Simhachalam Calves - Spring 2004
Update November 2007: columnist covers the calves of Simhachalam in The Pioneer
Why are animals the unfortunate victims of religious beliefs?
Myths and superstitious beliefs hound religious sentiments. In the holiest of places and shrines heinous crimes are committed which victimize the most innocent ones - the animals.
From the Hindu temples in South India, East India or in The North - many of which are loaded with money and political influences—temples have been resorting to absolute cruelty towards many types of animals including cattle, donkeys, tortoises, goats, buffaloes, chickens, pigs and snakes—and the list goes on as we investigate further.
But in sum these include torture of cobras during Naga Chauvathi ; torment of piglets by villagers (their shrieks are considered "auspicious" at harvest time); goats and chickens sacrificed at the temples to the point of utter blood baths two feet high; and Ayoodha Puja here in our province of Andhra Pradesh the slaughter of sheep goes on all night long when the entire city if not the state is painted with red blood poring all over. On this day, as a major animal sacrifice event; there is no law and order.
These are all illegal and in many of these situations we have gone to court in order to enforce the existing laws. Please contact me for details of pending and completed court cases. We must remain vigilant but of course, we cannot be everywhere to check.
Who is committing these crimes? Is it the snake catcher or the devotees? I squarely blame the devotees. Ironically these acts are done more by the learned than in the rural places. Every illegal act is manufactured from the sentiment of the religious feelings handed down from the ancient sadhus. And the proud advancements in modernization have not stopped these unfortunate ancient practices. I can only see and feel the pain in my heart ache more as harm to animals is increasing with the rise in human population with two to three "so called temples" at every street.
The Calves Of Simhachalam - The Root Of The Killing Fields
Simhachalam temple is the abode of Lord Narasimha . As one of the most important and oldest temples it is also politically influential. People from all walks of life throng the temple, which is located west of the city of Visakhapatnam on a hill. On all auspicious occasions (at least three days in each week) thousands of devotees climb to the top to pray for their well being. But some also sacrifice the life of another living being!
I refer to the nearly thousands of villagers who offer to the Lord who try and propitiate in blind faith and by offering calves.
The cow is a symbol of purity in the Hindu faith and thus is very auspicious and protected by law. Yet because it is the female cow who gives milk it is supposed to be more useful than the male calves. So the farmers don't want to keep the male babies because for them they are unproductive, useless. (While in the rest of the nonHindu world these babies are raised up for beef or veal).
The horror of the reverse happens when human females are aborted or even thrown into the dustbins. While there is a very strict law for humans against such discrimination there is no such law for the animals.
In Simhachalam all male baby bulls hardly days old are separated cruelly from their mother and dragged, pushed and forced by beating up the 1000 steps on the hill to the temple. In the process if the calves collapses or their legs are broken due to these cruel means they are just left on the spot. The ones that drag to their feet then find themselves tied to the trees and posts. These are all left to fend for themselves. There is nobody to provide food (if they can eat) or water to drink and no shelter from the brutal sun!
Worse, afterwards these calves are driven down by the authorities where the people with ropes grab and cart them off to a journey from where the Lord can "see and rescue." The calves are made to walk for miles only to see their throats slit. One can easily count the numbers taken by the culprits, which are wound in beads round his hand. Each bead represents a calf gone to a dreadful destination. These "merchants" are encouraged and abetted by the people in the temple office for pecuniary gains and this band includes the knowledge of the priests. There was a "so called" Gaushala (cow sanctuary)by the temple which came to be known as the abode of "place for white cattle sold to slaughter houses". They were auctioned (a cover-up) on every Friday at 5.00 P.M. in the evening and only the middlemen posing as farmers used to come and buy at understood prices. The genuine farmers will not accept these babies because they will not survive.
Above: dragging a young calf up the temple steps.
