Cow unites Buddhists and Hindus for its protection


On the last poson full moon poya day (8 June), Buddhist and Hindu activists from across the country gathered at the Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Centre at Thummulla Junction, Colombo 5 to pass a resolution to protect cow in Sri Lanka. They expect this to be presented to the parliament through Mano Ganesan, minister of national co-existence dialogue and official languages, who was the chief guest of the event.

National list MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thero addressing the gathering acknowledged this as a victory for the people dedicated to this cause in this country for many years. He said, harming life is anyway a sinful act according to Buddhism and protecting cow and banning its slaughter is important for many reasons in addition to the religious sentiments. These include its role as a nutrition provider through its milk and many other edibles made from milk and its role in agriculture. If the country takes a decisive step towards organic farming then there will be a dearth of our "cattle resource" remarked the Ven. Thero.

This development in Sri Lanka comes close on the heels of a landmark law passed in the Indian parliament banning sale of cows for slaughter. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India on 23 May 2017 issued the extraordinary gazette notification called the "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017" that banned the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter through animal markets in that country.

In Sri Lanka too a bill to prevent cruelty to animals had been drafted and its passage is expected through parliament. Responding to a query on its delay, Rathana Thero replied that certain elements in the livestock business are thwarting this move.

His Holiness Bhaktivinod Swami Maharaj of the International Society Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) from Coimbatore India spoke of the spiritual aspects of "ahimsa". Giving an explicit overview of how Indian culture is interwoven around cow, he said veneration of cow comes from the ancient Vedic belief that the sacred cow Kamadhenu was the abode of all 33 crore (10 million) demigods.

He also reminded of Muslim Mogul emperors of India who banned cow slaughter. Since the time of Humayun, who first introduced ban on cattle slaughter in India, Akbar and Jahangir, both in his lineage followed suit. Last of the Mogul emperors Bahadur Shah Zafar, who ruled Delhi during British Raj’s occupancy, imposed capital punishment for cattle slaughter.

Swamiji also recalled the role played by the first British Governor of Bengal, Robert Clive in promoting cattle slaughter and thereby breaking the backbone of agriculture in India. Clive on entering India was amazed to see the success of the agricultural system there, and realized it revolved around the "holy cow", not just religiously, but socially as well. Cow was an integral part of a Hindu family as was any other human member in the family. Then he targeted the cow. And thus he opened the first slaughterhouse of cows in Kolkata in 1760. It had a capacity to kill 30,000 cows per day.

Within a century India had very little cattle left to sustain its agricultural needs. Then Britain as an alternative started offering artificial manure, started importing it from England. Soon Indian agriculture became dependent on West invented artificial products, and home grown natural practices started to disintegrate.

One can draw a close parallel to what happened in Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of full British occupation in 1815. The British rulers, after the first rebellion in Uva Wellassa in 1818, realized that the fertility and self-sufficiency of that region was the greatest threat to its authority, and went on a destruction spree of the farmland and irrigation sources in order to break the backbone of the island nation’s agricultural livelihood.

Minister Mano Ganesan acknowledging the timely need of the resolution to protect cow, said lately Sri Lanka has come to be engulfed by violence. He said all forms of slaughter, including man slaughter needs to be halted in the country.


New restrictions on cattle slaughter in India

The Centre has banned the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across the country.

Under a notification, titled the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, those who wish to sell cattle — bulls, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and camels — may do so only after they formally state that the animals have not been "brought to the market for sale for slaughter".

The new rules aim at regulating such markets and also the sale of bovines said Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan.

"The aim of the rules is to regulate the animal market and sale of cattle in them and ensure welfare of cattle dealt in them." (The Hindu, 30 May 2017)


Health reasons to not eat beef

Compiling up-to-date scientific evidence on the health risks of red meat eating, "Health & Society" has said enough and more why people should not eat beef for their own health. Back to back editions on 20 and 27 January this year were dedicated to this topic.

The NCDs, as of today, are the leading cause of death in the world, and are estimated to be responsible for 63% of the deaths worldwide. Unquestionably, red meat, of which beef is a kind, is one of the most important causative factors of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). As such, there are ample reasons why red meat eating needs to be discouraged to ensure better health for people.

WHO’s sickening silence

Thus, we cannot resist raising an eyebrow over World Health Organization’s sickening silence on the issue, especially in the context of prevention and control of NCDs. We believe now the time is ripe for the organization to take a bandwagon role in this regard too, similar to what they previously did with tobacco and alcohol use in the same paradigm. This is exactly what needs to happen if the multibillion dollar meat industry’s greed for money is not to take precedence over the health of the world’s populace.

