BAWANA, India - Revered by most Indians, cows are at the centre of political battles and 'lynch mob' attacks, but they are being abandoned in growing numbers and turned away by shelters that cannot cope.
The Sri Krishna Gaushala on the outskirts of New Delhi is typical of shelters for homeless cows across India -- struggling to keep up with demand.
Authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states are thinking of building cow shelters in prisons. At one Uttar Pradesh shelter, scores of cows are reported to have died from hunger in recent weeks.
Sri Krishna is spread over 38 acres (15 hectares) and is home to nearly 8,000 cows, bulls and calves -- mostly ageing, ailing, and no longer producing milk.
Rajendra Singh Shekhawat manages 110 bustling sheds where cows are fed, treated and even massaged after being rescued, bought from cash-strapped farmers, or donated.
The shelter is close to its 7,800 capacity.
"We have 7,700 right now. All the other cow shelters in Delhi are facing the same problem, they're all overcrowded," Shekhawat told AFP.