Not very long ago, we had quite an interesting conversation in the evening, when we were sitting around the fire with a few guests. We were talking about their experiences in India when one of them, a doctor from Germany, asked: ‘I have read about cows being holy in India but when walking in town, I saw many people wearing leather shoes, belts and bags. How does this fit together?
I actually had to reply her with one simple sentence: people are hypocrites. It is true, how else would you call that? How to explain such a thing to a traveler in India?
Hinduism tells that the cow is holy. That is correct. Nevertheless, you just have to go out on the road to see that there are cows that are in very bad conditions, walking homeless around town, eating every dirt that they can find, often including plastic and other waste products. They are haggard and ill. How does this work with the idea that they are holy?
Or are cows only holy as long as they give milk or can do your work? Because that’s what happens: milk cows are the ones who, when they cannot give birth anymore and thus don’t give milk anymore, are just left outside on the road to die.
Slaughtering cows is illegal in nearly all Indian states, except Kerala and West Bengal, but at the same time, the Indian leather industry is huge. It “has an annual turnover of more than five billion dollars and is responsible for 4% of the country’s total export earnings.” It just doesn’t fit together – cows must be slaughtered, too, in order to reach such figures for leather. And religious people wear and use it, too!
What do you think are the drum heads of the tablas and other instruments made of which are used in temples? I looked it up – goat or cow skin. Do you think every musician asks when buying his instrument? Do you think the temple priests check on that before those instruments enter the holiest area that they can imagine?
I doubt that very much.
I can also assure you that not every Hindu is vegetarian. Approximately 80 percent of the country’s population is Hindu. And only about 30 percent of India’s population is vegetarian. That makes a whole lot of Hindus who are not vegetarian. McDonalds may sell burgers made of chicken or lamb but do you think whenever these Hindus eat a little piece of meat mixed in a sandwich or other dish, they ask to confirm it isn’t cow?
No, they don’t.
And all of this makes me say they are hypocrites. You pretend to be loving cows, worship them and even drink their urine, believing it will give you some weird divine power – but then you have them slaughtered, eat them, wear their skin and drum on their skin in your sanctuary!
In the end, I always remain with the question: why the cows? Worship the cow and kick the dog. Save the cow and eat the pig. Why?