American life is all about freedom. The Pilgrims settled on this land hundreds of years ago to enjoy freedom and to escape an oppressive government in Europe. Living in America means we can do what we want, whenever we want to without worrying about others interfering with us. As long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others, we are free to act as we wish.
One way Americans and others around the world enjoy freedom is by eating meat, especially beef. Cows and other animals are raised on farms with the express purpose of being sent to slaughterhouses. Eating beef, steak in particular, is a classic American tradition, with the quintessential family meal consisting of “meat and potatoes”. The beef industry even runs television advertisements where the tag line is “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” There are various grades of beef, based on the type of cow, how it is raised, and how it is fed. Simply eating meat is not enough, for people are more than willing to shell out extra money to feast themselves on high quality beef such as Kobe and Wagyu.
In principle, having the independence to act as we wish is not a bad thing. It is the natural yearning of the human spirit to be free. However, with freedom comes responsibility. If we maintain our bodies through unnecessary violence, then the laws of karma dictate that we will be forced to suffer in the future. God has given us an abundance of food grains for our sustenance. Cows play their part as well by freely providing us milk. In the Vedic tradition, cows are to be respected. Many people mistakenly believe that Hindus worship cows as gods, but that is not the case. Cows are respected and treated on the same level as one’s own mother since they provide us milk. Our mothers nourish us as infants with milk from their breasts, and in the same way one’s body can be nourished simply from the milk of a cow. According to the Vedas, there are seven mothers: the birth mother, the guru’s wife, the wife of a brahmana (priest), the wife of a king, a nurse, the earth, and a cow. Now we wouldn’t ever think of killing our own mother, so why should we kill cows?
Cows are killed so that people can satisfy the desires of the tongue. As the famous proverb says “As you sow so shall you reap”, one committing unnecessary violence simply to satisfy the taste buds will naturally by forced to suffer the same fate in the future. This is only fair. The need to respect and protect cows shouldn’t be a difficult concept for us to grasp. Many of us keep pets in the home, such as cats and dogs. We view them as the essence of innocence, since they kindly serve as our companions and ask little in return. “Dog is man’s best friend” so the saying goes. People love their pets so much that they often treat them better than they do their friends and family. It is not uncommon for pet owners to take many pictures of their cat or dog and show them off to their friends, as if the pets were their own children. Owners will go to great lengths to keep their pets happy, gladly inconveniencing themselves by regularly taking the dogs for walks or by feeding gourmet meals to their cats. Cows should be given the same level of respect.
Just because the meat of a cow tastes good, doesn’t mean that they are any less innocent than a cat or a dog. Unlike a cat or a dog, cows actually provide us things of tangible value. Cows don’t bother anyone and the milk they freely provide can be used to prepare hundreds of varieties of palatable foodstuffs. In the Vedic system, a person’s wealth is determined by how many cows they have. One simply requires a small plot of land and a few cows and their economic problems are solved. This is a much more secure lifestyle than possessing large quantities of paper currency, which can devalue at any time. The recent worldwide economic crisis proves this fact. In the Vedic system, the brahmanas, or priestly class of men, are to live very meagerly, focusing all their time on serving God. Knowing this, kshatriya kings would regularly give away kine to the brahmanas so that they wouldn’t have to worry about food. Any occasion, good or bad, would always be marked by the giving away of cows to brahmanas, as that is considered the highest form of charity.
Cows are also considered valuable because they provide butter which is used in Vedic sacrifices. The material world is governed by the demigods, who serve as Lord Krishna’s chief ministers. By propitiating them, man is provided with rain which serves as the catalyst for food production. The demigods are worshiped in elaborate fire sacrifices called yajnas, where clarified butter, or ghee, is poured on the fire as an oblation. These sacrifices would not be possible were it not for the ghee. In this way, cows can be considered the sustainers of life.
Once we stop respecting our mothers, we eventually lose respect for other forms of life. This is evidenced by the increase in the practice of abortion. In order to satisfy the demands of the tongue, innocent cows are sent to slaughterhouses. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people would resort to killing innocent children in the womb in order to satisfy the desires of the genitals. Cows are very dear to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Govinda, which means “one who gives pleasure to the cows”. When the Lord personally came to earth around five thousand years ago, he grew up in a cowherd family, and he would regularly take the family cows out to the pasturing grounds as a child. One will often see the Lord depicted in pictures standing next to cows. Thus by respecting cows, we are following God’s example. There is no higher form of religion than to follow the instructions and traditions set forth by Lord Krishna.