Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The most beautiful cows in the world

This is what my friend Gemma said to me when I went to visit her at Bhaktivedanta Manor --the Hare Krishna temple and dairy farm in Watford. She is a nun and a devotee of Krishna who has found her calling as a cow girl. She cares for their cows with the love and devotion of a mother. She knows all their names and they clearly look forward to her visits when she grooms them and feeds them and loves them and milks them. I would love to show you pictures, but alas the computer hates me and refuses to link them from her phtobucket site. But all is not lost! Here is a link to her blog where you can read all about the cows and how they are cared for.  http://thecowgirl108.wordpress.com/

I gave up dairy in 2004 when I realized what the dairy industry was all about. Overcrowded, cramped conditions. Cows indoors on hard concrete floors year round. Growth hormones and then antibiotics to repair the damage that growing too fast brings. Forcibly inseminated year after year so they continue to produce milk. And every calf born take away from the mother within hours of birth. Female calves to grow up to have swollen, distended, painful udders covered in sores that drip pus in milk (and the need for more antibiotics) and male calves turned into veal . Cows worn out after a few years from over milking and disease then slaughtered and turned into cheap beef. I have not had any milk or cheese since really understanding that store bought milk is blood milk.

These cows are different. They are well treated. They live in luxury. Well, they live the old fashioned way--the way Spiderman remembers cows grazing happily in a field near his house when they lived in Clinton back in the 1980s. No animal is given drugs or unnecessary medicines. Their udders are all quite small. This was shocking. I have only ever seen pictures of cows with huge  udders distended with mastitis. Their udders are hairy! Who knew? When they start to collect straw that has dung in it that might get into the milk and contaminate it, the udders are shaved with electric clippers.  In winter the live in a warm barn with plenty of hay and plenty of space to be themselves. In summer they are taken afield to eat the grass. Older ones with arthritis are segregated so young and frisky calves don’t topple them when playfully running around. ALL calves born are kept. Male and female alike. They are allowed to stay with their mother until they are weaned. The cows are milked but always there is enough milk for their babies as well as the Temple.  The males are working oxen ploughing the land, spreading the dung that is collected with the hay from the cows in the winter barn and pulling the cart that carries Hindu children (or school children) who visit the farm and want a ride.

I had a really enjoyable day there and was happy to eat the food which included milk and paneer cheese made from their cows. This is probably the only place I would feel comfortable eating dairy. Gemma was right--these really are the most beautiful cows in the world. They were all so big--so much bigger than I imagined. Especially the bulls! They have the most soulful eyes with long eyelashes (how I would love to have lashes like that!) and such kissable noses. Yes, you heard me correctly. There was one cow that Gemma said “She has such a kissable nose” and I thought, “Yeah, right” but when I saw it--it really was a kissable nose. I didn’t kiss it for fear of my allergies flaring up, but I would have.

I had a wonderful day with Gemma and the cows and even got to wear a sari! I was deeply moved by the presence of God all day. Like St Francis caring for the animals, Gemma has found her calling.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry Heather, I read this one at work several days ago, but it wouldn't let me comment. Love this story and hearing about your visit with Gemma.