Holy Cow!


Very few goshalas or cattle shelters accept old, injured animals; some sell the animals illegally.

Cattle at a shelter at Neelavara near Udupi

Cattle at a shelter at Neelavara near Udupi

In the last article we spoke about how increasingly difficult it is becoming for farmers to take care of their cattle and how many are attempting to get rid of them.

This writer had heard about cattle goshalas or cattle shelters. Indeed, there are many social and religious organizations which run shelters for cattle.

I asked the farmers why they do not leave the cattle at such ashrams instead of abandoning them to their fate on the town’s thoroughfares.

The answer was: Like many private homes for old human beings, they too have to pay charges, some upfront, if the cattle is accepted. A ‘donation’ or ‘deposit’ will settle the issue and yet some also have monthly charges.

With farm incomes sinking, this is an unaffordable, say the farmers.

Also, today, not many goshalas accept non-milch cows or cattle that are aged or are physically debilitated.

Yet, goshalas themselves are far and few between, at least in the three districts of coastal Karnataka.

What I found out is that in one vary famous temple’s goshala, they accept only milch cows. Ditto at another goshala run by a social organization, where even injured or physically deformed cattle are rejected.

However, at a goshala at Neelavara in Udupi district run by the famous Shri Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji, the famous seer of Pejawar Math, they accept all types of cattle, including aged and injured ones.

It is interesting to note that goshalas all over India have their share of controversies and in many cases, various state governments or the courts have had to step in.

There have also been allegations that some goshalas have been selling off cattle to butchers illegally. Also, those in the cattle transport business with valid documents have been complaining of harassment by police or pro-cow activists.

According to a report in Business Standard on 4 March 2015, Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to conduct random checks in goshalas run by temples and maths.

The court had issued the charter for goshalas to follow for managing the donated cows, which are sheltered there once they pass the milk-yielding phase.

The court framed guidelines in the backdrop of outrage over temples selling cows to butchers; the court had banned sale of cows donated by the devotees and directed the temples to maintain details of the donors. Animals should be subjected to periodical medical check-up and cow sheds should be clean and hygienic.

Also, according to a report in The Hindu, prime minister Narendra Modi Modi had, soon after comin to power, instructed officials concerned to extend all help to goshalas.

“Clear instructions are issued in this regard and we are asked to extend services to the goshalas. We will look into the specifics of the needs of cow shelters and try to meet its demands instead of making just casual visits. Rice bran has also been procured,” said a senior official in the Telangana state’s Animal Husbandry Department.

A visitor feeding cows at an ahsram at Kinnigoli near Manguluru

A visitor feeding cows at an ahsram at Kinnigoli near Manguluru

Yet in Uttar Pradesh, though the police have been successful in tackling the menace of cattle rustlers, they have been delivering the rescued animals to goshalas; but many shelters are now refusing to accept the animals since they are becoming a huge burden.

Here in Udupi, when asked about cattle rustlers who take them away for slaughter, the farmers just shrug their shoulders. They just blame it on fate.

I remember of one common story in this region and elsewhere: The sons are educated and then they go migrate to towns and cities in search of greener pastures. The daughters are married off into well to do families. Here, the parents grow old and their working and married children have no time for them.

The busy children send money to parents sometimes and also for their medical treatment and hospitalization. Sometimes they cannot even come for their last rites.

Even if they come, the first thing they do is sell of their ancestral homes and then abandon their parents in old age homes!

What to talk about cattle?

As they say, we can keep debating the issue till the cows come home…


(This is the 3rd part of the series, Fresh From the Farm. More to follow…)

Vishwaprasanna Teertha Swamiji of Pejawara Math Udupi taking care of the cattle at the Neelavara shelterVishwaprasanna Teertha Swamiji of Pejawara Math Udupi taking care of the cattle at the Neelavara shelter





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Filed under General, Rural Economy

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