UPDATE 2: Great News! In a move that was long overdue, the Simhachalam Temple has stopped accepting calves as donations from mid-May. However, devotees from far away Orissa and West Bengal, and farmers from the rural areas who still haven't heard of the ban, continue to bring calves to the temple and when the calves are not accepted, they are left at the foothills. The issue is not completely solved. The calves still need us.
UPDATE: June 6, 2013: The Visakha SPCA has now adopted 238 sickly calves and we are treating them at our Cow Sanctuary. Very unfortunately 80 of these are blind and we are trying to cure them but many may face permanent blindness. A vet has cited stampedes, malnutrition and a possible contagious disease as the reason.
(This is in addition to our current 800 rescued cows and buffaloes.)
As the capacity of our cow sanctuary becomes increasingly stretched, we need to find alternatives for some of the healthier calves. After a rigorous adoption process, we have given the 120 temple calves to farmers who have willingly adopted them. These farmers have been educated with our outreach programs about the proper maintenance and care of cattle, and how they can be used for purposes beyond just ploughing and labour. Veterinary care and guidance is immediately available to them through our health camps. Our staff are in constant contact with them to check up on the progress of the calves.
Also for over one month now, we have been continuously been providing medical care and essential feed to 935 calves which the temple has now shifted to a makeshift cow sanctuary at Krishnapuram.
Sadly, animal cruelty is a constant around the world and currently there is no end in sight to the countless efforts of animal welfare organizations that are zealously fighting to draw the world's compassion. In India, the issues and stories are unique and at times, often laced with cultural tragedies and weakly enforced legal systems.
Maybe you feel that the case of the Simhachalam calves is incredibly repugnant. Maybe this is not something you would expect from India, where cows are sacred in the Hindu tradition. So, understandably, you may find it shocking that in a land where cows are revered and worshipped, it is even necessary for an organization like the VSPCA to protect them from the abusive hands of mankind.
The story of the "offered' calves
A steep climb of 1,000 steps leads one to the breathtaking temple of Simhachalam, located high on a hill in the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. Built in the time of the Cholas during the medieval ages, Simhachalam is dedicated to the legendary half lion-half man avatar of Lord Vishnu, VarahaNarasimha. The legend says that VarahaNarasimah travelled down to protect his devoteePrahlad from the evil ways of king Hiranyakashyap. Simhachalan attracts thousands of pilgrims daily, but thrice a week these numbers swell as visitors flock to for a certain auspicious occasion known as Chandanotsavam.
Tied to the steeples behind the temple is evidence of this occasion – but also of the less than auspicious side of the temple that appalls its visitors, but who are all too swift to forget about it.
On these auspicious occasions, a frail, young calf is offered to Lord VarahaNarasimha. Many of whom are no more than a few days old, recently separated from their mother, they can barely stand or walk straight. The calves are typically male (because male calves are a byproduct of the dairy industry-they do not create milk, so are "useless" and quickly discarded however possible), they are forcefully dragged the 1,000 temple stairs and tied to a temple steeple or a tree. And here they are left. On their own. For an indeterminate amount of time. Hundreds of calves are "offered" to temple every single day. Temple authorities have no means or space to accommodate these animals-so the calves are just left there- tied to a steeple, awaiting their fate in hunger, thirst, loneliness, and fear under India's blazing sun and stifling heat.
What do the temple authorities do with all these calves?
They auction them.
And this act is illegal.
According to the A.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter and Animal Preservaton Act of 1977, the auctioning or sale of calves is illegal. It is an offence.We have seen firsthand the authorities neglect the requisite paperwork essential to transferring the ownership of cattle.
And this act is immoral.
Many bidders are purchasing calves for the illegal slaughterhouses in and around Visakhapatnam. Slaughter of cows in illegal in all but two Indian states. But illegal slaughterhouses dot the country like a bad virus. Illegal slaughterhouses are inhumane and unhygienic. Animal welfare regulations do not exist, reverence for the cow does not exist, calves are slowly killed with dirty, dull knives and there is no one there to stop the practice. This is India, with the world's strictest animal welfare laws, but also where legal enforcement is in shambles- so what can one really expect? Slaughtering equals money, so illegal slaughtering happens.
This slaughtering, is vast, complex issue all in itself, but deeper than what can be elaborated upon here.
Cows, just like people, only make milk when they are nursing their young, so they must be repeatedly impregnated in order to make the milk people drink. Indian cows are often artificially inseminated. The calves are taken from their mothers soon after birth, so that the babies won't drink their mother's milk, reducing the amount available for humans. The mother cow is then injected with the illegal drug Oxytocin to increase her milk output. The drug is extremely painful - hence it was made illegal. But adding insult to injury, Oxytocin is the chemical naturally made inside all mammal mothers that is responsible for creating the loving attachment bond with her baby-so by pumping extra Oxytocin into her body - she craves her missing calf all the more.