Compelling evidence against red meat

After a systemic review of scientific studies, an expert panel of the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research concluded in 2007 that "red or processed meats are convincing or probable sources of some cancers." Their report said that evidence is convincing for a link between red meat, processed meat, and colorectal cancer, and limited but suggestive for links to lung, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers.

Dr. Frank Hu’s Study

In the US, a large study was undertaken by a team led by Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health to unravel more on the association between red meat intake and mortality. The study included 37,000 men and 83,000 women. All the participants were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the start of the study. The study extended for over two decades and gathered information on a variety of health factors, including body weight, cigarette smoking and physical activity level every 2 years in addition to filling up of food frequency questionnaires by the participants every 4 years. The total follow-up period was 2.96 million person-years.

Almost 24,000 participants died during the study. These included approximately 5,900 from cardiovascular disease and 9,500 from various cancers. Those who consumed the highest levels of both unprocessed and processed red meat had the highest risk of all-cause of mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality. After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers calculated that one additional serving per day of unprocessed red meat over the course of the study raised the risk of total mortality by 13%. An extra serving of processed red meat (such as bacon, hot dogs, sausage and salami) raised the risk by 20%.

The researchers estimated that substituting one serving per day of other foods—like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains—for red meat could lower the risk of mortality by 7% to 19%. If the participants had all consumed fewer than half a serving per day (about 1.5 ounces) of red meat, the scientists calculated, 9.3% of the deaths in men and 7.6% of the deaths in women could have been prevented.

The researchers vehemently concluded that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of mortality that included cardio vascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.

Among the probable reasons for cancers associated with red meat consumption include,

* Saturated fat, which has been linked to cancers of the colon and breast as well as to heart disease

* Carcinogens formed when meat is cooked

* Heme iron, the type of iron found in meat, that may produce compounds that can damage cells, leading to cancer.

Further, grilling of red meat is also linked to cancer causation. It is argued that high-temperature cooking of any muscle meat, including red meat, poultry, and fish, can generate compounds in food that may increase cancer risk. These compounds include heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The good news for the meat eaters is that they might improve their health by substituting other healthy protein sources for some of the red meat they eat.

Health reasons to go vegetarian

Prof. Duo Li, Professor of Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University, China has casted the issue in cement. He extrapolated various studies carried out throughout the world in buttressing his argument in favour of vegetarianism in the prevention of NCDs.

Compared with an omnivorous diet, a vegetarian diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. In general, vegetarian diets are rich in fiber, magnesium, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins C and E, Fe3+, folic acid and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), but low in cholesterol, total fat and saturated fatty acid (SFA), sodium, Fe2+, zinc, vitamins A, B12 and D, and especially n-3 PUFA.

Prof. Li argues, "Low intake of cholesterol, total fat, SFA and sodium, and high intake of phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber in vegetarian diet, are associated with health advantages including decreased mortality and morbidity of NCDs".

Dilemma of Vitamins D and B 12

However, it is unclear whether the vegetarians have adequate levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is either consumed from the diet or synthesized in humans from cholesterol following adequate exposure to the sunlight. But, Prof. Li believes, "the vegetarians do not necessarily have lower vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D) compared with omnivores".

Contradicting some studies from Poland and the UK that reported vegetarians and vegans having lower serum/plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, Prof. Li points, "However, the Adventist Health Study-2 from the USA found that serum/plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations were not associated with vegetarian status. The possible reasons for the variable results include inadequate exposure to the sunlight, dark skin, potentially adequate intake by individuals who are lacto- or lacto-ovo-vegetarians versus vegans, use of supplements or supplemented foods etc".

Prof. Li also believes, "The vegetarians have a number of increased risk factors for NCDs such as increased plasma homocysteine, mean platelet volume and platelet aggregability compared with omnivores, which are associated with low intake of vitamin B12 and n-3 PUFA". He recommends the vegetarians to specifically focus on increasing their intake of vitamin B12 and n-3 PUFA to further reduce already low mortality and morbidity from non-communicable diseases".

Sarah K Gebauer et al. from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University writing to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommend flaxseed ("Hana" in Sinhala and Āḷivitai In Tamil) and flaxseed oil, walnuts (genus Juglans) and walnut oil, and canola oil as good vegetarian sources of n-3 PUFA.

The UK based Vegan Society recommends foods fortified with B12 that include some soy products and breakfast cereals and B12 supplements as sources of B12 for the strict vegetarians. Apart from that milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, whey powder and yeast extract spreads (marmite) are good sources of B12.

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