Cows with a calf produce milk in amounts far greater than what is needed or really healthy for her calf and will offer an abundant supply of milk to the human members of her family.
It’s easy enough to understand cow protection from the standpoint of yoga as an ethical philosophy: ahimsa requires us to refrain from violence against all living beings, not just human beings. But the first principle specific to cow protection in yoga philosophy is not really about cows; it’s actually about the engagement of bulls for the production of grains.
A cow doesn’t give milk unless she has a calf and half of all calves are bulls! And, as our friends at ISCOWP explain on their website:
“The expense of feeding the bulls will be a deficit to the farmer unless he realizes their potential for alternative energy by employing them in tilling the fields and hauling. Otherwise, the farmer, in most countries throughout the world, acquires his economic profit by selling them for meat either directly to the slaughterhouse, the meat industry’s feedlots, or to the veal industry where he lives a short life crammed into a small crate not much bigger than him.
The modern system of agriculture does not realize the alternative energy potential of the bull calf nor the variety of useful bovine dung and urine products (fertilizers, compost, pest repellent, medicines, cleaning products, and biogas fuel to name just a few). Therefore, slaughtering becomes the only economically viable means of management. Most people, accustomed to this viewpoint and seeing no alternative, will throw up their hands and agree, even if they prefer a less violent solution. This is only because they don’t have the facts. They don’t know that the overall value of the ox is greater when he is utilized for work than when he’s slaughtered for meat, and even when not productive a cow or ox produces useful urine and dung.”
An ideal social structure that supports the practice of yoga is one that’s local and sustainable, one in which we eat food that grows where we live, one that’s free from the many downsides of technology and industrialization such as polluting fossil fuels, poisonous pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and artificial economics that tilt the playing field against small, family farms. The protection of cows is not merely a religious sentiment nor is it just a matter of avoiding the bad karma associated with needlessly killing innocent animals: it’s a means to secure the highest benefit for human society, both material and spiritual.