Conner Lewis, World History 4 11/7/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: Mother Cow
Article by Marvin Harris
Milked For All They Got
Cows in India serve many functions, from housing to agriculture. Cow's manure is used for fuel in ovens as coal, wood, and oil are very difficult for low level farmers and Indians in general to acquire. This means having cows available also allows for continuous fuel as well as other benefits. Manure is also a common form of fertilizer, allowing for higher crop yields. It also acts as a housing material because if left to harden it can become a hard floor, which can be swept and kept clean. The main reason they are kept around however is that having cows available ensures the ability to acquire more oxen and milk. By keeping cows around, farmers can have an available source for oxen, which act as the main horsepower towing their ploughs. While the Indian zebu cow does not produce that much milk, it is enough to be worthwhile. All of this is even more useful as cows don't even feed off of what humans do, meaning that they can be left to wander and scavenge also still provide useful services for farmers. The real reason it is taboo for a Hindu to kill a cow is that in the extreme seasons of India, monsoons and droughts, it is very tempting for farmers to kill cows in the short term. However this is detrimental as although the food might be useful at the time, during normal seasons without a cow the farmers would slowly lose oxen and then have nothing to plough their fields. This would either kill them through famine or force them into cities. In the long term the cows are much more beneficial than the short term supply. Americans and other modernized nations perform the same task as cows and oxen by using tractors and chemical fertilizer. The tractors can pull our ploughs while fertilizer acts as the manure from cows. This is, however, less environmentally friendly than the Indian way, as the chemicals and pollution from tractors can be detrimental to the environment. Some pesticides, such as DDT, can cause harm to the fauna as well. DDT causes infertility in birds, which can greatly effect bird populations. Cows, on the other hand, act as part of the ecosystem, and do not cause harm to nearby environments. It is clear that Indians use their cows more efficiently, as they take every aspect of the cow into account and exploit it. When cows are alive they are milked, provide manure for houses, fuel, and fertilizer, and also provide steady streams of oxen to plough the fields. On top of that, upon dying their meat is fed to the Harijans, or untouchables. The Americans, on the other hand, tend to only use one aspect of the cow depending on breed. Certain cows are used for milk, and others meat, not both.