Back in 1993, the spread of Mad Cow Disease took a toll on many across the globe and as a result, many stopped consuming beef products. We may stop consuming beef, but there is no escaping the cow and the disease and infection carried by the many products we make out of its carcass. The cattle by-products today find their way into almost everything around us and have the potential to transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy from an infected cow to us.
Bovine gelatin, which is made by treating the bones of a cow with acid, finds its way into gel capsules, food-products such jellybeans, marshmallows and instant gelatin, as a setting agent for ice-creams and cheesecakes, and as a coat on tablets, to bind photographic films, to name a few. Fat from the dead cow makes appearance in our bathrooms as soap and toothpaste and on the road as automobile tyres and asphalt roads. Glycerine derived from cow fat is used in cosmetics and even in wars, as the explosive nitro-glycerine. Its hooves and horns adorn our shirts as buttons and also make up the foam of fire extinguishers; its blood goes into plywood and fertilisers. Its hide becomes leather shoes or sporting goods while the neat’s foot oil obtained by boiling its feet is used to dress that leather. The root gland of the tongue yields pregastric lipase, which is used in cheese production as a curdling agent. Tissue from the small intestines becomes catgut for racket strings or surgical sutures.
We dissect the various organs of a cow to derive medicine – its nasal septum goes into medicine for arthritis; lungs and intestines give us the anticoagulant drug heparin; adrenal gland gives epinephrine; catalase from the liver makes up our lens-care products and cholesterol, which is used to make male sex hormone, comes from the cow’s spinal cord, a tissue at high risk for containing prions, the rogue protein that causes mad cow disease. Vaccines are grown in fetal calf serum.
So, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, Hindu, Muslim or Christian, each of us has our hands stained with the blood of the all-giving cow. It is said that what you sow, so shall you reap. Today we are abusing and exploiting innocent animals for our pleasure…our callousness is coming back to us in the form of deteriorating health and environment in return, which are also a by-product of cattle slaughter.
All are aware of the menace of the Mad Cow Disease and the vast populations that succumb to it not just t hrough cow meat but also other products that are made out of the cow, but not many know of the other health risks posed by the various parts of a cow.
The beef that you consume is heavy on your heart, reproductive system, immunity, progeny and even on the chance of your survival! The beef cattle are usually fed on grains that saturate it with omega 6 fat that promotes heart disease. It is implanted with heavy doses of diet supplements, hormones, drugs and antibiotics that play havoc with your immune system and are often responsible for problems like cancer, premature puberty and falling sperm counts. Often enough the beef is irradiated, exposing you and your progeny to radioactive material and penetrating gamma rays. The beef available in the market has been found to contain significant quantities of dioxin that is linked to cancer, endometriosis, Attention Deficit Disorder (hyperactivity in children), reproductive systems defects in children, chronic fatigue syndrome, immune system deficiency, and rare nerve and blood disorders. The cattle is also host to a wide variety of bacteria and worms, thanks to the horrid conditions it is kept in, which are transferred to us through beef and other cattle derived products. One look at any of your local garbage dumps would convince you of the various deadly wastes going inside the animals that flock there to fill up their stomachs. These deadly wastes find their way through the above mentioned products into your homes and your body. E. coli O157:H7 resides in the intestines of healthy cattle and fosters acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea and abdominal cramps in humans. Beef and other cattle by-products are often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals used in cattle farming as also a substance called pink slime, a goo made out of waste trimmings previously reserved for dog food and cooking oil.
These days there is a misconception amongst people that cow meat is nourishing for physical fitness and muscle gain. There is not one Indian wrestler who eats cow beef. In fact, Dara Singh who was a champion of his times was largely vegetarian. The only thing you can gain from meat is bad karma of inflicting pain upon an evolved being. The saturated animal fat in red meat contributes to heart disease and atherosclerosis. Recent research shows that frequent red meat eaters face twice the risk of colon cancer as those who indulge less often. Red meat is also thought to increase the risks of rheumatoid arthritis and endometriosis. According to statistical estimates, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than vegans, and vegetarians live an average of seven years longer than meat-eaters do. It has also been found that at the age of 65, the average meat-eater has twice the bone loss of their vegetarian counterparts. It is likely to be excess protein consumption that leads to poor retention and absorption of calcium.
Alongside the dangers that traditionally raised beef cattle pose to your health are the dangers they pose to your environment. Meat production is ‘one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global’ according to the United Nation’s Report, Livestock’s Long Shadow.
Meat production accounts for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the emissions from planes, trains, cars and boats combined. It takes around twenty times more fossil fuel to grow meat compared to the equivalent weight of vegetables. An astounding amount of water is used to raise meat adding to the problems of water scarcity. The vast amounts of petrochemicals, pesticides and chemical fertilizers used in meat production find their way into the waterways creating “dead zones” – huge, oxygen-depleted areas that can no longer support aquatic life. The over-grazing of beef cattle and usage of land to grow animal feed, contribute to soil erosion, food shortages (as the land and grains used to feed cattle that feed the affluent competes with the grains that make up a poor man’s meal), and global warming (from loss of plant life that would otherwise absorb CO2). The irresponsible grazing practices not only decrease productivity of land but also lead to desertification by depleting the precious topsoil at a rate that far outpaces the 100 to 500 years it takes to produce one inch of topsoil. (Industrial farming loses up to six inches of topsoil a year.)
Cattle farming is the primary reason for widespread deforestation and resultant biodiversity loss in most countries, the rain forests (Brazil) and ancient pine forests (China) being perfect examples. Basically, we are devouring trees to make way for an ever-increasing number of farmed animals that in turn, devour vast amounts of energy, natural resources and food calories, so that a select few can devour their meat and eventually fall sick!
Our ancients were masters of creation, they were well aware of the significance of a cow and the consequences of exploiting and abusing it. No wonder the cow was revered across cultures and faiths all through history. Be it as the Egyptian Goddess Hathor or the Gallic divine cow Damona, the primeval cow Audhumbla who brought mankind into existence as per Nordics or the Greek Goddess Lo, Lord Shiva’s favorite Nandi or the cow of plenty, Kamadhenu. To quote from the Atharvaveda,
Dhenu sadanam rayeenaam
Cow is fountainhead of all bounties
The above sloka reflects the deep understanding of the creation as possessed by the vedic seers. Just take a look at the cow, it is she who endows us with the bounties of milk and dairy products, it is her dung that gives us fuel and manure, it is her urine that provides us with medicine and fertilizers. As she walks down our soils, the land gets tilled and free of termites; when we wish to interact with the gods and goddesses we make use of her ghee and upla to perform a yajna. When she licked Kabir on the forehead, he was blessed with extraordinary poetic abilities. She is the symbol of prosperity and abundance, she is the source of nourishment for all creation, she is the mother.
Today this bovine goddess is being abused, exploited and butchered mercilessly. The one that was once housed in temples and castles is now crammed into filthy spaces devoid of fresh air, fed on plastics and garbage dumps, impregnated with steroids and antibiotics and eventually slain to give us meat. All faiths emphasize upon the law of karma (action and reaction), that is, what you sow so shall you reap. One can only imagine what we are calling upon ourselves by abusing the cow that nourishes and nurtures us. The effects on our bodies are immediate, the effects on our lives would take a few years to manifest; the pain that the human civilization is going through today is possibly the effect of this cause.