Chakra Living

Economic Nonviability of Devotee Milk Production

by Madhava Ghosh

Posted May 1, 2007

I was recently forwarded the following email:

"With all of this talk about cows, it sure would be nice to walk into a supermarket and buy a half gallon of milk, or butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. with Lord Krsna's face on the packaging. Why is it, other farmers can produce milk and market it in the stores for millions of people to see and buy, but the cowherd devotees can not do this. What is the problem? Even when Lord Krsna was on the planet, the gopis and cowherd boys had to milk the cows and sell the milk at the market place. What gives?"

Short answer:

Devotees cow herders don't slaughter cows so milk costs 4 times as much to produce in order to protect the cow, and the calf that was needed to be born to start milk production, for their lifetimes. Devotees aren't willing to pay the price.

Long answer:

In order to have a cow produce milk she needs to be bred and have a calf. Due to religious considerations, devotees do not slaughter cows or send cows to situations where slaughter is inevitable. Therefore the cow and calf need to be protected for a potential lifetime of 20 years. While milk may pay for costs for the first two or three years at best, for the balance of the lifetime of the calf and cow they are economically, not spiritually, a liability.

Commercial operations bred cows while they are essential still teenagers, then continue to bred them yearly until they no longer produce at a peak economic rate, then ship them off to slaughter. Calves are separated at birth, and fed cheaper milk replacer so all the cow's milk can be sold.

Even amongst commercial dairies economic pressures dictate ever increasing exploitive practices in order to maintain viability. See any animal rights site for what the reality of how commercial milk is produced.

Where once it was possible to make a living with 50 cows, according to some it now requires 500. Overall nationally, dairy farm numbers have been declining for decades and continue to do so. One example is "At last count, there were 393 dairy farms left in Maine, down from 1,100 about 20 years ago."

Devotee dairy farms are not operating on a level field because they lack economies of scale and can't compete with farms that ruthlessly cull and slaughter nonproductive cows. What happened in a previous yuga is not relevant because no one slaughtered cows then and devotees did have a level playing field.

Back in the 1970s, so many ISKCON farms set out to produce milk and have the milk cover the cost of caring for the cows, They all failed. Kirtanananda tried it in New Vrindaban. After he fled his responsibility for the cows he bred in the early 1990s, breeding was stopped, but there are still 80 cows being cared for left over from that era.

When devotees start seeing milk as an opulence, and are willing to pay the premium price necessary to produce it AND protect the cows, instead of treating it like a commodity to which they are entitled to have at supermarket prices, it is possible to have Krishna milk instead of Putana milk.

It is largely a matter of personal responsibility. Not that 'they " are some specialists who somehow make it available to me competitively. When the devotees and the devotee leadership step up and demonstrate commitment to cow protection and its true costs, then milk, which is a byproduct of cow protection, not the purpose of it, will be available.

Cow protection is a spiritual duty, not a economic opportunity.