It's a cow's life on the streets

It's a cow's life on the streets

The holy cow often has a hard life in India, scavenging for food and with nowhere to sleep. Photo: Geetu Vashishta

Revered as a holy beast, many of India's cattle have to endure pitiful lives, writes Dhruv Singh.

In Hong Kong, where nearly everybody eats beef, most Hindus of Indian descent have never had a Big Mac. Their religion forbids it, and in India McDonald's doesn't even serve Big Macs, because cows are considered sacred.

Hindu mythology and scriptures say the cow is the most sacred animal and its milk, dung and urine are all considered useful.

'Most Hong Kong people don't know that the cow is just like God and not a mere animal in Hindu religion. It gives us milk. It is the mother of the whole world,' says Hiro Maharaj, head priest of the Happy Valley Hindu Temple in Hong Kong.

Hindu children are taught that eating beef is the same as eating your own mother - but you would never guess cows were so venerated if you visited India. Their condition is usually no better than the stray dogs you see everywhere.

In India, stray cows usually roam aimlessly on the streets, sometimes causing road accidents. They eat from the rubbish heaps and are beaten by people if they try to eat in their fields and vegetable shops. Sometimes people hit them so hard that they bleed. Many visitors to India are shocked at the treatment of cows.

Like China, India is a big country, with a population of about 1.17 billion. More than 80 per cent are Hindu. Meanwhile, according to Hong Kong government statistics, there are around 40,000 Hindus living in Hong Kong.

In the wet markets of Hong Kong, you will come across beef being sold alongside groceries and vegetables. But in most parts of India it is a crime to slaughter cows and sell their meat. You can even be sent to prison for selling beef.

But such laws are useless if no proper care is taken of cows. They are often so hungry that they eat leftovers, banana peels and even cardboard boxes and plastic bags. You often see them hurt or lying dead after road accidents, hit by speeding trucks and buses, and sometimes they cause traffic jams that can last for hours.

'The cows are left on the roads because there is no one to take care of them,' says Maharaj.

'The Indian government helps but it is not enough. We should respect cows and feed them.'

Rashmi Sahi lives in Stanley and is a devout Hindu. She doesn't even eat eggs or bring meat to her home.

'Cows are mostly respected in India and people give them food,' she says. 'I hope people start giving them shelter, too.'

Many people who visit India wonder whether the cows are really holy. In theory perhaps, yes, but not on Indian roads.

by cub reporter Dhruv Singh
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Dhruv Singn
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