As an aspiring devotee of Krishna, I face a moral problem: I am pro-dairy but anti-cruelty and anti-slaughter, and I know that the dairy industry and the slaughter industry are partners in cruelty and killing. If I buy milk from the store, I can be sure it comes from cows that have been exploited and abused and at last are heartlessly slaughtered.
How then can my ethics allow me to purchase such milk, offer it to Krishna, the well-wisher of cows, or even drink it?
Yet the entire culture of Krishna consciousness gives importance to milk and milk products: ghee, yogurt, butter, milk sweets, and so on. We offer such items to Krishna, we use them to bathe our Deities, we consume these items ourselves, and we use them for the food we serve at our festivals and feasts, at home programs, at our restaurants, and wherever we distribute prasadam.
What can we do?
I’ve lately thought of another alternative, which I call “ahimsa balancing.”
Suppose we can’t get ahimsa milk but for one reason or another we’re unready or unwilling to swear off milk. We can still take action against the slaughter industry and vote with our purses and wallets — by giving a proportionate contribution for cow protection.
When I buy a dollar’s worth of milk at the store, I can set aside a dollar for protecting cows. (If a dollar is too much, I can set aside fifty cents—or whatever I can.) And every month or every year, I can take the money set aside and send it to a reliable ahimsa dairy. (For me the nearest to my home base in New York City is the Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania.)
As a financial tactic, this is arguably more effective than merely boycotting the slaughter industry’s products. If I refuse to buy slaughter-industry milk, the multi-billion-dollar dairy companies like Nestlé, Arla, Danone, Fonterra, and Kraft Heinz will hardly miss my pennies. All the vegans in the world, times ten, would make hardly a dent in their cash flow. But modest contributions made to a small ahimsa farm can make a big difference for the farm, helping it keep going and sustain its mission of providing milk from protected cows.
Individuals can contribute, or families, or temples, or any program that uses milk.
If you’re vegan, fine—apart from saying no to the milk industry, you can still make a positive contribution to cow protection by donating to help sustain ahimsa farms.
As for me, I’ve done a rough calculation. I’m going to say that every day I drink a big glass of milk and use a tablespoon of ghee. (I think those numbers are on the high side—but good enough. And the high numbers can cover for extras like yogurt and milk sweets.) For a year, that would come to 33 gallons of milk and 183 ounces of ghee. In New York City, milk costs about $4.40 a gallon, and 32 ounces of ghee goes for $14. Do the math, and the dairy money I want to offset come to $226. So, adding a little extra, before the year ends I’m going to donate $300 to Gita Nagari.
By refusing to drink milk or use milk products, I’d deprive the dairy industry of a lot less. For every dollar spent on milk, a portion goes to the supermarket, a portion to the company that made the carton, a portion to trucking companies, a portion to the banks and finance companies involved, a portion to taxes all along the supply line.
So, yes, I could inflict on the dairy industry a tiny little slap, but by ahimsa balancing I can help provide grass and care and shelter for cows loved and protected by Krishna’s devotees – and give the dairy industry a bigger slap by helping provide, in contrast to their products extracted with cruelty, milk that truly stands for love, devotion, and dharma.
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