Shelters face influx of old cows following beef ban

Shelters face influx of old cows following beef ban
Indian workers milk cows at The Shree Gopala Goshala - cow shelter in Asangaon some 75kms north-east of Mumbai.

At a care home for cows outside Mumbai, India, dedicated staff lovingly tend to the every need of its ageing bovine residents, recently saved from abattoirs.

"We feed them, we bathe them and if something happens to them, we feel bad," Mr Sitaram Mangashid, a worker at the Shree Gopala Gaushala, told AFP.

Shree Gopala is one of an estimated 25,000 gaushalas, or cow shelters, providing cattle with sanctuary from illegal slaughter and comfortable surroundings to while away their twilight years.

Home to some 450 cows - considered sacred by India's Hindu majority - the shelter is facing an influx of elderly bovines since Maharashtra's government toughened a beef ban three months ago.

"A cow is like a mother to us, it is our duty to look after them," explains the centre's secretary, Mr Sudhir Ranade.

"It is wrong to think that the cow is only of use to us while it gives milk and once it stops, we should just discard it."


The ban was sought by hardline Hindus and is seen by religious minorities as a sign of their growing power since nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the general election last year.

The new law, which criminalises even the possession of beef, has also sparked fears for the future of the state's mostly Muslim butchers and cattle traders.

Formed in 2002, the privately run gaushala describes itself on its website as "a home for hapless cows and cattle", AFP reported.

Employing 45 staff, it currently houses about 1,600 animals, including bulls, bullocks, calves and water buffalo.

Surgery is performed on injured cows and each one is nursed until it breathes its last. When the time comes, a priest is on hand to perform the last rites.

"He prays that the soul of the departed lies in peace and a small ritual is performed using a garland or some flowers," Mr Ranade told AFP.

This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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