The use of milk during some of our religious festivals, especially during Maha Shivratri was highlighted by some knowledgeable, caring activists like Shri Nitin Mehta who is a staunch vegan and his campaign has put vegetarianism on the world map, especially here in England where one in ten people preferring either vegan or vegetarian diet, completely cutting out meat product from their diet. Indeed more vegetarian restaurants are being opened than the traditional ones in many parts of England. We also lead Europe where understanding vegetarianism is minimal. In countries like Germany, Poland, Hungary and many more, if they serve salad and potato with stakes, they call it vegetarian dish!
No one can deny that extreme cruelty is involved in producing milk. Cows are artificially impregnated some three to four times in their short lives before they become infertile, unable to yield milk and send to slaughter house for their meat. Calves are separated from their mothers as soon as they are born and male calves are slaughtered within few days of their birth, as their meat, veal is considered a delicacy in many European countries.
Separating calves from their mother indeed causes extreme distress to cows that are such gentle creatures and play an important role in bringing-up human babies. So why humans are so cruel to these noble creatures, treated them worse than cats, dogs and even horses who are on most part put to grace in open fields when their working life comes to an end, unlike France and many EU countries where horse meat is a delicacy!
There are few dairy farms here that produce milk in traditional way, following into the foot-steps of Hare Krishna’s dairy farm in Watford, where milk is produced without involving cruelty or killing new born calves. It may cost double the price but I am sure most Indians (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains as well as many from indigenous population) would not mind paying a bit over the top if cows are treated humanely. After all cows are closely associated with our favourite deity Lord Krishna whose birthday, Janmastami is celebrated with such a panache at Watford Hare Krishna temple, attracting well over fifty thousand worshippers over the festive period, largest gathering of Hindus on an auspicious day outside India!
While using non-dairy milk, such as soya and almond may be fine but it may not be available in many countries, may be expensive and why waste such a resourceful dietary food which can provide nutritious food to under nourished children, especially in developing world. If my memory serves me correctly, I remember some temples in East Africa used to encourage us to put just a spoon-full of milk in a jug of water to pour at the foot of the deity which will reduce the use of milk on religious occasions by some 99%. Perhaps it is time to mention ghee, clarified butter, as it is also widely used in performing havens not only wasting such valuable product but it also pollutes the air as it creates so much fumes in an enclosed place, affecting children’s health.
Here we use goats’ milk in our home instead of cow’s milk; although I must admit I am not sure whether any cruelty is involved in the production of goat’s milk. I sincerely hope not. It would be nice if the Hindu community could persuade some supermarkets to put on their shelves cows’ milk produced without cruelty that may financially benefit to some extent Hare Krishna temple as well if they want to take advantage such an opening!