Stray cattle in India have been a nuisance for a while, especially over the last few months when an increase in cow vigilantism and the tightening of cow protection laws have led to more abandoned cows wreaking havoc on both, the streets and farms. But in Goa, it appears that stray cattle are causing a peculiar kind of issue. Michael Lobo, Goa’s garbage management minister, observed that the cows in the tourism state have “turned non-vegetarian” and have now started eating chicken and fried fish. Better: He claims to have called veterinary specialists to “turn them into vegetarian once again”.
Goa is one of the tourism hotspots in India. According to reports, the beach villages of Calangute and Candolim, which receive the highest number of tourists, also happen to have a large number of stray cows disrupting traffic and causing road accidents. In 2013, the Goa government launched a scheme that incentivises village panchayats and municipal bodies to impound stray cattle and fine their owners.
Lobo’s statement about the new diet of the cows in Goa came as he shared observations from Calangute during a speech at a function in Arpora village in north Goa last weekend. He said that the state authorities moved 76 stray cows from Calangute, who, once they reached their cowsheds, refused all kinds of vegetarian food.
“We have lifted 76 cattle from Calangute and taken them to the gaushala (cow shed) where they are being looked after. The cattle had turned non-vegetarian cattle here,” he said on Saturday. “We always say cattle are vegetarian. But cattle from Calangute are non-vegetarian. They (gaushala operators) are facing this issue now. These cattle do not eat grass. They neither eat gram nor special feed which is given to them.”
The cows apparently had become accustomed to eating only chicken and fried fish from the garbage as well as from what the villagers have been giving them. The leftover chicken scraps and stale fish, hence, has become a staple for them. “Due to the consumption of such non-vegetarian food, their system has become like that of humans,” said Lobo. “Earlier, they were vegetarians, pure vegetarians. They would smell non-vegetarian food and move on, but now, they eat only non-vegetarian (food).”
To fix the problem, Lobo claimed that they have flown in veterinary specialists so that the errant cows are “medically treated”. “Veterinary specialists have been roped in to treat them with medicine. It will take four to five days to turn the cattle into vegetarians once again,” he said.
The fixation to keep the sacred cows vegetarian is not new. In 2012, the late former Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj rejected a suggestion from former US ambassador Timothy Roemer to export dairy products from cows that are fed a non-vegetarian diet. "I told him it is not possible as cultural issues are involved. In our country, the cow is vegetarian," she said. She further added that "Indians will not even like to touch, not to speak of drinking" products made of such milk, and that it takes three years to “take out the effect of non-vegetarian food given to cows.” Suffice to say that in India, there’s always more to holy cows than just street menace.
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