Your front-page article (“As Steaks Mount, Hare Krishnas Beef Up Appeals to Save Cows,” page one, June 22 ) on the cow protection program administered by the Hare Krishna sect seems to have come out of a 1970’s time machine. As a former adherent of this group during the late 60’s and all of the 70’s, I might be able to shed some light on the background of this practice.
Call it “adopt-a-cow” or whatever you like, the quest of some animal rights groups to oblige the rest of us to give farm animals the right of human beings rests on ethics, however irrational or misguided. On the other hand, the Hare Krishna sect bases their cow-loving zeal on Hindu religious practices that put them at odds with the rest of the beef-gorging American public. At first, this might make them seem as if they are merely treating these cows as companion animals (except that we don’t drink the milk of cats and dogs). Seems harmless, doesn’t it? How quaint and how 70’s retro.
Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth: I can confidently tell you that their fanaticism regarding cows comes at the price of denigrating women and abusing children. Some of your readers might recall the allegations of child abuse by former students at Hare Krishna schools (called “gurukulas”), which resulted in a legal settlement in 2005. These children were separated from their parents by the age of four or five and sent to ill-equipped schools—the gurukula in West Virginia was the most infamous—where they were subjected to sexual abuse, unimaginably squalid living conditions, which included the practice of being forced to take showers so cold that many reported being cut by shards of ice in the process. These former students might take offense at the idea of your article’s painting this “adopt-a-cow program” in such rosy colors. So too would the girls and women who were forced into arranged “marriages,” told that they were half as intelligent as men, nine times as lustful, and meant to live in subservience to a man who counted as a full human being, whereas the women was only half a legal person. The damage that these ideas and practices did to our lives is incalculable. Ideas do have consequences. This “adopt-a-cow” nonsense is pure bullocks.
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