NOTE: The Ahimsa Calculator is at the bottom of this page.
What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa loosely means non-violent. For Krishna devotees it is more, it is the upholding of religious principles, which inadvertently affect human civilisation. Srila Prabhupada explains: “Progressive human civilization is based on brahminical culture, God consciousness, and protection of cows. All economic development of the state by trade, commerce, agriculture, and industries must be fully utilized in relation to the above principles, otherwise, all so-called economic development becomes a source of degradation” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.19.3, purport).
Vaishnavas (devotees of Lord Krishna) are against animal exploitation. The current state is that cows are forcibly impregnated and pumped with hormones to keep producing milk artificially. They produce a whopping 24,5 Litres of milk a day. The milk is mechanically extracted causing distress and pain to the cow. And once the abused cow cannot produce milk, it is sent to be slaughtered. The average lifespan of such a cow is five years. This brutality has no end, save an except when milk taken from a poor tortured cow, is offered to Krishna. That cow has rendered devotion to the Lord and therefore in the universal scheme of things, becomes blessed. Just as a tree gets liberated by its flower being offered to the Lord. But this does not mean we should do nothing! Happy cows give milk — liquid gold that develops the finer tissue of the brain, which needed to cultivate spiritual knowledge.
Over the last two years, we have extensively researched ahimsa milk in South Africa. The result has left us disappointed. It doesn’t exist and there is little hope of acquiring it, even in three years from now (2018). It is expensive to protect cows and there are factors that make it almost impossible. But we can try to protect the cow as much as we can. We have a plan that can work — if we come together. People need to become inspired and empowered to help establish protected cow farms.
To rise above the moral high-ground, we invite you to offset your dairy expense by investing in an ahimsa project/farm. The Sri Krishna Goshala (Thornville) provided the following information: one jersey cow produces 10-15 litres of milk a day and the monthly maintenance of a cow is R3500-R4000 (this includes care, feed, and vet fees).
1. Calculate your diary (milk, butter, ghee, yoghurt, cheese, etc.) per month. Use the calculator below.
2. Decide an affordable percentage you can invest (e.g., 100%, 50%, 20% etc.).
3. Research where to invest: Care for Cows in Vrindavana, Gita Nagari in the USA, The Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK, etc. Do not forget our Goshala in Thornville or the Midrand Goshala! You can also find a local dairy farm that is willing to care for your cow until the cow passes away naturally. This can be done via a written and binding contract whereby a farm cares for your cows for a monthly fee.
4. Invest with Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple. The Temple has set up a special account to invest in protected and happy cows. We have not actioned this process yet but with funding, we can decide on the most effective way to meet our goal. The Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple currently uses 800 litres of milk every week. We pledge to donate 25% of the milk costs to a special trust for the protection of cows and within the next five years to reach the goal of having happy cows that give nourishing milk.
How then can my ethics allow me to purchase such milk, offer it to Krishna, the well-wisher of cows, or even drink it?
Yet the entire culture of Krishna consciousness gives importance to milk and milk products: ghee, yogurt, butter, milk sweets, and so on. We offer such items to Krishna, we use them to bathe our Deities, we consume these items ourselves, and we use them for the food we serve at our festivals and feasts, at home programs, at our restaurants, and wherever we distribute prasadam.
What can we do?
- If fortunate, we can use only ahimsa milk—milk provided by cows cared for and protected throughout their natural lives. For those who have their own cows, or live near a Hare Krishna farm, or have some other way to get genuine ahimsa milk, this may be the very best option. But for most of us, ahimsa milk may rarely be available, if at all.
- Another option is to drink dairy-industry milk anyway and justify our choice with various reasons or rationalizations—or just not think about it much. The world is tough. What can we do? (That’s the option I myself have taken, for many years.)
- Or else we can go the vegan route and swear off dairy entirely. With that choice, we can think, “I don’t want anything to do with that vicious industry.” And by refusing to buy slaughter-industry milk we can “vote with our wallets,” depriving the industry of our money. A small gesture, perhaps, but those pennies can add up.
I’ve lately thought of another alternative, which I call “ahimsa balancing.”
Suppose we can’t get ahimsa milk but for one reason or another we’re unready or unwilling to swear off milk. We can still take action against the slaughter industry and vote with our purses and wallets — by giving a proportionate contribution for cow protection.
When I buy a dollar’s worth of milk at the store, I can set aside a dollar for protecting cows. (If a dollar is too much, I can set aside fifty cents—or whatever I can.) And every month or every year, I can take the money set aside and send it to a reliable ahimsa dairy. (For me the nearest to my home base in New York City is the Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania.)
As a financial tactic, this is arguably more effective than merely boycotting the slaughter industry’s products. If I refuse to buy slaughter-industry milk, the multi-billion-dollar dairy companies like Nestlé, Arla, Danone, Fonterra, and Kraft Heinz will hardly miss my pennies. All the vegans in the world, times ten, would make hardly a dent in their cash flow. But modest contributions made to a small ahimsa farm can make a big difference for the farm, helping it keep going and sustain its mission of providing milk from protected cows.
Individuals can contribute, or families, or temples, or any program that uses milk.
If you’re vegan, fine—apart from saying no to the milk industry, you can still make a positive contribution to cow protection by donating to help sustain ahimsa farms.
As for me, I’ve done a rough calculation. I’m going to say that every day I drink a big glass of milk and use a tablespoon of ghee. (I think those numbers are on the high side—but good enough. And the high numbers can cover for extras like yogurt and milk sweets.) For a year, that would come to 33 gallons of milk and 183 ounces of ghee. In New York City, milk costs about $4.40 a gallon, and 32 ounces of ghee goes for $14. Do the math, and the dairy money I want to offset come to $226. So, adding a little extra, before the year ends I’m going to donate $300 to Gita Nagari.
By refusing to drink milk or use milk products, I’d deprive the dairy industry of a lot less. For every dollar spent on milk, a portion goes to the supermarket, a portion to the company that made the carton, a portion to trucking companies, a portion to the banks and finance companies involved, a portion to taxes all along the supply line.
So, yes, I could inflict on the dairy industry a tiny little slap, but by ahimsa balancing I can help provide grass and care and shelter for cows loved and protected by Krishna’s devotees – and give the dairy industry a bigger slap by helping provide, in contrast to their products extracted with cruelty, milk that truly stands for love, devotion, and dharma.