Little girl calves are often raised for the same fate as their mothers - dairy cows. But little boy calves, who cannot produce milk and are thus not needed in the dairy industry, are treated all the more cruelly. Often abandoned and left to fend for themselves on the streets, sold to illegal slaughterhouses for beef and India's booming leather industry (India is one of the world's leading leather exporters), or given as "live offering" to temples such as Simhachalam.
Many of the calves offered at Simhachalam are already sick, injured, dehydrated, and malnourished when they arrive. Malnourishment often leads to deformed and broken legs. There is no shelter from the heat and weather. There is no food or water. The conditions are fatal. In May alone, 100 calves died at the temple and 50 died during their "holy pilgrimage" to the temple. The VSPCA recently received 80 blind calves which are under its care. The veterinary doctor has cited stampedes, malnutrition and a contagious disease as possible causes. Their plight is truly painful even to think about.
The temple goshala is unimaginable in its horrific conditions. Up to700 calves - many injured, diseased, and handicapped - are boxed into less than half an acre of land, competing for a limited hay and dirty water. Stress and competition for food regularly leads to stampedes, on May 9th one stamped alone killed 8 calves.
The calves are then auctioned to slaughterhouses which serve to meet the public demands of a people who have an insatiable taste for veal and tender meat.Calves from a Hindu Temple in India, the land of cow-worshippers, ending up in abattoirs. Where have our morals gone?
We have reason to suspect that there is collusion between the slaughterhouses and the temple authorities, where even the priests themselves know these calves are going to slaughter.
What hypocrisy is this?
At least 10,000 calves each year succumb to this fate. 10,000 sentient calves, disposed of from the dairy industry, abandoned at as a Hindu offering, and ultimately sold to slaughter and eaten. Last year, the revenue earned from the sale of these calves was 19 lakhs. The contractors involved earn 10 times as much.
VSPCA has been lobbying extensively, fighting legal battles to attain these animals' rights for over 20 years.
Finally, change is in the air.
This February we lobbied the Minister for Endowment Chamber at Hyderabad who ordered a stop to the auctioning of Simhachalam temple calves. On April 14th, the Simhachalam Temple stopped the auctions. But as could be expected, the Temple authorities neglected to care for the calves left at the temple-they simply do not have the capacity to do so.
The Times of India published an article on the 15th of May this year that showed the absolutely disgusting state of affairs in the Goshala. Moreover, as to be expected, there have been reported thefts of the calves by slaughterers, who are still looking for underhanded means to procure the cattle. Following one incident where a group of tribals attempted to steal 12 calves from the Goshala, the Temple Goshala superintendent was suspended.
Thankfully, the coverage of these atrocities has incited action on the part of public officials such as the Tribal Welfare Minister.
Both calf donations as well as auctions have now been banned, as the temple has finally understood its limitations.
The temple has also shifted the calves to a larger accommodation at Srikrishnapurama, where a vet has been appointed and borewells are being dug to take care of the animal's water needs.
A committee, headed by the District Collector, is being formed and a special plan is being drawn to take care of the calves that are still being donated by farmers from Orissa and further north who still haven't heard of the ban on Calf Donations.
VSPCA Does Its Bit
Like many activists in India, we have come to realize that we need to take it upon ourselves to plug in the gaps of India's system. Inspite of the changes, progress is still painfully slow, with at least 2-3 calves dying everyday. We are working constantly to save as many calves as possible, and only with your financial support can we continue.
The VSPCA's Cattle Respect Programme India, jointly initiated with Animal Angels from Germany, has stationed a team at the temple to administer medical care to the animals in the goshala and ensure the calves currently staying there are kept from slaughterhouse hands.
We have constructed a Goshala Cow Shed to house the animals who we rescue. The Society for the Advancement of Nature and Cow Based Rural Economy (ANCRE) has called ours a Model Goshala. It is an achievement we owe to the tireless passion and dedication of our supporters and animal care workers.
VSPCA's "Kindness Farm" uses an 80 cm3 biogas plant which converts cow dung intoelectricity to fuel our organization. We try to find good homes for the calves, and allow them to be adopted legally by farmers with genuine compassion. So far, 60 of the calves have been adopted.
See the animals' progress on Facebook page, where we regularly update photographs and stories.
Your Support Helps the Animals
VSPA has over 900 cows at the shelter, most undergoing medical care, all awaiting sponsorship.
We have the dedicated staff, volunteers, and veterinarians. We have the passion. We have the space and equipment. And to make all this work-your help is needed too. Sponsor a calf and change his entire world.
Sponsor a Calf Today
Please send in your donations, along with a note indicating your donation is for a calf sponsorship.
To care for one calf, the cost is mere $20( or Rs 1000) per month, or $240 per year.
For a yearly sponsorship of $240, or a recurring PayPal donation of $20/month, you can name your saved calf, and we'll commemorate your support on our sponsrship page.
Your support helps in this way:
|Item||Cost per month/calf|
|Green fodder||Rs.60 or $1.20|
|Dry hay||Rs.60 or $1.20|
|Minerals, Antibiotics, Vitamins and other health supplements||Rs.600 or $12|
|Special Feed||Rs.300 or $6|
|TOTAL||Rs.1040 or $20.40|