Reply to Bhakta Vince
Posted April 17, 2007
Dear Bhakta Vince,
Thank you for your letter with questions regarding cow protection in ISKCON. Unfortunately, over the years the ISKCON cow protection paradigm has been the production of milk. Several ISKCON farm communities have made efforts at training and working oxen along with milk production, but in reality, they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. ISKCON has had its share of horror stories based on the milk only paradigm of cow care
In the Vedic times, the real reason for breeding cows was to receive bull calves so that the activities of agriculture and transport could be accomplished. The second reason was for dung. Dung has many applications such as cooking fuel, fertilizer, medicines, and antiseptic cleaning just to name a few. The third reason was cow urine, also used in agriculture, antiseptic cleaning, and medicine. The fourth reason was milk. Milk is a by-product and comes automatically when a cow gives birth. Milk was not the main reason for breeding cows.
One of the main functions of the ISKCON Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture is education. The education is based on what His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada has taught us from the Vedas and is balanced with practical application of hands-on, day-to-day cow care.
In 1998 it was suggested by Anuttama Prabhu, ISKCON Minister of Communications, that it would be nice if ISKCON had a set of guidelines which the Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture used as a benchmark by which to evaluate its' farms and rural communities.
Over the next year many devotees worldwide, who had experience with cow care and animal husbandry, were contacted and they worked together to write the ISKCON Minimum Cow Protection Standards. * http://www.iscowp.org/Cow%20Protection%20Standards/Cow%20Protection%20Standards.htm. * At the annual GBC meetings in 1999, the GBC Body voted the ISKCON Minimum Cow Protection Standards into ISKCON LAW. Since then, they have been distributed worldwide as the acceptable guidelines for taking care of cows within ISKCON.
As you have noted, ISKCON Ministries are fundamentally advisory and educational in nature. They do not have any legislative powers. I have been Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture since 1998, but it has only been the last 4 years this Ministry has received some funding from the GBC. Anyone who is interested to help the cause of cow protection within ISKCON may contribute at: *http://www.iscowp.org/Project/Project%203.htm*. I am also the president of ISCOWP, and any monies given for the Ministry will be only used for the Ministry's purposes.
In regards to New Vrindavana, I have presented a proposal to the New Vrindavana Board of Trustees on April 11. It was based on the ISKCON Minimum Cow Protection Standards with suggestions as to how to progressively provide for the recent increase of cow numbers and improve the foundation of the program. Some suggestions were received positively and are currently being acted on and others are still being discussed. My prayer is that the New Vrindavan cow program progresses positively and becomes a shining example of Vaisnava cow care in the USA.
The following is a brief description of the suggestions of the proposal of April 11.
1) STRUCTURE OF COW DEPARTMENT
a) Balabhadra as co director of Cows and Agriculture Department
b) Madhava Gosh as point man for immediate cow needs development
c) Jaya Prabhupada as full time cowherd with sufficient economic compensation so he can be full time
2) SHORT TERM IMMEDIATE NEEDS
a) A moratorium on purchasing new cows.
Since the last purchase of cows, we have an emergency due to lack of calf pens and birthing facilities.
b) Establish an irrevocable trust fund with open accounting with the cows as beneficiaries to provide for their lifetime care, which would include a plan for providing for human caretakers.
c) Build a calf barn (which also includes a box stall for birthing) next to the milk barn so the calves can be raised near their mothers. The alternative is moving them away from the community center to the industrial barn where they will be out of sight, out of mind.
f) Name the nameless cows, which is the majority of the herd.
3) LONG TERM NEEDS
c) Build an ox facility, in combination with the calf barn and/or one by the Garden of Seven Gates.
d) Preserve existing pasture from encroaching suburbanization and expand existing fences into underutilized areas by the temple barn.
e) Hospice facility near the temple for elderly cows.
f) An educational program for devotees, guests, and donors that stresses cow protection instead of milk production.
g) Ox Training and ox teamster training
h) Achieve compliance with the Minimum Cow Protection Standards, ISKCON Law 507.
ISKCON Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture