Mother Cow Report Card
Posted April 29, 2004
A recent article objects to criticism of the Mother Cow program, pointing out how clean the cows' facilities are. Yet in assessing any cow protection program - not just the Mother Cow program - it's important to measure performance by a comprehensive set of objective standards.
In one respect, possibly the best person to do a preliminary assessment of a cow protection program is an accountant, because of his or her training to evaluate performance in terms of names, dates and numbers. These factors reveal a lot about the quality of cow protection, even before the project is visited.
Let's evaluate the Mother Cow program by a set of standards (abbreviated here) that I posted a year ago. The point here is not to attack Mother Cow, but rather by revealing positive standards of cow protection to promote the defense of Dharma in all cow protection programs.
MONITORING AND RECORDS
1. The entire herd should be counted daily.
* Whether Mother Cow follows this standard is unknown, but probably it would not be difficult at least to count the cows still being maintained at Mother Cow.
2. Every cow should have a name.
* It appears that all Mother Cow's milking cows have names, but it's worth noting that the website doesn't give names of any calves or bulls. Thus it's harder to know what becomes of them, and less noticeable when they are missing.
3. Records should be kept with the name, sex, date of birth of each cow. When a cow or calf dies, the cause of death and date of death should be recorded. Annual records should be provided to members each year.
* Unknown. Website does not specify whether members receive an annual cow census.
4. Calf mortality should be less than 10%. In the absence of proper records, this can be determined retroactively by seeing how many cows have been milking in the last 2-3 years and determining how many of their calves are still alive.
* Website indicates over 50 calves born to 22 milking cows - yet Mother Cow states it is protecting only 12 calves. What happened to the other 40 calves?
5. Analyzed by sex, the herd should be approximately 50% cows, 50% bulls or oxen. If there are far more females than males, it's a sign of a discrepancy - either in the organization's incomplete understanding of cow protection, or in substandard protection for bull calves.
* Website indicates over 50 calves born to 22 milking cows - yet Mother Cow states that it has only one bull and one ox. Of the total of 70 animals, only 2 males are currently protected by Mother cow (less than 3 percent). The oxen shown in the website's photo don't appear to be from Mother Cow, since all the cows are taurean breeds, but the oxen shown are Indic or Brahmin breed.
6. Any cow who has taken shelter on Krsna's land or in Krsna's temple should never be subsequently sold, traded, given away or killed.
* Statistics show that several dozen cows are missing from the herd. We're assured that bull calves are given to a Jain project where they will be "protected for life." Out of site, out of mind. On one hand, if the Jain temple is protecting these cows, why not donate money directly to the Jains? On the other hand, getting rid of unprofitable cows by giving them to others makes Mother Cow's claims of providing life-time protection unconvincing.
BREEDING AND AQUIRING COWS
7. No cow should be bred for milk production alone, without plans for the resulting calf. No cow should be bred unless there is a clear and concrete plan for the care of the calf for its entire life, which may be 10-20 years. This means there must be adequate land, adequate funding and adequate trained personnel to care for the resulting calf.
* The statement of goals indicates that cows are being bred primarily for milk production: "Our plans for expansion include the purchase of 6 acres of land (in addition to our present 3 acres of land), 40 milk cows." Cows are not being bred to produce working oxen, nor is there any description of training the resulting bull calves, who appear to be simply unwanted offspring.
8. Cows should not be acquired based on sentiment alone. A goshalla should not allow itself to be exploited by those who "donate" animals with mixed motives.
* Mother Cow cannot be accused of this flaw.
9. Milking should be a pleasurable experience for the cow.
* Milking techniques are unknown. This is generally difficult to assess without being on-site. There seem to be enough cowherds to prevent the necessity of machine milking.
10. Milk production should not be developed primarily as a profit-making venture. "You say we must have a gosala trust, that is our real purpose. krsi-goraksya-vanijyam vaisya karma svabhava-jam, [Bg 18.44]. Where there is agriculture there must be cows. That is our mission: Cow protection and agriculture and if there is excess, trade. This is a no-profit scheme...
* It seems clear that this project has been developed primarily as a profit-making venture, which is why most of the calves are missing. It's simply not profitable to keep them. Profit-motive, especially in a competitive capitalist system, always endangers the welfare of cows. (See also my article, "Why Commercial Dairies Can't Stop Killing," Back To Godhead, Vol. 30, No 6, 1996.)
TRAINING OF OXEN OR BULLOCKS
11. In general, all bull calves should be trained to work. As Srila Prabhupada stated, "If you do not use the bulls for plowing, one day you will say, let us cut their throats."
* Out of 70 animals, it appears that one ox is being trained to work.
12. No ox should be overworked or worked by force only.
* Not relevant at this point, since no oxen are working.
13. In general, bull calves should be castrated by the time they are 1 year old, or whatever age is appropriate for that breed. This can be done with minimum discomfort by using a bloodless emasculator or burdizzo, which only pinches the semen tubes to achieve sterilization.
* Whether oxen are castrated before being given to the Jains is unknown.
SHELTER, GRAZING AND FEED
14. The cows' living conditions should be clean and comfortable.
* The 30 animals who have been permitted to remain at Mother Cow appear to have clean facilities. The living conditions of animals donated to the Jain goshalla are unknown.
15. All cows should have adequate shelter.
* Again, the 30 animals who remain at Mother Cow seem to have adequate shelter. It is unknown what kind of shelter the other 40 animals have.
16. Adequate fencing should be maintained.
* Apparently the fencing is adequate since the goshalla stresses that cows are not permitted to wander the streets eating hazardous garbage. Thus they are also protected from street injuries and from slaughter by rustlers.
17. Cows must be provided sufficient grazing opportunity. And, as stated by Bhismadeva in the Mahabharata, no cow should be kept always tethered.
* Grazing opportunities unknown.
18. The program should maintain adequate pasture for animals. Generally the minimum would be at least 1/2 acre (1/4 hectare) per animal, preferably 1 acre per animal.
* 30 cows on 3 acres of land means 1/10 acre of land for each animal, probably less, because buildings occupy some land. Mother Cow plans to purchase more land, but indicates land will be for 40 more cows (and presumably their 40 more calves). "Our plans for expansion include the purchase of 6 acres of land (in addition to our present 3 acres of land), 40 milk cows, 2 fully equipped barns..." It appears that to increase profitability of the dairy, conditions will become more crowded, not less crowded.
19. Cows should be sufficiently well fed.
* It appears that the 22 milking cows are well fed. The conditions of the animals sent to the Jain goshalla are unknown.
20. Ideally, feed for the cows should be grown on site, not purchased from outside.
* Given the small amount of land, most feed must be purchased from outside, but it appears from the photos that some is grown on site.
FUNDING AND ACCOUNTING
21. The goshalla should have an accurate and clear method of keeping accounts, and members should be presented with an annual statement of accounts.
* It is unknown whether members are presented with an annual statement of accounts. Since the endeavor is set up primarily as a profit-making dairy rather than as a cow protection program, it seems doubtful that the standard of public accounting exists at this stage.
22. Ideally, funds collected for a goshalla or cow protection program should be kept separate from other accounts, such as that of a temple or community facility. Funds should not be invested in any speculative business enterprise.
COWHERD TRAINING AND SUPPORT
23. Cowherds should be recognized as important members in the spiritual community.
* Whether cowherd are regarded as members of the spiritual community is unknown. The fact that their photos are highlighted on the website seems positive. When cowherds are publicly praised, they take pride in their work. This usually results in better care for the cows.
24. Ideally, the goshalla should maintain a well designed program for training cowherds and ox-power farmers.
* Training program for cowherds is unknown, but probably there is some program in place or the facilities would not look as good as they do. It is doubtful that there is a training program for teamsters, since most bull calves are sent away,
25. Cowherds should be facilitated and supported so they can have a decent, if simple, standard of living... Without proper training, facility and care of its cowherds, a cow protection program is threatened by constant turnover of staff and may eventually collapse.
* Standard of living and rate of turnover among the cowherds is unknown.
MEMBERSHIP AND OUTREACH
26. A goshalla should use its cow protection program as a means of attracting the public to Krsna consciousness.
*Difficult to assess at this point.
27. Activities of the cow protection program should be highlighted on community websites and during religious holidays and festivals such as Gaura Purnima, Janmastami, Govardhana Puja and Ratha Yatra. The Deities can be read accounts of the activities of the year, not only how much milk or burfi was produced, but also how many oxen were trained, how much area they plowed, how much wood they hauled, how many bushels of vegetables they produced, etc showcasing the offerings of the animals to the Lord.
28. A cow protection program should provide opportunity for members' input and participation. This can be achieved through questionnaires, newsletters, workshops, and pre-festival meetings.
* Members are invited to come to the farm, and they exchange letters at Mother Cow's public website.
Though established primarily as a profit-making dairy, Mother Cow displays
interest in some aspects cow protection. An informed membership can guide
this interest to greater incorporation of the principles of Dharma,
especially through proper protection, training and utilization of Father
Bull, which will be more in keeping with the practice of Krsna consciousness.