.  There is even a special cow holiday in India.  It’s  called Gopastami and this Thursday, November 19,  is the annual national celebration when all cows are washed and dressed with colorful flowers.

Behind all this adoration is the Hindu view of the cow as being a particularly docile, generous creature, one that gives far more to humans than she takes from them.  The cow, they say, produces five things – milk, cheese, butter, urine and dung.  The first three are eaten (Hindus are vegetarians) and used in worship of the gods, while the last two can be useful in religious devotion, penance, or burned for fuel.  A Hindu would say to those in the West – when was the last time your cat gave you anything besides a dead mouse?   Hindus also consider other animals sacred (like the monkey, elephant, tiger,  even the rat) but none of these are as revered as is the cow. And make no mistake about it, Hindus take their cows very seriously.  Recently in India, a group of Muslims were killed by Hindus for slaughtering some cows and eating the beef.

What does the Bible teach about cows?  The Scriptures are clear that whether under O.T. Jewish law or N.T. Christian grace, cows are God’s succulent beef gift to man.  (But for conservative Jews, only the front part of the cow is kosher; the back part not being so due to the account of Jacob wresting with the angel, resulting in the rear of his thigh being deformed.  Because it was also at this time that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, the rabbis have transferred this most significant event to the cow’s rear-located sinew nerve.  So the orthodox Jew can eat the cheaper front cuts like chuck, blade, etc., but not the expensive back ones like sirloin, prime, etc.)

The bottom line?  Contrary to the teaching of Hinduism, nowhere does our God say, “Blessed are the bovines”.