Praise for Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics
There have been other books on cows and their role and importance in Hindu culture. But typically, their range is narrow. Kenneth Valpey’s book is not only extremely well-written and engrossing, its range and scope is breath-taking—from Hindu culture on cow-care to the contemporary, from texts to the temporal. It is a story told by someone who is steeped in the bhakti tradition, but testable propositions (such as on the efficacy of bovine products) are examined with the lens of a scientist and empiricist. But the objective of animal care isn’t only about an esoteric ideal. Therefore, towards the end, there are examples of how cow-care works in specific communities. A wonderful book that everyone, not just every Indian, should read. Attitudes of arrogance, fuelled by ignorance, will then be somewhat tempered.
It takes special scholarship, sensitivity and courage for understanding the cow, a unique bovine creature. To call the cow merely an animal is considered heresy for Hindus, when the cow is not only mother, but also a refuge for all the Hindu gods and goddesses. The cow embodies Mother Earth and the bull embodies dharma. The cow is a grand stage on which economy and spirituality, rituals and aesthetics, life and death all play out their truths. In this comprehensive study, Dr. Kenneth Valpey lucidly reveals this complex phenomenon, covering textual traditions to contemporary practices and issues.
This fascinating book highlights the historical underpinnings for much of the present-day evidence of the continued importance of the cow in some cultures and countries; that is, the cow as a sentient animal, as a spiritual/divine/magical being and as a symbol of what can seem an infinite number of things, not least of all other animal life.
The notion of the significance of the cow has found its way into yoga too—for example through cow-named yoga postures, cow-based mythology, cow-based spirituality, cow-oriented chants, the teaching of ahimsa, the belief in karma and the promotion of the sattwic illumined nature in practitioners that cows are believed to embody. As sincere yoga practitioners and teachers, I feel we are morally compelled to gain an ever deeper understanding of the cultural roots from which yoga has emerged and in which the practice remains embedded. It is also wise to gain a nuanced appreciation of the past and extant cultural sensitivities connected to yoga.
This book most certainly helps with these endeavours. It pays homage to what has come before, weaving insights from different sources seamlessly and offering new considerations for contemporary times and the future. Most importantly, in the context of millions and millions of cows continuing to suffer or face injustices throughout the world today under human hand and society, this book recognises cows as victims and as individuals. Concern about the welfare of cows remains ever-present as you journey through the chapters, and it is afforded the high profile it deserves. I would wholeheartedly recommend this priceless gem.
A thoroughly researched and most timely book analyzing the placement of the cow throughout Hindu culture, and its potential role in human well-being more broadly. While the growing Western animal rights movement is primarily based in human-centric concerns, and the protection of animals objectified and valued in terms of benefits to human health, diet, ecology and environment, Valpey introduces us to the notion of the cow as subject and as citizen in its own right. Using traditional as well as modern theoretical frames of references, Valpey leads us to the inexorable conclusion that the welfare of human civilization and cow protection are inextricably linked.
There has been growing academic interest in the more-than-human these days, and this certainly includes nonhuman animals. The cow within Hinduism has been either regarded as the most special of animals, or even as the representative of all animals. Kenneth Valpey has produced a wonderful book that invites us to look at cows as “subjects,” and explores the special nature of them from a wide variety of sources within India. In so doing, he offers a very thoughtful ethical perspective for our consideration. Those interested in the larger field of animal ethics will find much of value in this book.
An extensive and nuanced meditation on the relationship between human and animal kingdoms in India and the world at large: this volume examines the philosophical underpinnings of the ethics of cow care and protection in India and goes on to make a credible environmental case for their contemporary implementation. It offers a very rich blend of cultural studies, intellectual history, and environmental awareness and will clearly develop and deepen the discourse on inter-species dharma.
The cow is integral to the economic, cultural and spiritual well being of Hindus and is central to the natural, human and divine spheres of life, which interrelate for mutual benefit. Kenneth Valpey’s book ‘Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics’ discusses the historical and current issues that surround the cow as a sacred animal in Indian culture. It highlights how both dharma and bhakti are balanced in the daily care of cows, requiring the long term well-being of all animals, with the human—cow relationship as a starting point. The book is well researched on Hindu animal ethics from the Vedic to the contemporary and is an important contribution to our knowledge of the co-operation between human beings and the animal world.
This is a path-breaking book that deserves to be widely read. Valpey expands our understanding of animal ethics and complexifies our notion of devotion. Original and thought-provoking, this book will open up new venues for discussion and reflection regarding cow care.
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