As of now they have resumed the sale by auction and until the auction takes place and until their cruel deaths they face the hot weather with no fodder and water. The timing of the auction is such that facilitates these animals to walk their way by Saturday night to be slaughtered for the huge Sunday market. There are secret door deliveries now to the many hotels mushrooming up as tourism is booming here. Compared to other meat beef is very cheap. It is purchased both by the poor, middle class and the rich for both economy and culinary preference. Now reality dawns on me as I understand the mad rush for these calves because the taste has become special to these people. The demand is coming from the star hotels because of guests asking for these very special dishes which has now increased the demand for pregnant animals be it cattle, goat or sheep. The butchers enquires discreetly and specifies pregnant animals as they have "orders" and advance paid. The yet to be child in the womb is taken out for this special dish.
The farmers that do not offer their calves to the temples have the male calves starved to death by tying up their mouth with a net. How much pity befalls when you watch as the baby gives the initial push to the mother's udder and then is snatched away by the owner when the milk just comes out and is instantly fitted with the net or tied to the post. The cow mother does not suspect that she is providing the milk to the selfish owner but not to her starving baby. Ultimately the baby dies of starvation crying his way to heaven and is helplessly watched by his mother. Then the calf's lifeless skin is all stitched with dry hay fitted to make believe to the mother that her child is alive -- otherwise she will not give milk. Is this not the ultimate deception in our cruel world?
The more ambitious and greedy ones add one more cruelty to get more milk by giving the "Oxytoxin" injection, which instantly makes the milk gush out without any control of the mother. This is highly risky for children who consume such milk and also considerably reduces the life span of the animals.
Last month we brought in over 300 calves because the new Executive Officer of the temple seemed utterly flabbergasted at such illegal slaughtering and agreed to hand them over to us. To our dismay they are coming at the rate of 20 to 30 per day and on auspicious occasions it is more than 100 per day putting us offguard to the fact that not only are we without even walking space at the shelter but are perplexed and struggling to keep them alive by providing specialized substitutes to mother's milk and that too forcibly. We are very pressed and filled with anxieties to meet their specialized needs. We have tried adoptions but they are ineligible as the farmers would not risk taking them even for free because of the very young age. They say these calves are the products of artificial insemination and that the Government of A.P. is encouraging their production.
The saved cattle all from imminent slaughter have swelled to 584 so now we need for more space, more sheds and more feed . We continue to struggle with more coming and let them loose in nearby fields with green fodder and water to depend on while the slightly older ones are given for adoptions. 24 have been adopted so far with all the precautionary aspects looked into.
There has to be a way to solve this intrinsic problem. And the only way that we feel and ultimately make a difference is education, awareness and training to the farmers and owners towards usage of cattle's direct bye-products for producing fertilizers, pesticides, medicines, biogas and help in self land farming. We advocate one Goshala for each village. And the overall solution is to be a total vegetarian (vegan) and shun the milk from the diet.
We have these plans and technologies already in place but wait for the day to catapult into the mainstream. It may take years for this expansion unless we are lucky but till then we have to bear the agonies and struggle with the harmful ignorant system that exists and our laws are just mute spectators.
The underlying ugly truth is the torturous life of a bull---whether in young or old they have to face the life of extreme distress, pain, and abuse.
We can see them, feel them with our hands gently, press our faces with their faces, meet their longing eyes and erupt in emotions and hug them eternally and pray for their well being and look up into the sky for the answers—while miles away these babies mothers face and feel the pangs of separations. Fate will decide whether they meet their offspring in Heaven while they reach their meeting place in many different absolutely cruel ways.
Crying for Amma
As we part from them each day and wish them a good night hoping all the best for the next day—one can feel a deep anguish and anxiety of another death lurking somewhere—and then we cry in despair. We are afraid to look back as we do not have a solution with us right now. Just trying on a day to day basis. We falter many a step and think many a ways to solve this tangle and keep thinking to resolve our efforts, determine to do more and battle for their freedom—until we can think no more but hasten our steps when again the voice of the baby calves echoes crying for their mothers – Aamma!
– Pradeep Nath, President and Founder VSPCA