Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Hindus believe that cows are holy. Some even worship the cow. My friend, Rajesh, is a modern day Hindu. Many modern day Hindus eat meat (chicken, fish and lamb) but never a cow. They will even sit back and snicker with Jay Leno if he makes fun of holy cow worshippers on the Tonight Show. But there is one thing that unites all Hindus together whether they are modern day or hardcore orthodox – they simply will not eat a cow. That much is crystal clear.
If there was a bookie placing bets on whether my friend, Rajesh, would eat a cow, I would have pushed all-in (poker analogy) and put all my wealth including my last dime on Rajesh not eating a cow. But then I would go flat broke. Because after many years in corporate America, Rajesh happened to be at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for a business meeting and ended up eating a cow. He admitted that amongst all the laughter and celebration that accompanied the closing of a major sales deal, he went ahead and ordered a ribeye steak. He had it made Medium Rare. And then he proceeded to eat every morsel of it.
Next morning Rajesh woke up with an extraordinary amount of guilt. What had he done? Could he ever go back to India and look another Indian Hindu in the eye without totally breaking down and falling apart? What if they had cow-eater sensor at the Indian airport and sirens started blaring alerting the masses that there was a cow-eater in their midst? These emotions of guilt and fear gripped Rajesh throughout the day. He despaired so much that he even skipped lunch that day. On the way home from work, that evening, Rajesh passed by AJ’s fine foods which he knew sold high quality cow meat. Before he knew what he was doing, the devil had managed to make him drive his car into AJ’s parking lot. Then the devil made him go inside and order from the butcher a filet of their finest ribeye steak. The devil then forced him to buy charcoal for the grill and go down the sauce isle and get A-1 and Heinz 57 steak sauces. Before he knew it Rajesh was home and had set the grill alight and within an hour proceeded to eat his second steak. It was perhaps hunger that had driven him insane because sanity only returned after he had eaten the last morsel and washed it away with generous portion of AJ’s fine cabernet.
The next morning, Rajesh called me by phone. He appeared full of guilt. The second steak was even better. He grilled it to exactly the level he wanted and it was even better than the meat from the first cow. Rajesh said he had a dream that night where two cows were chasing him and both them were missing a piece of meat near their rib cage. What kind of cows were they, he wondered. Did they till the fields for the American farmer and came home after a hard day’s work and proceeded to provide milk for the family? As he pleaded with me I began to see the outlines of a possible exit from guilt for Rajesh. Indian cows were holy because they played a very key role in the Hindu’s existence in ancient India. The Hindus used the cows to till the field so that they can grow crops. They used the milk to feed their family and even sell the remaining portion to support their livelihood. They even dried cow manure and used it as a fuel to cook food. But did the American cows perform the same service for their masters? I suggested to Rajesh that perhaps, American cows were not holy. While I talked to Rajesh on the phone I started Googling the American cow.
It turned out that American cows had no other purpose in life other than provide milk or become food items themselves on the dinner plates of millions of Americans. They were raised far differently than Indian cows. They were kept in tiny stalls and fed what was called a “high forage diet” with the express intent of making them as large as possible and produce as much meat as possible for sale. There were even controversial practices of injecting or feeding them with growth stimulants so that they became very large very fast. I looked at the picture of American cows and compared them side by side with those of Indian cows. I emailed them to Rajesh so that we could compare notes. Let me show you a few pictures and you tell me what you think.
Here is the picture of a typical bred-for-food fat American cow:
Rajesh said, “Look at its face, It is saying Eat me! Eat me!”
Here is the picture of a holy Indian cow that works in the fields, provides milk and even has its manure used as fuel for cooking Hindu food.
Rajesh said, “Now look that darling face. How would you even think about eating it?”
It became very clear to us that while Indian cows were holy, American cows were definitely not holy. Rajesh could eat as many American cows as he wanted but never an Indian cow. Rajesh felt a lot of comfort and thanked me for my research and insights as he hung the phone up. A few days later, Rajesh had his Dad visit him from India. Rajesh shared the American cow story with his dad.
“I must say I agree with you, my son!” his Dad said with a glint of excitement in his eye. “I have tried all kinds of Tandoori preparations such as Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Lamb and even Tandoori Fish. I have never had a Tandoori Cow. What say we visit this AJ’s store of yours and find some American cow meat so that we can together grill a Tandoori Cow?”