By Dusyanta dasa UK
Many devotees have posted articles raising the question about cow protection and economy. In all seriousness this is a relevant question. Many cow protection programmes have not only not been able to generate any wealth but have actually cost a lot of money to pay for. As we all know the idea behind cow protection is to base our economy on cows and land in an agrarian lifestyle. There are many advantages to this system. But first we need to know why has it all gone so badly wrong.
My impression after being involved in cow protection for some 10 years is that firstly its not taken seriously in Iskcon and secondly there has hardly been a farmer in the devotees. Cow protection has many features, component parts, but the most important one has never really been focused on.
Its a bit like an equation. Even if you have most of the equation correct but one bit wrong then the answer will be wrong. So devotees have focused their attention on all the refinements of cow protection but failed to recognise the main point-economic development. Unless there is economic development in cow protection then its just a game we are playing. If we are to demonstrate a world alternative to animal slaughter type farming with cow protection then we have to show that it works. We have a huge advantage over the vegans because we have cows providing all fertiliser requirements. They dont have that so veganism is not an alternative without animals,it does not work globally. But with animals farming works. Usually the animals in farming are slaughtered but in cow protection they are not. So why does it not work and why have iskcon devotees been unable to demonstrate the example.
The answer is simple - its because we dont have any or just a few devotees who are capable and qualified to farm. Farming is an intense occupation which needs long term planning especially in cow protection. Also the idea of cows just wandering around being “protected” appeals to the sentimental devotees. Farming is not like that. For cow protection to work there has to be several components in place simultaneously.
1 Cows and land.
2 Qualified farmers.
3 Community based lifestyle.
4 Economy based on cows and land.
5 Symbiotic relationship with the cows.
6 Ability to demonstrate the working alternative to animal exploitation.
7 Artisans and village industries based on cows and land and proper community dynamics.
8 Iskcon branded products for wholesale and retail markets.
9 Garden Centres.
10. Pick your own fruit and vegetables.
Starting at the beginning there needs to be many of these componenets in place, it does not take years to get this going. Even with just a small workforce of 10-20 most of this is possible. As the project grows organically, attracting more devotees then more is achievable. But it has to be based on a symbiotic relationship with cows in a community based dynamic, cow protection works well with community. Everything that the community needs comes from itself in a self-sustainable way. Cows produce milk and this is transformed into many products by the community for the community and eventually the surplus is marketed under the iskcon brand name to wholesalers and retailers and through the Garden Centre to the public. The Bullocks are used for all the draught power for the community and the farming and hauling needs.
But the real pay off comes in the form of Cow Manure. This is all profit. So no animals can just wander around passing dung willy nilly, this part has to be managed properly, even to the retired cows, especially for the retired cows. Cow manure is made into methane gas for ALL our energy requirements. It can be converted to electricity and/or left as methane gas. This energy can be used in inumerable ways, locally and further afield. But thats not all the byproduct after the digestion is complete is composted cow manure which by natures arrangement is perfect for field, greenhouse and gardens. This can also be sold under Iskcon brand name wholesale, retail and Garden Centres. By this time we have wealth coming out of our ears. We grow all our vegetables, fruit and flowers for our own requirements for the Deities first and then the devotees and so forth. The Maha-Prasad is sold under our brand name for visitors and offered flowers can be pot-pourried and sold to visitors. And the vegetables and fruit can also be used for pick-your-own. Potted plants can be sold at the Garden Centres and eventually all Cow products can also be sold to the public. We are all millionaires by now but we dont need the money because we are self-sustaining in our community-based symbiotic relationship with cows. Simple living out weighs all the money in the world because it is satisfying in itself and even more so when done for Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.
If we dont see that cow protection and community is as important as putting your hand in your bead-bag and rising early then have we really understood what we are doing in Iskcon?Iskcon is not just a huge institutional organisation of rules and regulations but is meant to be a pragmatic and practical answer to the world as an alternative to animal slaughter. Just being a theoretical vegetarian is not good enough because somewhere along the line an animal is being slaughtered for you. All milk products depend on animal slaughter therefore Srila Prabhupadas Cow protection programmes are an integral part of His instructions and mission. Surely its time to face up to our responsibilities to our animal friends and protect them all. If we dont do it who will?